The Other Jim Taylor

February 19th, 2010  |  Published in CFL Cards, error cards  |  1 Comment

It is well-known among vintage football card collectors that the 1959 Topps rookie card of the Packers’ Jim Taylor pictures a different Jim Taylor. And so does his 1960 Topps card. (For pictures of them, see my Mistaken Identities page.) I didn’t know until recently, though, that the other Jim Taylor–Jim G. Taylor–appeared on a card of his own. Here he is, with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, on a 1961 Topps CFL card. Thanks to Pastor Scott for calling my attention to it. (Click on the card to see a bigger image.)

1961 Topps CFL Jim Taylor football card1961 Topps CFL Jim Taylor football card backJim G. Taylor, according to his page on pro-football-reference.com, played for Pittsburgh in 1956, and for the Chicago Cardinals in 1957 and 1958. According to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ all-time roster, by the time Jim G. appeared on Jim C.’s card in 1959, he had left the Cardinals and was playing for Hamilton. By 1961, when Topps issued his CFL card, he had left the Tiger-Cats, too. Topps couldn’t seem to catch up with the guy!

As you can see, the fronts of the 1961 Topps CFL cards look nothing like the 1961 Topps NFL/AFL cards, but the backs are nearly the same. As I have seen on other CFL cards, the short text on the back is in both English and French, which requires it to be even shorter than usual. The CFL cards (judging by this one) do not have College or Years Pro fields on them, as the 1961 Topps NFL/AFL cards do.

At first I thought that the facsimile signature on the front of the 1961 CFL cards was a nice touch, but it turns out that the signatures on all of the cards are in the same handwriting. You can see many more examples on eBay.

It would be fun to collect CFL cards, but I’m learning that there are a ton of them, and I have my hands full with the NFL and AFL. Maybe I’ll just start picking up cards of CFL players who also played in the U.S. It’s interesting to see how the players moved between the leagues.

Tags: , ,

Sites I Like: 1977 Topps Mexican Football Cards

February 19th, 2010  |  Published in Football Card Oddities, Sites I Like  |  1 Comment

In 1977, Topps tried translating their football cards to Spanish and producing and selling them in Mexico. The composition of the 1977 Topps Mexican set was the same as the 1977 Topps football set released in the U.S., but the Mexican cards were printed, packaged, and distributed differently, and they are much scarcer than their U.S. counterparts.

Scott Alpaugh, who collects the 1977 Mexicans, has put together a terrific web site that describes the set in detail. I don’t have anything to add to what Scott says, so I’ll just point you to his site: 1977 Topps Mexican Football Cards.

Pictured here is the 1977 Topps Mexican Golden Richards card. Around the edges you can see the perforations that Scott discussed in his article. Oddly, Topps translated Cowboys to Vaqueros on the front, but not on the back. (Click on the scans to see larger images.)

You can see the composition of the set on PSA’s set registry, and you can find more pictures of 1977 Topps Mexicans on eBay.

Alas, the experiment evidently didn’t work, since there’s no 1978 Topps Mexican set.

Tags: ,

T is for Topps, Part 3: 1964-1969

February 12th, 2010  |  Published in ABCs of Vintage Football Cards

In 1964, the Philadelphia Gum Company obtained the rights to print cards of NFL players, and they did so from 1964 to 1967. (See P is for Philadelphia.) For those four years, Topps switched to printing cards of AFL players. The cards that the two companies produced reflected the images of the leagues: Philadelphia’s NFL cards were conservative and consistent, and Topps’s AFL cards were colorful and innnovative.

In 1968, after the NFL and AFL agreed to merge, Topps obtained the rights to both leagues, and Philadelphia stopped printing football cards. Topps closed out the decade with two colorful sets containing both NFL and AFL players.

1964 Topps

The 1964 Topps set contains 176 cards, a large number for only eight AFL teams. 166 are cards of individual players (the others are team cards and checklists), so there are 20 or 21 player cards for each team. At the time, that was about twice the usual number of players per team, so Topps was able to include more cards of non-stars than usual. Give or take a card or two, there are 73 rookie cards in the set! Among the rookie cards are these bookend Hall of Famers, Bobby Bell and Buck Buchanan of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The 1964 Topps cards have colored backgrounds and colored stars around the borders. I don’t see a pattern to the colors Topps chose for the backgrounds, except that each card has a background color different from the player’s jersey color. Most of the cards have the player’s name, position, and team in white letters on a black background, but a handful–such as the Bobby Bell card–have either white-on-blue or white-and-black-on-red labels. If there is any significance to the alternate label colors, I don’t see it.

