There is a small but distinct list of baseball issues from Topps that consist of a single card. The most famous of these is Joe Garagiola's 1976 NBC Business Card that is a dead ringer for a '73 Topps baseball card on the obverse:
The front might fool you for a minute but the back gives away the true purpose of the card (and is lifted from the regular 1976 back design):
Joe allegedly had another Topps created business card made up a few years later (early 90's I believe) but I haven't been able to find a scan or even a solid reference. The ersatz '73 above can be found with relative ease. I vividly remember seeing it on an episode of This Week in Baseball in the mid 70's and wanting to buy one. Back then, not an easy task. Now, with the Internet and card shows, totally do-able. I found my copy last year at a local show; the dealer had a few extras so I picked the best of the bunch for $20.
Now the Joe G. card is an actual business card; other Topps singleton "sets" exist for a different reason.
Before he became a Hall of Famer, this scarce 1969/70 card of newly minted baseball commissioned Bowie Kuhn could be had at a reasonable price, despite its scarcity (100-200 cards printed by most accounts). I would have to say it was printed up for a testimonial dinner.
I nailed the scan but the card eluded me a few years back on Ebay. I am kicking myself now for not bidding higher. Here is the informative back:
And while scope of of this blog really only extends to 1980, there is another card from a decade later that is quite famous. This blog will remain apolitical but the card is decidedly from inside the Beltway:
The story is that Bush 41 asked Topps to print these up and they complied, giving the President 100 cards for his own use. Now, Topps was still using 132 card sheets back then so that leaves us with an errant 32 cards, possibly explaining how some of them were pulled from 1990 baseball wax packs back in the day. These are quite valuable and interest goes far beyond our little hobby. The Orlando Sentinel ran a nice piece (and a great scan for me to steal) last year on this interesting pasteboard.
Nowadays, anyone can have Topps print up a card of them for about $15 so the romance is gone. I think these are some of the neatest things Topps ever did-back when it was OK to be whimsical in the business world.
The best part about having one of these cards made up for you? The fact you were #1 in the set!
Actually, in 1990, the Topps set was 792 cards. That would be six full sheets at 132 cards each.
The story I got about the Bush card (courtesy of Topps Magazine) was that Topps printed them because they knew the President was a baseball player at Yale, and thought it would be a nice present for him when Sy Berger visited the White House. In fact, Berger even traded with Bush for some of the cards back (even signed one copy for each other too).
How the cards got into packs in the early part of production remains a mystery. But sure enough, there they were.
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