Robert Edward Auctions is honored to announce that we have been chosen to present the collection of legendary Topps executive Sy Berger at auction in April 2009. It has also been a special thrill for us to meet and personally work with Mr. Berger. For close to fifty years, Sy Berger was the face of the Topps Chewing Gum Company in the sports world, and for all but a few of those years, also the face of Topps in the entertainment card field. He not only was responsible for making the licensing arrangements for cards, he also played an extremely significant role in marketing, producing, designing, and even selling the Topps Gum Company picture card products that have had such a great impact on our lives. Whether you are a serious collector, a casual collector of baseball or other trading cards, or just have fond memories of collecting or flipping cards as a youngster, we all owe an immense debt of gratitude to Mr. Berger. He is one of the most important hobby industry pioneers in the history of collecting. He is often referred to as “The Father of the Modern Bubble-Gum Card,” though Sy always insists on sharing credit with illustrator Woody Gelman for his contributions in executing his vision, and to Topps president J. E, Shorin for his role in producing and promoting the Topps trading card product line. Sy Berger was certainly part of a great team at Topps, but perhaps no single individual played a greater role in creating the Topps products and orchestrating the promotions that made card collecting such an important part of popular culture in the 1950s to modern times.
Sy was at the forefront of the 1950s “Bubble-Gum Wars,” instrumental in acquiring the rights to picture players on cards, an integral role in the ascension of Topps as the greatest, most successful, and longest-running manufacturer of baseball and other trading cards in history. In the process, Sy Berger himself became an honored member of the Major League Baseball fraternity. In 1982 at the Baseball Winter Meetings Banquet, he was honored by being named “King of Baseball” for his contributions to the game. He is the only person to ever receive this honor that was not employed in professional baseball. In 1988, Sy Berger was also honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The award presented to him reads: “In recognition of his role in the development of the modern baseball trading card and for helping to introduce generations of fans to baseball for more than half of a century.” Due to his unique role at Topps, there were few if any players for literally a half a century that did not personally know Sy Berger. He became close friends with many of the greatest stars of the game. Sy has had a particularly close friendship and business association with Willie Mays dating back to Willie’s rookie year, which continues to this day, but has also been close friends with literally hundreds of other players.
Sy Berger was not a collector in the traditional sense. He did not personally collect sets or consider himself a collector. As he says himself, he was more of a “gatherer,” and even then, everything he brought home was strictly for his kids. Over the years, he was always bringing home a few things for them here and there. But when your career lasts over fifty years, a few items here and there can pile up. Everywhere he went people were always giving him souvenirs, and work-related items would also naturally find their way to him. If he had been a collector, there is no doubt that he could have assembled the greatest post-war card collection in the world, but Sy was far too busy creating the very products that other people collect, and having a lot of fun doing it. He has no regrets! The material the Berger children did save, however, is fascinating, and includes many unique items. Highlights include an extraordinary collection of 117 original artworks used to create the 1953 Topps set (including Satchel Paige), the original contracts for the entire 1957-1958 Topps Basketball set (including the checks the players signed), and the original contracts for the 1951 Topps Ringside Boxing set (one of the earliest of all Topps sets) which Sy and the kids miraculously saved for the past 58 years! Other items include the contracts for the 1987 Kmart set produced by Topps (another Sy Berger idea!), three complete sets of 1964 Topps Rookie Award All Star sets in their original boxes (we probably don’t have to tell you but yes, Sy came up with the idea for the Topps Rookie Awards also!), and numerous other interesting items.
This is not the largest collection in the world (though it includes hundreds of items) or the most valuable collection in the world (though it is very valuable). But for many reasons it is one of the most special collections that we have ever had the privilege of offering. The presentation at auction of these items represents a once-in-a-lifetime collecting opportunity that will always be remembered by us and by future generations of collectors. We thank the Sy Berger family for creating this exciting collecting event, and most of all, we thank you, Sy Berger, for all of your great contributions to our field. If it weren’t for you, we’re not sure where we’d be!
Copies of the 650-page full-color premium catalog are available free. To review past catalogs on-line, to learn more about Robert Edward Auctions, or to receive a complimentary copy of the catalog, or to inquire about consignments, visit http://www.robertedwardauctions.com/. For further information contact Robert Edward Auctions, PO Box 7256, Watchung, NJ or call (908)-226-9900.
Link to SABR interview with Sy Berger: