December 22nd, 2011 | Published in Football Card Trivia
If you collect 1959 Topps football cards, you probably have seen cards with a dark mark on the bottom. You probably also have figured out that the dark mark is from the card below on the uncut sheet. Topps got a little artsy in 1959 and let the images of the players extend into the top border. Consequently, the cards don’t have to be too far off-center to have gotten a bit of the card below.
Shown here is an example, a Bart Starr card that is shifted far enough upward that it shows a bit of another player’s scalp. The other player in this case happens to be Ernie Stautner. In turn, the football in Starr’s hand extended into the top border, and most of the ball ended up on the bottom of someone else’s card.
So what, you ask? Well, I am piecing together a virtual uncut sheet of first series 1959 Topps cards, and clues from off-center cards are helping me piece the sheet together. You can see the modest beginnings of a first series sheet on my Virtual Uncut Sheets in Progress page. You can help: if you find another 1959 Topps first series card that shows a bit of a neighboring card, send me a picture of it.
What about the second series 1959 Topps sheet? Well, that one was easy, because I found a picture of a real one. You can see the virtual version in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
As I wrote last week, one of my readers pointed out that the player on the cover of the San Francisco 49ers 1969 Topps Mini-Card Album is Joe Walton, and that the same image appeared in the inset photo of Walton’s 1962 Topps football card. This made me curious, so I checked to see if other inset photos from 1962 Topps cards had been reused on 1969 Mini-Card Albums. Sure enough, I found a few:
First, the image of Bart Starr on the Green Bay Packers Mini-Card Album appeared in the inset of Starr’s 1962 Topps card.
Next, the image of John Unitas on the Baltimore Colts Mini-Card Album was also used in the inset photo of Zeke Bratkowski’s 1962 Topps card. Topps changed Unitas’s number 19 to Bratkowski’s number 12 on the 1962 Topps card, as I noted in an earlier article.
The image on the Minnesota Vikings Mini-Card Album also appeared in the inset photo of Don Perkins’s 1962 Topps card, but the player’s number is different. I’m guessing that the image was altered for the 1962 card, so the player probably isn’t Perkins.
The image on the Denver Broncos Mini-Card Album is the same one used in the inset photo on Ollie Matson’s 1962 Topps card, but again, the player’s number is different. Matson was number 33 with the Rams, so it appears that the image on his 1962 card was altered. Does anyone recognize the player?
Finally, the image on the Washington Redskins Mini-Card Album is the same as the inset on John Aveni’s 1962 Topps card. Again, the player’s number appears to have been changed on the 1962 Topps card. I believe that the player is Dick James, who wore number 47 for the Redskins in 1961.
Given that there are so many altered jersey numbers on the 1962 Topps cards, I wonder how many of the inset photos actually picture the right player. Not many, I’ll bet.
January 25th, 2011 | Published in Football Card Trivia
In 1968, after the NFL and AFL decided to merge, Topps became the sole major producer of American football cards for the first time since 1959. The 1968 Topps football card set was the first since 1961 to contain cards of both NFL and AFL players. To mark the occasion, Topps decided to honor the teams who had participated in the first two NFL-AFL World Championship Games–or, as they came to be known, the first two Super Bowls.
First, Topps honored the Super Bowl II contestants, the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders, by using a horizontal format and alternate design for their cards. The two examples pictured here are Donny Anderson, on his rookie card, and Daryle Lamonica. You can see all of the horizontally-oriented 1968 Topps Packers cards and 1968 Topps Raiders cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
Second, Topps honored the quarterbacks of Super Bowl I, Bart Starr of the Packers and Len Dawson of the Kansas City Chiefs, by putting puzzles of them on the backs of some of the 1968 second series cards. The piece pictured here, Dawson’s right eye, is on the back of Ernie Wright’s card. A page in the gallery shows both assembled puzzles. Oddly, for Dawson’s puzzle, Topps chose a seven- or eight-year-old photo from when he was still with the Browns, though they had been picturing him in his Chiefs uniform since 1965.
October 16th, 2009 | Published in ABCs of Vintage Football Cards
Regional sets feature cards of players from only one team, and they were distributed in that team’s region by a local business, usually a food company. Because they cover only a single team, regional sets often include players who never appeared on a card from a major card company. They also often include cards of stars-to-be who did not appear in a major set until years later. There is a whole page of these “pre-rookie” cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
Because they had a limited distribution, cards from regional sets are often challenging to find. The demand for them is typically also limited. I suspect that their scarcity is a turn-off to some collectors, and some collectors aren’t interested in cards of teams they don’t root for. For whatever reason, collectors’ interests seem to lie mostly with the major issues. I love the regionals, though.