The 176 cards in the 1964 set would have been printed on two 132-card sheets, with 88 cards repeated. That means that there are either 88 double prints or 88 short prints in the set, depending on whether your glass is half-full or half-empty.

There is one mistaken identity in the 1964 Topps set: Ray Abruzzese’s card actually pictures Ed Rutkowski. Topps evidently was focused on spelling his name correctly.

1965 Topps

I described the classic 1965 Topps set in J is for Joe Namath–and the 1965 Topps Tall Boys, so I won’t cover it again here. On to 1966…

1966 Topps

In 1966, Topps used the “little television” design previously seen on 1955 Bowman baseball cards and on the highlight cards in the 1961 Topps football set. I imagine that by the third time around, it had lost its cuteness. (I noticed today that even the checklists in the 1966 Topps set are in the shape of TVs.)

Though the Dolphins joined the AFL in 1966 and were included in this set, Topps reduced the set size to 132 cards. They also wasted one on the Funny Ring Checklist. Because of the reduced set size, there are only 13 rookie cards in the set, and there are no Hall of Famers among the rookie cards. I’d call the set a letdown after 1965.

So, what’s interesting about the 1966 Topps cards? Well, the brown borders show wear easily, so finding high-grade cards is a challenge, and challenges are always fun. Also, some cards, such as the John Farris card shown here, can be found with a stripe along one edge. (I’ve seen yellow, red, and black stripes.) The stripes don’t seem to affect the grades that PSA assigns the cards, but to me they’re distracting, and I prefer cards without them. I presume that cards with a stripe were on the edge of the sheet, but I have not seen an uncut sheet to verify that.

Since the set fit perfectly on a 132-card sheet, none of the cards are short prints. The backs of some cards are white, and the backs of others have a yellowish-brownish tone, suggesting that some sheets were printed on different paper stock than others. Here again, I prefer cards with white backs to those with toning, but PSA does not appear to discriminate.

1967 Topps

In 1967, Topps returned to bright colors, and 1967 Topps football cards resemble some of the psychedelic art of the time. (The Peace poster shown here is from cafepress.com.) This is another 132-card set with no short prints, no Hall of Fame rookie cards, and no real oddities. I think, though, that it captures the spirit of the AFL and the country better than any of the other 60s sets.

As I wrote in an earlier article, 33 of the 1967 Topps football cards were reprinted in 1969 for a Milton Bradley game called Win-A-Card. The backs of the Milton Bradley cards have a slightly lighter color than the regular cards (yellow v. orange), and some of them, along their borders, show parts of other cards that were included in the game–such as 1968 Topps baseball cards.

1968 Topps and 1969 Topps

As I said at the top, the 1968 Topps and 1969 Topps sets contain both NFL and AFL players. Topps made these sets bigger to accommodate the larger number of teams, and it released each set in two series. Like most of the Topps cards of the 60s, the 1968 and 1969 sets are colorful and bright.

For more detailed information on these sets, see my virtual uncut sheet pages. Here are the links:

More of the ABCs:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brad Ecklund, AAFC and NFL Center

February 11th, 2010  |  Published in Football Card Oddities, Player Deaths

Brad Ecklund, who played center for five years in the AAFC and NFL, passed away on February 6. Ecklund started his pro career with the New York Yankees of the AAFC in 1949, then joined the New York Yanks (formerly the New York Bulldogs) of the NFL when the AAFC merged with the NFL in 1950. He remained with the team when they became the Dallas Texans in 1952 and the Baltimore Colts in 1953. He made the Pro Bowl twice, in 1950 and 1951.

After his playing days, Ecklund coached for nineteen years for five NFL teams. His obituary in the Philadelphia Enquirer includes a nice photo from his days as an Eagles coach.

Ecklund’s rookie card is a 1951 Bowman, pictured here. Like the other Yanks cards in the 1951 Bowman set, it shows a picture of Yankee Stadium rather than a logo. Perhaps the team never had a logo as the New York Yanks: I don’t see one on logoserver.com, and the team’s Wikipedia page shows a Bulldogs logo.

Ecklund also appeared on two other cards, a 1952 Bowman Large and a 1952 Bowman Small, in the team’s only year as the Dallas Texans.

Tags: , , , ,

Square Toes

February 9th, 2010  |  Published in Uniforms

Back when kickers still kicked “conventionally,” some of them wore special square-toed kicking shoes. A few of the shoes showed up on cards: here we have a 1964 Philadelphia Sam Baker, a 1966 Philadelphia Bruce Gossett, and a 1974 Topps Curt Knight.

