A Guide To Identifying Topps Flagship Short Prints From 2018 To 2022

December 15, 2022

Short prints are an exciting way to add collectability and the thrill of the chase to the flagship Topps offering. But what is a short print? What’s the history of short prints? Why should you chase them? And how can you identify them? Let’s take a look! 

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Historical short prints

Baseball cards are printed on large sheets, then cut apart. The exact layout of cards varied from year to year and set to set. Especially when cards were released in series, you’d have instances where to end up with full sheets, adjustments had to be made.

In some cases, these adjustments would involve putting two of a card on a sheet, which led to twice as many of that card being produced as your “normal” card. In theory, being a double print can negatively affect the value of a card. Of course, one of the most iconic cards in the history of the hobby, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, is a double print…so this isn’t always the case. 

Alternately, when a card appeared on sheets less often than a “normal” card, it was printed in lower quantities. These are called short prints and often command a premium.

This is true of commons and even more so when a card features a star or rookie card. An example of a rookie card that gets a price boost from being a SP is the 1966 Topps Gaylord Perry #598.

As card production matured and production increased, short prints kind of fell by the wayside. You won’t find short-printed cards in most sets past the 1970s. 

Historical variations

Variations, or cards that include small inconsistencies among examples of the same card, have been around as long as cards have existed. The classic error/corrected card is an example, but there are many other instances. 

The 1990 Topps Frank Thomas NNOF (No Name on Front) is an example of a variation (one that had some missing ink). A similar print-related one is the 1982 Topps Blackless, which are missing the blank ink from the print run. 

Going back to that 1952 Topps set, many of the cards are available in red back and black back variations, and the famous Mickey Mantle can be found with two different designs on the baseball pattern behind the card number. 

Sometimes these variations were because cards were printed in different plants, or in different series or runs. The reason behind some remains a mystery. Were they all accidents or caused by inconsistency? Were some on purpose? We may never have a complete picture. 

What is a modern Topps flagship short print variation?

As card production techniques improved, it’s quite possible that variations and short prints would disappear into history. Topps realized that fans actually enjoyed chasing short prints and variations, and they added a unique spin to the hobby. 

In 2009, Topps released 36 “photo variations” as part of their flagship release. These short-printed cards replaced modern stars with legends, mostly from the same team as the original star. For example, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees was card #1 in the 2009 set. On the card #1 variation, Babe Ruth is featured.

The other variations feature all-time great players from Ty Cobb to Jackie Robinson to Greg Maddux. Barak Obama, then the active president of the United States, also appeared on one card. 

The success of that initial foray led to more short print photo variations in the years that followed. The popularity of these offerings, along with the general growth of parallels in both number and popularity, put us where we now find ourselves. 

Today’s flagship Topps offering features photo variations in Short Print (SP) and Super Short Print (SSP), parallels of every color of the rainbow (and then some), plus inserts, autos, and so much more. 

Why you should be on the lookout for short prints?

So, now that we know the history of short prints and the recent re-emergence of short print variations…why would you want them?

The answer is clear – they are to varying degrees, tough pulls, and with rarity comes value

How hard to pull are short print variations? Let’s look at 2022 Topps Series 1 as an example. 

The short print variations are popular with several different types of collectors, from team and player collectors to master set builder, to people who just love pulling or collecting rare and valuable cards. 

Topps flagship short prints 2018-2022

Let’s explore the most recent five years of Topps Flagship short print variations, covering the years 2018 to 2022. 

Variations typically fall into one of a few types:

Photo Variation – the card features the same player as the base card, but uses a different photo. 

Legend Variation – the card features an all-time great player from the same team as the player pictured on the base card. For example, a legend variation of a New York Yankee may feature Babe Ruth. 

“Other” variations – often different from year to year, and tend to adhere to some theme based on the year. This can be the prior season World Champs, different backs, “family”, and more. 

How to identify Topps short prints 2018-2022

How do you identify a Topps Short Print Variation from the years 2018-2022? If you’re very familiar with the base set, you may recognize the photo on the front is different, but to be safe, to know for sure, just flip the card over.