1968 KDKA Steelers
The cards in regional sets are often much different from the major companies’ offerings. 1968 KDKA Steelers cards, for example, are a non-standard size, they have a “landscape” orientation, they picture multiple players, and they have a glossy finish that was unusual at the time they were printed. They also include a card of the entire Steelers coaching staff, the only such vintage card I know of.
There are only 15 KDKA cards, but altogether they picture 46 players and coaches, grouped by position. This, too, is innovative, and I wonder why the major companies never did it. I don’t know how the cards were distributed, but KDKA is a television station in Pittsburgh that is still in operation. You can see the full KDKA Steelers set in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
1960 Mayrose Cardinals
1960 Mayrose Cardinals cards are also an unusual shape, with rounded corners, like playing cards. Because the round corners hold up better than square ones, the cards I see are often in great condition. There are only eleven cards in the set, unfortunately, but since the Cardinals had few stars in 1960, the set does include a couple of players who never appeared in a major issue.
The Mayrose cards were distributed around St. Louis in packages of Mayrose franks and bacon. 1960 was the year that the Cardinals moved to St. Louis from Chicago, and I’d say that this regional issue is a sign that the city was excited about the move. Mayrose brand lunchmeats are still produced by Armour-Ekrich Meats, but to my knowledge they haven’t included cards since 1960. You can see the full Mayrose Cardinals set in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
1961 Lake to Lake Packers
1961 Lake to Lake Packers cards were distributed by the Lake to Lake Dairy in Wisconsin. Half of the cards in the set are plentiful, and the other half were severely short-printed and are difficult to find. I estimate that the non-short prints outnumber the short prints ten-to-one. Some of the cards appear to have been stapled to the packages of the products they were distributed with, because the short prints I see on eBay often have staple holes or a corner ripped off where the staple had been. (A non-short print with staple holes would not be worth listing.)
The Lake to Lake set includes four pre-rookie cards of Hall of Fame players: Herb Adderley, Ray Nitschke, Willie Davis, and Willie Wood. It also includes Bart Starr’s rarest card and Emlen Tunnell’s only card as a Packer. All of these except the Adderley are short prints. You can see the whole Lake to Lake Packers set in the Vintage Football Card Gallery. The short printed cards are identified there.
1959 and 1960 Bell Brand Rams
1959 and 1960 Bell Brand Rams cards were distributed in the Los Angeles area in packages of Bell Brand potato chips and corn chips. The cards are sturdy and attractive, with a high-gloss finish unlike other issues of the time. Unfortunately, particularly in the 1959 set, a great number of the cards were cut off-center. Each card features a facsimile of the player’s autograph, but some of the autographs are tiny relative to the size of the cards. It’s strange that someone designed such nice cards, but then put bitty autographs on them and cut them off-center.
As I wrote when I added the set to the Gallery, the 1959 Bell Brand set contains a pre-rookie card of Hall of Fame coach Sid Gillman. Gillman left the Rams after the 1959 season to become the first head coach of the Chargers. The set also contains a pre-rookie card of Ed Meador, whose web site I featured in an earlier post.
As I wrote in yet another post, the 1960 Bell Brand set appears to have been released in two series. Both series are scarce, and the second series is scarcer than the first. One card, Gene Selawski, was reportedly pulled from distribution when he left the team early in the season.
Between the two sets, I see 12 or 15 players that did not appear in any other set. Because of that, and because the cards are so attractive, I’d call these my favorite regional cards. You can see most of the 1959 Bell Brand set and over half of the 1960 set in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
1961 Golden Tulip Chargers
Like the Bell Brand Rams, 1961 Golden Tulip Chargers cards were distributed in bags of potato chips. Unlike the Bell Brands, they are small (about 20% shorter than a standard card), black and white, and plain. The card stock is thin, more like thick paper than cardboard, and the cards appear to have been hand cut from a bigger sheet. The backs of the cards advertise an 8-by-10 picture of the Chargers that you could obtain by turning in 5 cards of the same player. It’s hard to guess how many cards the offer took out of circulation.
Like the 1960 Mayrose Cardinals, the 1961 Golden Tulip cards celebrated the arrival of a new team in town. After spending their first year in Los Angeles, the Chargers moved to San Diego in 1961.