Reading about these kickers, I discovered that each of the three attempted at least one “fair catch kick” in his career. Knight attempted two of them. According to Wikipedia, in the history of the NFL, only 21 such kicks have been attempted in regular season and playoff games. Alas, our three square-toed kickers all missed their kicks.

Tags: , , , ,

Tom Wittum, 49ers Punter

February 8th, 2010  |  Published in Player Deaths

Tom Wittum, who punted for the 49ers from 1973 to 1977, died on January 22. Wittum made the Pro Bowl his first two years in the league. In 1973 he also had a 63-yard run–I presume on a fake punt–but it did not go for a touchdown.

The card pictured here is Wittum’s rookie card, the 1973 Punting Leaders card from the 1974 Topps set. Oddly, he did not appear on a regular card in that set. His first appearance alone on a card was in the 1975 Topps set.

There is a nice tribute to Wittum on dailyherald.com; it includes a picture of his 1976 Topps card. An article at suburbanchicagonews.com has a photo of Wittum in his high school uniform. (Select the photo in the article to enlarge the image.)

Tags: , ,

1979 Coke Saints Archie Manning

February 7th, 2010  |  Published in Fathers and Sons

Since I deal only with vintage football cards, I don’t have cards of any of the players in today’s Super Bowl. I couldn’t even tell you what football cards were produced for the 2009 season. I didn’t want to be left out of the fun, though, so I dug up a card of Peyton Manning’s dad, Archie. Archie, of course, also has ties to the Saints: he was their quarterback from 1971 to 1982.
1979 Coke Saints Archie Manning football card1979 Coke Saints Archie Manning football card back
Archie’s rookie card is in the 1972 Topps set, and you can see more of his early cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery. The card pictured here is a bit less common: it’s a 1979 Coke Saints card, one of a 45-card set. I don’t know what the roster size was in 1979, but 45 cards would have included nearly every player on the team. I can’t think of another set with so many players from a single team.

The Saints were so-so in 1979, and Archie is the biggest name in the Coke set. I haven’t added the set to my gallery yet–I’m still working on 1975–but there is a full list of the cards on the PSA site. Most individual 1979 Coke cards sell for a dollar or two on eBay.

Tags: , ,

Jim Podoley, Redskins Halfback and Receiver

February 6th, 2010  |  Published in error cards, Player Deaths  |  2 Comments

Jim Podoley, who played halfback and end for the Washington Redskins from 1957 to 1960, died on January 24. His obituary includes a nice recent photo. Podoley was a Pro Bowler in his rookie season, when he led the NFL with 20.5 yards per reception. Prior to his professional career, he starred in football and track at Central Michigan University. He was one of the inaugural inductees into the CMU Athletics Hall of Fame.

Pictured here is Podoley’s 1959 Topps card. He also has a card in the 1958 Topps set, but that card actually pictures Volney Peters.

Tags: , ,

T is for Topps, Part 2: 1960-1963

February 5th, 2010  |  Published in ABCs of Vintage Football Cards


Topps produced a great variety of football cards in the 1960s: AFL cards and NFL cards, cards with natural backgrounds and cards with colored ones, cards oriented horizontally and cards oriented vertically, cards bordered by stars and cards that looked like little TVs, standard-sized cards and “tall boys.” A collector who focused on just 1960s Topps football cards could build a large, attractive, and interesting collection.

Topps had competition in the 1960s, and I attribute some of their creativity to that. The competition coincided with the emergence of the AFL: while the AFL and NFL competed for fans, the card companies aligned with the leagues and competed as well.

Fleer was the card company of the early AFL. From 1960 to 1963, Fleer produced three AFL-only sets and one AFL/NFL set. In the same time period, Topps produced three NFL sets and one AFL/NFL set. Both companies produced their combined AFL/NFL sets in 1961.

In 1964, Philadelphia Gum Company obtained the rights to print cards of NFL players, and they did so until 1967. Topps countered with AFL-only sets from 1964 to 1967.

In 1968, after the NFL and AFL agreed to merge, Topps obtained the rights to both leagues. By the early 1970s, without competition, Topps’s creativity began to wane. That rant is for a later post, though. This week we’ll look at Topps’s offerings from 1960 to 1963, the years they competed with Fleer.

1960 Topps

1960 Topps is my least favorite 60s Topps set, probably because it is less colorful than their later sets. I am not fond of the big footballs with the players’ names in them, either: they remind me of the big white footballs on 1953 Bowman cards. Though Topps evidently had the rights to use the teams’ logos, they put them only on the team cards, which is unfortunate. I do like that the images of the players cover most of the cards, unlike the peephole views on 1958 Topps cards.

