Card company changes numbering system collectors counted on

From Stuart Miller at the New York Times, with mention of SABR members Cee Angi and Joe Posnanski:

When Cee Angi was young, a neighborhood bully forced her to trade her 1992 Topps Dave Winfield card for a David Segui. The bully did not know much about baseball, but he knew that the number Topps had assigned to the back of Winfield’s card, 5, made it more valuable than Segui’s, which was 477.

But this season, Topps tossed its idiosyncratic formula for assigning numbers to the players’ baseball cards, and some traditionalists are dismayed.

“It’s unnerving,” said Angi, now an SB Nation columnist. “It’s an unnecessary change.”

“The problem with the lack of consistency isn’t just that it rocks the boat of nostalgia,” she wrote recently, “but it eliminates a common language that existed from year to year.”

Joe Posnanski, a national columnist for, said, “I don’t like it at all. ” He added, “Baseball exists on a continuum more than other sports, and Topps is part of that.”

As far back as the mid-1950s, a few years after Topps began producing baseball cards, upper-echelon players were distinguished by card numbers ending in two zeros, like 100, 200 or 300. The next best would be identified by numbers ending in a single zero, with 50, 150 or 450 held in more esteem than 160 or 440. The level below them had numbers that ended in 5; multiples of 25 were the best in this bunch. Starting around 1990, the best player would often be No. 1. Everyone else seemed to be assigned a number randomly, at least at first.

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Originally published: May 20, 2013. Last Updated: May 20, 2013.