The best thing about the Golden Tulip set is that 6 of the 22 cards feature players that I don’t believe appeared on any other cards. You can see all of the Golden Tulip cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
1969 Tresler Comet Bengals
1969 Tresler Comet Bengals cards were given away at Tresler Comet gas stations around Cincinnati. The cards are on thin cardboard stock, and the pictures are brown and white, except for the players’ numbers and facsimile signatures being colored orange. The brown, white, and orange is not a particularly attractive effect, but it is another example of the creativity seen in regional cards.
To me the highlight of the set is Sam Wyche. I believe this is his only card as a player. You can see the whole set of Tresler Comet cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
1967 Royal Castle Dolphins
1967 Royal Castle Dolphins cards, according to the backs of the cards, were free to Royal Castle Junior Dolphin members at Royal Castle restaurants. The card backs say that two cards (actually they say “photos”) would be available each week during the season.
Apparently not many Junior Dolphins took advantage of the offer, because the cards are extremely scarce. I have only 17 of the 27 cards, and the remaining 10 are short prints. Among the short prints is a Bob Griese pre-rookie card, of which I have only seen pictures. One of the pictures is on the SGC web site.
The Royal Castle cards are big, about 25% taller and wider than a standard card. Surprisingly, though 1967 was just the Dolphins’ second year in the league, only five or so of the players in the set did not appear on cards in major issues. Most of the other players appeared in at least one of the 1964-1967 Topps AFL sets, which included a large number of players from each team.
You can see most of the 1967 Royal Castle Dolphins cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery. I would like to get the rest, so if any of you Junior Dolphins have some to sell, let me know!
1961 National City Bank Browns
1961 National City Bank Browns cards were distributed on 6-card panels from which you could cut the cards by hand. There were 6 panels of cards, so there are 36 cards in the set: 35 player cards, and one unnumbered Quarterback Club card. Including the Quarterback Club card in the set seems goofy to me, but both PSA and Beckett include it, so what do I know?
Surprisingly, though 35 cards covered most of the players on the team, by my count only 5 of the players did not appear on cards in any other set. The Browns were one of the top teams in the early 1960’s, and evidently most of their players were card-worthy.
My favorite card in the set is a Len Dawson pre-rookie card. Dawson played several years for the Steelers and Browns before jumping to the AFL.
You can see the whole set of 1961 National City Bank Browns cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
Joe Namath’s 1965 Topps rookie card is easily the most expensive regular issue football card of the 1960s. Come to think of it, it might also be more expensive than any regular issue 1950s card. Why is it so valuable? Well, just being a rookie card of a Hall of Fame player is enough to make it expensive, since collecting Hall of Fame rookie cards is a popular endeavor. (See H is for Hall of Famers.) The 1965 Topps “tall boy” set is also a classic, and one of the most popular vintage sets. And Namath himself, of course, was a flamboyant personality playing on a large market team. Remember his “guarantee” that the Jets would beat John Unitas and the Colts in Super Bowl III? How about his pantyhose ad, and his Noxema ad, with Farrah Fawcett?
Still, I have a hard time justifying the price of the Namath card, and it might be another card whose price is inflated by the price guides. (See the Jim Lansford discussion in B is for Bowman.) Just compare Namath’s rookie card to Bart Starr’s 1957 Topps rookie card: the Starr card is only slightly easier to find in high grade than the Namath, 1957 Topps is also a classic set, the Packers won a lot more championships, and most people think Starr was a better quarterback. Yet the Namath sells for two or three times more than the Starr? It seems that either the Namath is overvalued or the Starr is undervalued.
Might the Namath be more valuable because it is a short print? Well, it’s possible that the price guides added a premium for that, but I am not convinced that it even is a short print. The guides say that there are 132 short prints in the set (or 44 double prints, depending on how you look at it), but that sounds fishy to me. Assuming that the 176 cards were released in a single series–and I haven’t read anything to the contrary–my guess is that they were printed on a 198-card sheet, with 22 double prints. I don’t know why Topps would have used more than one sheet if the cards all fit on one. My Beckett catalog isn’t much help; it says merely that “Since this set was not printed in the standard fashion, many of the cards were printed in lesser quantities than the others.” Well, gee, Dr. Beckett, what fashion was it printed in?
To see what I’m talking about, you can look at a half-sheet of 1969 Topps basketball cards on the sportscards.info web site. The basketball cards are also tall boys, and the half-sheet of tall boys holds 9 rows of 11 cards, or 99 in total. A full sheet of tall boys would thus hold 198 cards.