The 1960 Topps set was printed on a single 132-card sheet. There is a virtual 1960 Topps sheet, and a few notes about the set, in the Vintage Football Card Gallery. One bit of trivia about the set is that three of the cards–Bill Wade, Doug Atkins, and Frank Varrichione–have reversed images. Another is that, to my knowledge, this was the first Topps set to contain inserts in the packs. The inserts were metallic stickers: novel, but homely.

1960 Topps was the first major set in which all cards from a given team were grouped together numerically. I always liked this feature. Topps continued the practice until 1968, then abandoned it. Coincidentally–or was it?–1968 was the year they no longer had competition.

Finally, the 1960 Topps set was the first in which the Dallas Cowboys appeared. The Cowboys joined the NFL in 1960. Doyle Nix is the only Cowboy in the 1960 Topps set who did not appear on an earlier card for a different team.

1961 Topps

The 1961 Topps set was released in two series, the first containing NFL players, and the second containing AFL players. This is how Fleer released their 1961 set, as well. Though the price guides give higher values to the second series cards in both sets, the second series cards are in fact more plentiful than the first series cards. Be skeptical of your price guides.

1961 Topps was the first set to contain action cards, like the Eddie LeBaron card shown here. Each action card was framed by a woodgrain TV, a precursor to the 1966 Topps cards. The 1961 Topps and Fleer sets were the first to contain Minnesota Vikings cards. The Vikings were an expansion team in 1961.

Oddly, most of the Houston Oilers in the 1961 Topps set are shown in pink jerseys, though their team color was powder blue. Only George Blanda was spared the pink treatment.

1962 Topps

I love the design of the 1962 Topps set. Each player card shows two images of the player: an above-the-waist still image, and a black-and-white inset photo of the player in action. Some of the inset photos show the wrong players, however. It turns out that Topps even altered some of the photos to give the impostors different numbers.

The 1962 Topps set is tough to assemble in high grade, because the black borders show wear easily. I think high grade is the only way to go, though, since even a little wear can make the cards look bad.

I have seen a few recolored cards from this set, where someone tried to touch up a corner or an edge with a black marker. You can often detect recoloring by looking at the edges of a card, because the ink from a black marker will bleed onto the edge.

Other than the unique design, I can’t think of any remarkable features of this set. The unique design is enough for me, though.

1963 Topps

The 1963 Topps set is another tough one. Its colored borders are slightly more forgiving of wear than 1962’s black borders, but this is another set I would try to get in high grade.

There are a lot of short prints in the 1963 Topps set; they are marked in the Vintage Football Card Gallery. That tells only part of the story, though. Many of the short prints–in particular some of the Steelers and Redskins–are practically impossible to find well-centered. Most of the problem cards were on the edges of the sheets. You can see what the sheets looked like on my 1963 Topps virtual uncut sheet page.

There is one bit of innovation in the 1963 Topps set. The backs have questions with hidden answers, like some scratch-off cards. (See S is for Scratch-Offs.) You don’t scratch them to see the answers, though. Instead, you hold a piece of red cellophane over them. I used to have a bit of the red cellophane, which I assume came in a pack with the cards, but I can’t locate it now. I might never know the answers to these questions.

One last thing worth mentioning is that the backgrounds of many 1963 Topps cards vary in color: you can find them with either a blue sky or a purple one. There used to be a good article on geocities about the variations, but the article is no longer there. Someday maybe I’ll write about the variations myself. Until then, you can see the purple and blue variations of Willie Wood’s rookie card in one of my previous blog articles.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Bill Dudley, Steelers, Lions, and Redskins Back

February 4th, 2010  |  Published in Player Deaths

Bill Dudley, Hall of Fame back for the Steelers, Lions, and Redskins, died this morning. Dudley was a star in all parts of the game, leading the league in rushing twice, interceptions once, and punt return yards twice. He was the Steelers’ leading passer in 1942 and 1946, and–in addition to his other duties–he was the kicker for the Lions and Redskins in his last four seasons. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966.

Pictured here is one of Dudley’s rookie cards, a 1948 Bowman. His other rookie card is a 1948 Leaf. Most of Dudley’s vintage cards are pictured in the Vintage Football Card Gallery. He also appeared in several recent Hall of Fame sets.

Tags: , , , ,

More Enhancements to the Sports Card Finder

February 3rd, 2010  |  Published in New in the Gallery, Sites I Like

I recently added a couple of small enhancements to my eBay Sports Card Finder. First, there’s now a link, labeled “th,” from each eBay listing to Toolhaus.org. Toolhaus filters out all of the positive feedback for a seller, and shows you just the seller’s negative and neutral feedback.

