Topps kicked off it's Heritage line with the 2001 Topps Heritage set. That original set became an instant hit with collectors and remains one of the most popular modern card sets.
The 2001 Topps Heritage set is based on the set that originally put Topps on the card collecting map, the 1952 Topps set. The 1952 set was released in two separate series, the low number series (card #'s 1-310) and the high number series (311-407), and these 1952 Topps cards are now considered to be the first "modern" baseball cards produced.
When Topps was planning the 2001 Topps Heritage set, they wanted to include similarities to the 1952 set beyond just the design. The 2001 Heritage set consists of 407 cards, just like the 1952 set. The second series of the 1952 set, the high number cards are much rarer than most of the low number cards. Topps only released one series of 2001 Topps Heritage cards, but they short printed cards 311-407, making them much harder to pull from packs than the lower number cards. Another feature of the 1952 set was that each card from #1 through #80 had two versions-a black ink back version and a red ink back version. Topps included this feature as well with the 2001 Topps Heritage set.
Another reason why the original 2001 Topps Heritage set was and still is such a hit with collectors is the amazing selection of autograph cards that were inserted into packs. A few of the more popular 2001 Topps Heritage auto cards included Barry Bonds, Warren Spahn, Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Willie Mays, Phil Rizzuto, Duke Snider and many more! There were 52 different autograph cards, divided evenly between current stars and great players from 1952.
Topps came up with quite a few insert sets to include with the 2001 Topps Heritage base cards as well. The 2001 Topps Heritage chrome set consists of 110 chrome cards, each serial numbered out of 552, which puts them on the same level as the refractor cards in the news Heritage sets. The 15 card New Age Performers set and the 10 card Then & Now set have been a mainstay of the Topps Heritage sets and have been included every year. There is a 10 card Classic Renditions set featuring current star players, and of course the Clubhouse Collection cards featuring game used materials from both current players and 1952 players. A few of the Clubhouse Collection relic cards and a few of the Classic Rendition cards also had autographed versions which are extremely rare, including Clubhouse Collection game used bat cards of Willie Mays and Duke Snider.
The 2001 Topps Heritage set is more than just a beautifully designed baseball card set, it brought about an entire new wave of popularity to sports card collecting. Many collectors that had not bought a pack of cards in five, ten, even twenty years rediscovered the joy of opening packs of baseball cards once they found out about Topps Heritage cards. Topps Heritage cards may not have saved the hobby, but they sure brought it back to thousands of long forgotten collectors!