Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. manufactures Bazooka gum, Garbage Pail Kids, and many more such products; it is the largest manufacturer of bubble gum and related products in the world. But Topps is known by many not for its gum so much as for what comes with it: baseball cards. It has dominated the baseball-card industry almost since it issued its first set.
Topps’s ancestry is the American Leaf Tobacco Company, founded in 1890 by Morris Shorin. Diversification seemed necessary during the Depression, and in 1938 the company began selling gum under the Topps name. They began enclosing baseball cards with gum in 1951, and by 1956 the Brooklyn-based company had beaten its well-entrenched competitor, Bowman, and bought them out. For the next twenty-five years, Topps monopolized the baseball-card market; Fleer issued a few sets of old-timers in the early 1960s, and later produced World Series-history sets, but Topps had locked up the basic concept of the baseball-card set that consisted of most of the active players in the major leagues. Finally Fleer won a court case; it was decided that Topps’s monopoly included only the right to sell baseball cards with gum, so other companies sprang up in the 1980s. But Topps remains the top dog in the field, regularly producing a myriad of sets for other companies (department stores, food products, even dog food) and in other countries (Canada, England).