For the sake of speed, picking a “th” link in the Sports Card Finder brings up a Toolhaus page showing three months of feedback for the seller. You can see older feedback by picking links on the Toolhaus page. Try it out.

The second enhancement is that you can now create an RSS feed for any auction search. When you register the feed with an RSS reader, it will notify you of new auctions that match your search. You will need an RSS reader, but there are plenty of free ones out there. I use Google Reader, but Yahoo, MSN, Windows Live, and other portals provide them, as well.

To create an RSS feed and register it with an RSS reader, first do your search in the Sports Card Finder, then pick the Subscribe button on the bottom of the page. It will bring up a long list of RSS readers. Choose the reader you use, and follow the instructions it presents.

Ralph Starkey, West Virginia Tackle

January 31st, 2010  |  Published in Player Deaths  |  2 Comments

Ralph Starkey, who appeared on this 1954 Bowman football card, passed away on January 24. Starkey played college football for West Virginia University and was drafted by the New York Giants in 1954. Pro-football-reference.com doesn’t have a page for him, so I assume he didn’t see playing time for the Giants.

At West Virginia, Starkey played in the 1954 Sugar Bowl, which the Mountaineers lost to Georgia Tech. Joe Marconi, Bruce Bosley, and Sam Huff, who all became Pro Bowl players in the NFL, were also members of the 1953 West Virginia team. Ironically, they didn’t appear on their first cards until years after Starkey.

Tags: , , , , ,

Tom Brookshier, Eagles Defensive Back

January 31st, 2010  |  Published in Player Deaths

Tom Brookshier, defensive back for the Eagles in 1953 and from 1956 to 1961, died on January 29. Brookshier had 8 interceptions in his rookie season, and a total of 20 in his career. He made the Pro Bowl in 1959 and 1960, and he was a member of the Eagles’ 1960 championship team. The Eagles later retired his number. (The two-year gap in his career was time that he spent in the Air Force.)

After his playing career, Brookshier became a TV broadcaster. In the 1970s, he and Pat Summerall were CBS’s top broadcasting team, and they announced three Super Bowls together. This is how I remember Brookshier and Summerall, from watching lots of football on Sundays. I didn’t know that they had been players until I started collecting vintage cards.

Shown here is Brookshier’s rookie card, from the 1960 Topps set. He also appeared on a 1961 Topps card and on a 1962 Post Cereal card, though he did not play in 1962.

Tags: , , ,

How’d Ben Get the Ball?

January 27th, 2010  |  Published in Funny Poses, Players Who Became Actors  |  2 Comments

I ran across this card the other day, a 1969 Topps Ben Davidson, and I thought it was funny that he posed carrying the ball. As far as I knew, he had played only defense. So I looked up his entry at pro-football-reference.com, thinking that maybe he played tight end on occasion. But no, the only positions he ever played were defensive end and defensive tackle.

Maybe he was pretending to run back an interception or a fumble? Unfortunately, he never got a chance in a game: surprisingly, he had no interceptions in his 11-year career, and just two fumble recoveries, neither of which he returned.

Davidson did a lot of acting after his football career, too, appearing in Conan the Barbarian, Necessary Roughness, and a host of primetime TV shows. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a film clip, just a photo of Ben playing Rexor in Conan.

Tags: ,

New in the Gallery: 1975 Wonder Bread Cards

January 25th, 2010  |  Published in New in the Gallery  |  2 Comments

Today I added 1975 Wonder Bread cards to the Vintage Football Card Gallery. The cards are homely, but they’re cheap: you can find most of them on eBay for a dollar or two.

There are only twenty-four cards in the set, so not all teams are represented. There are no Bills, Falcons, Cardinals, Colts, Oilers, or Saints in the set. The players on the cards compose a starting lineup of eleven defensive players, eleven offensive players, a kicker, and a punter. The eleven defensive players have red borders; the rest have blue borders.

The backs of the cards contain the players’ stats and short quizzes. One question I saw was “What would happen if after a kickoff the ball deflates in flight?” Do you suppose that’s ever happened? Well if it did, the referee would get a new ball and it would be re-kicked, according to John Mendenhall’s card.

The card backs also say that Topps printed the cards. Like the regular 1975 Topps cards, the Wonder Bread cards have no team logos on them, and the two helmets that appear in the images are airbrushed. The cards don’t even have the teams’ cities on them. It’s not much of a set, I’m afraid, though I imagine that player and team collectors would be interested in individual cards. The little quizzes are the best part!

Tags: , ,