A Guide To Kmart Cards: Shining A (Blue) Light (Special) On Topps Kmart Cards

March 31, 2023

Kmart was once a major US retailer, but has fallen on quite hard times of late.

During their heyday, which coincided with the irrational exuberance of the junk wax era, they partnered with Topps to produce several card sets that, while not particularly valuable today, are worth exploring as a view into that era of card collecting.

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What is Kmart?

Kmart (sometimes written as K-mart) is a retail store chain with roots that go back to 1899. The first Kmart stores opened in the early 1960s and the firm quickly began to expand across the country and the globe. By the 1980s, they were the second-largest retail chain behind Sears.

Walmart (who opened its first store the same year as Kmart) passed them for that honor in 1990.

The chain is credited with several innovations, including several collaborations with celebrities on exclusive merchandise lines. And their “Blue Light Specials” with their “Attention Kmart shoppers” intro line and the “pop-up flash sale” of their day, have become a part of popular culture.

Competition from the likes of Walmart, Target, and internet shopping has crushed Kmart’s market share. From a peak in 1994 of 2,486 stores globally, Kmart began a slow, painful drop into irrelevance. Today, there are only three Kmart stores left in the US after many store closures, bankruptcies, and general decline.

But before the decline, there were some baseball cards!

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Kmart baseball bards

Collectors today are more than familiar with retail-exclusive products, with Walmart and Target being two of the main Topps exclusive partners. But Topps and retailers have a long history of collaboration. For example, the very first Topps factory set, 1974 Topps, was a J.C. Penney exclusive.

And Topps & Kmart, both being big players in their respective worlds, were a natural pairing. The two started their collaboration small in 1980, but then created some well-known products (although maybe more for their ubiquitous nature than them being particularly noteworthy).

These sets were mass-produced and inexpensive, and remain inexpensive and easy to find to this day. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not worth collecting, and have their own place of note in the history of the hobby.

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1982 and 1987 Topps Kmart sets

1980 Topps Kmart Promotional

Topps’ and Kmart’s first collaboration was fairly small and simple. In 1980, Topps partnered with a number of retail chains to drum up business for the release of their flagship set.

While supplies last, shoppers would receive a cellophane pack containing 3 cards, two 1980 Topps cards and a special “header” card that listed members of the 3,000 hit club.

It doesn’t appear that PSA grades the header card, but they do grade the 3-card pack. Ungraded, the packs sell for about $5-6.

1980 Topps Kmart 3-card cello pack w/ exclusive header

1982 Topps Kmart 20th Anniversary

While Topps had previously created licensed cards for companies such as Coca-Cola, Burger King, and Drakes, those were intended to be for promotional purposes.

The 1982 Topps Kmart set was the product, as it was sold exclusively in Kmart stores. Created to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Kmart, the 44-card set originally retailed for $1.97.

The checklist consists of the AL and NL MVP winners each year from 1962-1981. The 1979 NL MVP was a tie (Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell), so that makes 41 cards. Highlight cards Don Drysdale (’68), Hank Aaron (’74), and Pete Rose (’81) round out the 44-card checklist.

From a design perspective, the 1982 Topps Kmart cards feature images of the original Topps card for each MVP in his award-winning season. There are two notable exceptions. 1962 NL MVP Maury Wills didn’t appear on a Topps card that year.

So, the card pictured is a bit of a “card that never was”. Also, card number 27, Fred Lynn gets the same treatment, since his original 1975 Topps card is a multi-player rookie card.

From a value perspective, these sets are still readily available today and often sell for less than $10 delivered on eBay.

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PSA has graded 2,548 copies of 1982 Topps Kmart cards. Of those, close to 15% are card #1, Mickey Mantle. Despite this, the Mantle is one of the highest price cards in a PSA 10 slab. The other is another inner-circle Hall of Famer, Willie Mays.

A handful of other cards have sold for $30-40 in PSA 10 of late, but most cards from this set sell for under $30, and in some cases, under $20, even in a PSA 10 slab.

CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1982 Topps Kmart 20th Anniversary Mickey Mantle #1378PSA 10 = 99PSA 10 = $125-130
1982 Topps Kmart 20th Anniversary Willie Mays #8101PSA 10 = 47PSA 10 = $275
1982 Topps Kmart 20th Anniversary George Brett #3866PSA 10 = 36PSA 10 = $25-35

1987 Topps Kmart 25th Anniversary

Five years later, Kmart again partnered with Topps, this time to celebrate their 25th anniversary. This time, the boxed set included 33 cards and the cards were far glossier than the 1982 version. The set was broken into 3 subsets, each containing 11 cards. Cards 1-11 represent the 1960’s, 12-22 the 1970’s, and 23-33 the 1980’s.

