When Topps unleashed their first full, dedicated Traded Set in 1981, it was the culmination of several years’ worth of trends and developments.

For starters, the company had been dabbling in late-season updates since at least 1972, when they stamped some high-number cards with a “TRADED” designation on the front.

The first card showing Joe Morgan with the Reds is probably the most famous among those.

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And, in 1974 and 1976, Topps inserted a run of 44 updated cards in their late-season packs.

That 1976 Oscar Gamble is a hobby legend.

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But the 1981 Topps Traded set was something altogether different — a standalone 132-card series released only through hobby outlets (dealers, mostly) that featured traded players (duh) and, to a lesser extent, rookies who had made some sort of impact during that strike-torn season.

Issued in the fall, the Topps Traded set continued numbering where the base set left off, at #727, and it was a clear attempt to differentiate The Real One from upstarts Fleer and Donruss.

After 25 years of monopolizing the industry, after all, Topps wasn’t about to let the new competitors get an edge.

And so, collectors who were lucky enough to get their hands on the little block of new cards as winter approached reveled in seeing Carlton Fisk with the White Sox, Fred Lynn with the Angels, Fernando Valenzuela on a solo card, Danny Ainge on a baseball card, and Rollie Fingers for the Brewers — a card that would become something of an icon when it appeared in miniature as part of the 1982 Kmart set after Fingers nabbed the 1981 AL MVP Award.

But this set wasn’t met with universal approval, as some collectors considered it something of a gimmick and some felt it wasn’t even a legitimate issue since it wasn’t widely available, or in pack form.

So, if Topps was going to stick with the new format, and presumably generate some additional revenue, they needed a boost to their 1982 offering.

Luckily, they had a year to figure it out … and they also got some help from the baseball gods.

First, Topps further walled off their 1982 Traded set by giving it its own numbering scheme, starting with Doyle Alexander at #1T and ending with the checklist at #132T.

And, during the season, Orioles prospect Cal Ripken, Jr., shed that label and put together a fairly monstrous first season to win American League Rookie of the Year honors.

Before any of that happened, though, the 1981-82 offseason set the stage for Topps’ late success in 1982.

In December of 1981, the Padres traded Ozzie Smith to the Cardinals in exchange for Garry Templeton. Both dudes were star shortstops with their teams, so this amounted to something of a challenge trade (even though there were other players involved, too).

Ozzie didn’t miss a beat, winning another Gold Glove in 1982 and helping the Cardinals win their first World Series since 1964. Though he wasn’t much of a threat at the plate, Ozzie’s expanded fan base made his 1982 Topps Traded card a popular item.

One guy who already had plenty of fans — and detractors — all across the nation by the time the Cards landed the Wizard, though, was Reggie Jackson.

Fresh off a heady five-year run with the Yankees that produced four division titles, three AL pennants, and two championships, Reggie entered free agency after 1981 with more swagger than anyone since … well, since Reggie Jackson signed with the Yankees before the 1977 season.

This time around, though, Jackson was heading into his age-36 season and had seen his batting average tumble to .237 in 1981, along with a 150-plus-point drop in his slugging percentage, as compared to 1980.

Would he be able to land another big deal?

Well, yeah, he would.

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The California Angels (among others) came calling, and Reggie signed on the dotted line in January of 1982 to the tune of close to $4 million over four seasons.

Ah, but did Reggie have anything left? Could he still stir the drink?

Again … yes, he could.

He had enough left, in fact, to lead the majors with 39 home runs, while driving in 101 to help the Halos nab their second A.L. West crown (1979 was the first).

Why, if not for those pesky Harvey’s Wallbangers Brewers, Reggie and Co., would have faced Ozzie in the Fall Classic.

Even though he fell short of another trophy, Reggie reaffirmed his stone-cold superstar status.

And even if you didn’t care about the Baltimore upstart or the backflipping acrobat under the Arch, chances are, you couldn’t wait to get a gander at Jackson in his new duds.

And, unless you wanted to wait through the long winter, there was only one game in town to get you to that goal.

So, yes … the Topps Traded set was here to say, and we all had Reginald Martinez Jackson to thank.

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