At the back, on the bottom of the card you’ll see a code that starts with “CODE#”. The last 3 digits of the code are the ones that matter here

2018 Topps short prints

2018 Topps Flagship includes both SP and SSP variations. All of the variations here are photo variations. The SP photo variations have a shared theme of players in warmup gear. Think hoodies and batting practice jerseys.

The SSPs have a bit of a loose theme, as well, with most if not all dealing with hand gestures such as high-fives and finger waves. 

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Variation Odds

CodeHobby OddsHobby Jumbo OddsBlaster Odds
Short Print431:151:111:54
Super Short Print441:3241:1,6191:1,618

2019 Topps short prints

2019 Topps Flagship includes SP and SSP variations, plus Advanced Stats. The Advanced Stats variations replace the traditional stats on the card back with more “advanced” stats. 

The SPs consist exclusively of photo variations. Many of the alternate photos show players away from the field, either in the dugout or other more casual settings. 

The SSP are all legends in the 2019 Topps Flagship set. Several of these photos also feature the legends away from the ballpark, such as Babe Ruth on the golf course or Ted Williams in a fighter jet. 

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 Variation Odds

CodeHobby OddsHobby Jumbo OddsBlaster OddsHanger
Advanced State Parallel915N/AN/AN/AN/A
Short Print9671:151:171:391:20
Super Short Print9681:1441:4591:1,1601:574

2020 Topps short prints

2020 Topps Flagship comes in SP and SSP variations, plus some SSSP variations that don’t really adhere to any real theme. More on those in a second. 

The 2020 Topps variations include photo variations (including Max Scherzer hitting in a baby blue Montreal Expos throwback uniform) and legend variations. 

The Super Short Prints (SSSP), in their first appearance in a Topps flagship offering, are…interesting. They include an Aaron Judge card with Babe Ruth photoshopped into the stands – a homage to the 2007 Topps Derek Jeter card w/ Mickey Mantle and President Bush?

There’s a Mike Trout “reverse negative” error, as a throwback to the reverse negative (printed backwards) errors of yesteryear. A card of Pete Alonso with a picture of a polar bear is a “nickname” play. There’s also an unnumbered card of Commissioner Rob Manfred. 

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Variation Odds:

CodeHobby OddsHobby Jumbo OddsBlaster OddsHanger
Short Print2841:431:131:431:9
Super Short Print2851:1,2721:3871:1,2741:267
Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Pete Alonso, Rob Manfred578UnknownUnknownUnknownUnknown

2021 Topps short prints

The 2021 Topps Flagship variations come in SP, SSP, and SSSP/Ultra, plus “Advanced Stats” variations. The Advanced Stats variations replace the traditional stats on the card back with more “advanced” stats. 

Beyond that, photo and legend variations make up the bulk of the offering. The SSSP/Ultra offering focuses on “family”, with major league father/son combos, and one grandfather/player combo (the Yastrzemskis). 

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Variation Odds

CodeHobby OddsHobby Jumbo OddsBlaster OddsHanger
Short Print2301:691:241:791:17
Super Short Print2311:2,0491:7151:2,3511:492
Ultra Variation2321:74,9861:27,2421:87,5101:18,510
Advanced Stats Variation233UnknownUnknownUnknownUnknown

2022 Topps short prints

2022 Topps Flagship variations come in SP, SSP, and Ultra versions, with the SPs and SSPs being a mix of photo variations and legend variations. The Ultra variations honor members of the 2021 World Championship Atlanta Braves. 

Shop for 2022 Topps short prints on eBay

CodeHobby OddsHobby Jumbo OddsRetailBlaster Odds
Short Print5601:1121:341:981:112
Super Short Print5611:3,3411:1,0181,29221:3,342
Ultra Variation5621:39,2281:39,228N/AN/A

The final word on 2018-2022 Topps short prints

Over the last five years, Topps Flagship variations have changed and expanded. The one thing that has remained constant is that the variations are highly sought after by collectors and an exciting pull

It will be exciting to see where Topps brings variations over the next several years, especially with the Fanatics takeover and all that means for new advances in the hobby.