The checklist contains many Hall of Famers and fan favorites. The set again retailed for $1.97 exclusively in Kmart stores.

Much like the 1982 set, these are still quite plentiful and sets can be had on eBay and from other sources for $10 or less delivered.

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1987 Topps Kmart sets are still easy to find, even in quantity

PSA has graded 1,249 copies of 1987 Topps Kmart cards with Nolan Ryan (127), Mickey Mantle (109), and Pete Rose (107) representing the most graded. Over 63% of all copies graded by PSA are in PSA 10 slabs. Individual card prices are a bit all over the place, with few having more than a single comp on which to base prices.

CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1987 Topps Kmart 25th Anniversary Nolan Ryan #20127PSA 10 = 82PSA 10 = $35
1987 Topps Kmart 25th Anniversary Willie Mays #860PSA 10 = 32PSA 10 = $125-150
1987 Topps Kmart 25th Anniversary Don Mattingly #2843PSA 10 = 32PSA 10 = $105

1988 Topps Kmart Memorable Moments

Kmart didn’t want to wait five more years before releasing their next set. 1988 was the heart of the junk wax card explosion, and Kmart wanted to capitalize. Like 1987, the set contains 33 cards and had glossy card fronts and a price tag of $1.97.

Unlike prior offerings, this set didn’t feature all-time greats from the game’s past, but all current players. The “memorable moments” theme gives the checklist plenty of flexibility to include the hottest players of the era, including Oakland’s Bash Brothers, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.

In complete set form, these again are readily available for less than $10 delivered.

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1988 Topps Kmart Memorable Moments

PSA has graded only 873 total copies of 1988 Kmart Memorable Moments. Of those, 478 (54.7%) are in PSA 10 slabs. The two most graded cards are Nolan Ryan (135) and Pete Rose (101). There again aren’t a lot of comps here, but even in a PSA 10 slab these sell for less than $50 generally.

CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1988 Topps Kmart Memorable Moments Nolan Ryan #23137PSA 10 = 57PSA 10 = $45
1988 Topps Kmart Memorable Moments Rickey Henderson #1340PSA 10 = 25PSA 10 = $40
1988 Topps Kmart Memorable Moments Cal Ripken #2151PSA 10 = 34PSA 10 = $35-40

1990 Topps Kmart Super Stars

After a one-year hiatus, Topps Kmart was back in 1990. The set this time was called Superstars and again consisted of 33 cards with a glossy finish. The retail price was $1.97 again, but this year the set came with a piece of gum (bonus!)

The checklist consists of a 16-card All Star team for each league, with the 33rd card featuring the All Star Game managers. Again, this allows Topps to include all of the big names of the day, including Rickey Henderson.

Complete sets again can be had for less than $10 each delivered.

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1990 Topps Kmart Superstars

The total PSA count is only 651 graded copies with 353 PSA 10s or over 54%. Clearly these (and most of the prior sets) come out of the box in good shape, but most people just don’t see the value in grading them.

CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1990 Topps Kmart Super Stars Don Mattingly #1755PSA 10 = 35PSA 10 = $45
1990 Topps Kmart Super Stars Kirby Puckett #2239PSA 10 = 27PSA 10 = $45

2008 Topps Kmart Gold/Yellow Rookies

Eighteen years later, Topps and Kmart again teamed up. This time, it was on an exclusive insert set in retail blasters. The Gold/Yellow Rookies set was made up of 30 cards split across Series 1 and Series 2.

The 5-pack plus 3 Gold/Yellow Rookie blasters sold for $9.99 back in 2008. Today, they go for about $30.

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2008 Topps Bonus Box with Exclusive Gold/Yellow Rookies

PSA has graded 63 total cards from the set. Of that total, 62 are the card of Joey Votto. A PSA 10 of the Votto card sold recently for around $150. The one non-Votto card that PSA graded was of Erick Threets.

2008 Topps K-Mart Joey Votto
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
2008 Topps K-Mart Gold/Yellow Rookies Joey Votto #RV462PSA 10 = 27PSA 10 = $150

Final thoughts on Kmart Cards

Kmart cards were overproduced, sold cheap, and still can be had for minimal investment. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth your attention, however. The early sets capture important players and moments from the game’s history.

The later sets capture the biggest star of their respective time in one place. While the value proposition likely isn’t here, for a nostalgic (or historically-mind, for our younger readers) walk through a long-gone era of our hobby, Topps Kmart cards offer a little inexpensive fun for collectors. And really, that was what Kmart was all about…offering you a little something interesting for a low, low price. 

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