As a result of acquiring their competitor Bowman in February of 1956, Topps debuted its first officially NFL licensed football trading card set, made up of 120 boldly colored cards later that year. Apparently not wanting to stray too far from the Bowman formula, the 1956 Topps FB set is often accused a bearing a very similar appearance to the 1955 Bowman FB set. However, Topps did differentiate their debut set with the addition of Team Cards, an unnumbered checklist and 5 contest cards. Like its baseball counterparts, Topps utilized the “jumbo” sized card that measured 2-5/8” x 3-3/4” for the football set.
The set was issued in one series, however the Washington Redskins and Chicago Cardinal cards were short printed (or single printed) and are the most difficult cards to find in high grade. This will be discussed in more detail later.
The 12 teams of the league are each represented with nine player cards and one team card. Each team has a commonly colored background and are sequentially patterned throughout the set. The coloring and sequence is as follows:
- Washington Redskins (Dark Green)
- San Francisco 49ers (Light Blue)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (Light Green)
- Philadelphia Eagles (Yellowish Orange)
- New York Giants (Red)
- Los Angeles Rams (Red)
- Green Bay Packers (Red)
- Detroit Lions (Red)
- Cleveland Browns (Blue)
- Chicago Cardinals (Blue-Green)
- Chicago Bears (Yellow)
- Baltimore Colts (Orange)
While some may accuse the set of lacking any major rookie cards, the Lenny Moore #60 is widely considered the key rookie and card in the set. The set also contains the following HOF RCs:
- Roosevelt Brown #41
- Joe Schmidt #44
- Bill George #47
- Stan Jones #71
While the basic set is comprised of 120 cards, anyone looking to complete the master set must also track down the unnumbered checklist in addition to the 5 contest cards. As would be expected, many of these cards did not survive due to being tossed by the young collectors, and those that did survive were sent in to win prizes, or in the case of the checklist were written on to track set completion progress. As a result, these cards are very difficult to find in high grade.
The purpose of the five different contest cards were to encourage kids to guess the scores of certain games, and send them in with the possibility of winning prizes like a basketball, football or baseball glove. The contest cards are labeled 1,2,3,A or B. Early hobby lore suggested that a “C” contest card existed, however no such card has ever been found.
With the exception of the checklist and contest cards, no errors or variations exist to complete the master set.
Just to make sure proper credit is given, the majority of the information in this section is a result of the incredible work done by Mike Thomas (Nearmint). Please take the time to visit Mike’s website (www.footballcardgallery.com) to learn more of Mike’s contributions to the hobby.
For Giant sized cards, Topps historically printed 200 card sheets, made of two 100 card half sheets. However, in 1955, Topps switched to a 220 card sheets, made of two 110 card half sheets. To my knowledge, little to no 220 card sheets exist intact today. The few 110 card half sheets that do exist are still referred to as “uncut sheets” within the hobby. For the 1956 Topps football set, no 220 or 110 card sheets are publically known to exist, but shown below is an example of a 110 card half sheet from the 1956 Baseball set, which sold for $39k in a 2013 Heritage Auction
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