An article on the PSA web site sings the praises of the 1965 Topps set and describes the challenges in finding high-grade cards: poor centering, print marks, etc. Since that article covers the basics, I won’t repeat them here. One point in the article is inaccurate, though, or at least outdated: it says that the set’s two checklists are scarce, and that one of the checklists is the second-most valuable card in the set. PSA’s own population report, however, shows that many of the other cards in the set are scarcer than the checklists in high grades, and some of them sell for more than the checklists. (The last PSA 8 Jim Colclough to sell on eBay, for example, went for $909.) If what I have observed in other sets holds true, the cards most difficult to find in high grades are the ones that were on the corners and edges of the sheets.
The PSA article doesn’t mention that there were only eight AFL teams in 1965, so the 1965 Topps set has over 20 cards for each team. That is far more cards per team than most vintage sets provided, and it allowed Topps to print cards for players who typically would not have appeared on a card. In particular, the set contains an unusual number of cards of linemen and defensive players, and many of those are the players’ rookie cards. Pictured here is one example: the only card of defensive back Gerry Bussell. (Thanks to Pastor Scott for this observation–see his comment on D is for Defensive Players.)
As they did every year from 1960 to 1967, in 1965 Topps grouped the cards by team. I like this feature: first in the set come all of the Patriots, then come all of the Bills, and so on. Also, if I know a player’s team, I can locate his card quickly, even if I don’t know his card number. This is because the teams are in alphabetical order by city, and the players are in alphabetical order within each team. I wonder if it is coincidence that 1960 through 1967 were also the years that Topps had competition in the football card market, and, except in 1960, their competitors grouped the cards by team, as well. In 1968, when Topps again had no competition, they reverted to the random ordering they had last used in 1959.
September 23rd, 2009 | Published in General Collecting Info
I read an article a long time ago–perhaps in Sports Collectors Digest?–written by someone who collected players’ last cards. A player’s last card has advantages over his rookie card, the collector said: It describes the highlights of the player’s nearly finished career, and it includes his nearly complete lifetime stats. It is likely to be from the player’s actual last year, whereas his rookie card is probably not from his rookie year at all. And, of course, it’s probably much cheaper than the player’s rookie card. Cool idea, I thought, and it stuck with me until now.
Here’s a nice example: a 1971 Topps Bart Starr card. Starr played in only four games in 1971, his last year, so the stats on the back of the card are close to his lifetime stats. The text lists the numerous Packer records he set in his career. And the price is 5-10% of what you’d pay for his rookie card.
Not all last cards are as nice as Starr’s, of course. Some don’t list all of the player’s stats, just his previous year and lifetime stats. Some, like John Unitas’s 1974 Topps card, show the player with an unfamiliar team. And some, like Joe Namath’s 1973 Topps card, are from well before the player’s last year. (Namath played until 1977.) But you can have all of these problems with rookie cards, as well.
All this considered, I still think it’s a cool idea.
July 1st, 2009 | Published in Funny Poses
Most of us have taken photos in which our subjects appear to have trees growing out of their heads. We shouldn’t feel bad: the professional photographers for sports cards sometimes miss things in the background, too. Here are a few cards with funny stuff happening behind the players.
First we have Bart Starr’s 1961 Fleer card. A stadium light in the background makes Bart appear to have a knob on his head, and there’s a little man with a machine gun shooting Bart in the neck. Fleer also got the Packers’ logo backward, as they did on all of the Packers cards in 1961.
Next up is a 1965 Philadelphia Bob DeMarco card, in which Bob appears to have a few extra appendages. Bob doesn’t seemed bothered by it.
Finally, we have a 1960 Topps Leo Nomellini card, with a couple of Leo’s Lilliputian teammates praising him. Leo, focused on the camera and accustomed to adulation, is ignoring them.
April 8th, 2009 | Published in New Cards for Sale
Yesterday I put another nice batch of graded 1960’s football cards up for sale. The group includes 1964 Philadelphia cards of Don Meredith and Bart Starr, who would face off in the 1966 and 1967 NFL championship games. The 1967 championship, which was played in Green Bay in -13 degree weather, is better known as the Ice Bowl.
The Ice Bowl is actually the first football game I remember from when I was a kid. I grew up near Green Bay, and the game, because it was a home game, was blacked out on the Green Bay stations. My dad and his friends wanted to watch the game, so they drove to a bar that could pick up the Wausau TV station that carried the game. I tagged along, but I ended up going off and playing with the bar owner’s kid instead of watching.