Reversed Images on 1969 Glendale Stamps

June 27th, 2011  |  Published in error cards

Mel Farr 1969 Glendale StampBob Griese 1969 Glendale StampLast week, while I was scanning 1969 Glendale Stamps for the Vintage Football Card Gallery, I noticed that the Bob Griese and Mel Farr stamps have reversed images. The players’ jersey numbers were what clued me in: Griese wore number 12 for the Dolphins, and Farr wore number 24 for the Lions. I’ll bet that there are more reversed images in the set, but most of the players’ jersey numbers are not visible, so it is hard to tell.

There are several other reversed images in the Gallery: Charley Trippi on one variation of his 1948 Kellogg’s Pep card; Bill Wade, Doug Atkins, and Frank Varrichione on their 1960 Topps cards, and Dick Butkus and Joe Namath on variations of their 1972 NFLPA Vinyl Stickers.

Tags: , , , , ,

Maybe the Buyer’s Name is Leo?

October 21st, 2010  |  Published in Autographs, Interesting eBay Auctions

1967 Royal Castle Dolphins Bob Griese pre-rookie football cardA few weeks ago, when I added 1967 Royal Castle Dolphins cards to the Vintage Football Card Gallery, I wrote that I had seen only one example of the Bob Griese card, an autographed copy in the SGC set registry. Well, now I’ve seen two. My friend Steve at emailed to tell me about this one, another autographed copy, which just sold on eBay for $1007.75. Because the card has writing on it, and because it has paper stuck to the back, my guess is that it would get about the same grade as the one on the SGC site, fair to good.

What, you say, “because it has writing on it”? It’s his autograph! Well, when grading cards, the grading companies treat signatures like any other pen marks: harshly. You might not expect it, but an autograph on an otherwise high-grade card can actually hurt the card’s value. I don’t know the value of a Bob Griese autograph, but I suspect that this is one card that would be worth more unsigned.

Back of 1967 Royal Castle Dolphins Bob Griese pre-rookie football cardSo, why $1007.75 for a “fair to good” card? The buyer could be a big Dolphins fan, he could be a vintage collector who wants everything, or–my guess–he could be a pre-rookie card collector. It is generally accepted that Griese’s rookie card is his 1968 Topps card, so this Royal Castle card pre-dates his rookie card by a year. See my pre-rookie card page for more examples.

It is interesting that both of the Griese cards I have seen from this set have been autographed. I wonder if he did a promotion at one of the restaurants and signed both of the cards the same day. I haven’t seen examples of the other short prints, but if some autographed ones turned up, I might conclude that the only way to get the short prints was in person.

For more interesting football card auctions, see my Interesting eBay Auctions tab, above. For more on regional vintage football card sets, see K is for KDKA Steelers–and Other Regional Sets.

Tags: , , ,

New in the Gallery: 1972 NFLPA Iron Ons

August 26th, 2010  |  Published in Interesting eBay Auctions, New in the Gallery, Oddball

Bob Griese 1972 NFLPA Iron OnYesterday I added 1972 NFLPA Iron Ons to the Vintage Football Card Gallery. These are patches that you could (and still can!) iron onto your clothes to impress your friends. Beckett calls them “Fabric Cards,” but they aren’t cards at all: they’re cloth, not cardboard, and they’re floppy.

There are 35 patches in the set, with 22 of the 26 NFL teams represented. Oddly, there are no Bengals, Oilers, Eagles, or Rams in the set, but there are four Chargers, and the Chargers were a losing team at the time. Perhaps Deacon Jones was supposed to represent the Rams in the set, but he was traded to the Chargers before the 1972 season.

Gale Sayers 1972 NFLPA Iron OnMost of the NFLPA patches have a blue background, but there are six with a pink background, one with white, one with yellow, and one with green. I don’t think the colors are significant, but the distribution is odd, so perhaps I am missing something. There are no logos or trademarks on the patches, but John Brockington and Jim Plunkett appear in their College All-Star jerseys, complete with stars on the shoulders. Brockington and Plunkett also appear in their All-Star jerseys on their 1972 Topps cards, but Topps airbrushed the stars off of them.

According to Beckett, the NFLPA patches were sold from vending machines. When researching them, I found a couple of related items on eBay: a promo package and a vending machine display, pictured below. Interestingly, the list of players on the vending machine display does not match the list of players in the set: some players in the set are not on the display, and some players on the display are not in the set. Pity the poor young Bob Lilly fan, who kept chucking quarters into the machine, trying to get a patch of his hero!
1972 NFLPA Iron Ons Promo Package1972 NFLPA Iron Ons Vending Machine Display

Tags: , ,

T is for Topps, Part 4: the 1970s

March 1st, 2010  |  Published in ABCs of Vintage Football Cards, General Collecting Info

Topps has printed football cards every year from 1955 to 2009, but since this is a vintage football card blog, I need to stop somewhere. Which years are considered vintage? There is no official definition, but most collectors put the end of the vintage era between 1970 and 1975. As a kid, I collected cards until 1973, so that’s where I’ll stop with this article.

1970 Topps

The 1970 Topps football set is the only set I completed as a kid. I’m not nostalgic about it. Looking at all of the football sets that preceded it–Topps and otherwise–I think the 1970 Topps set is drab. As in 1958 and 1967, Topps used a portrait style on their 1970 cards, and the “matting” covers a large portion of the images. Also, starting in 1970, Topps no longer had the rights to print team logos on cards. In 1968 and 1969, Topps used the team logos to dress up the cards, but in 1970 the logos were gone. Not only that, but in 1970, Topps used only player photos that did not include helmets, in order to avoid showing the team logos on them. Sets prior to 1970 included a lot of nice photos of players with their helmets, but starting in 1970, if Topps showed a helmet on a card, they had to airbrush its logo away.

Like the 1969 Topps set, the 1970 Topps set was released in two series of 132 cards. Card #132, the second series checklist, was included in both series, so it is a double print. As in the 1969 set, some of the second series 1970 cards have scratch-off backs. As in 1969, most of them went unscratched. (See S is for Scratch-Offs.)

Though I’m not fond of the set, there was one great thing about it: every second series pack included a Super Glossy insert card. The 1970 Topps Super Glossies are easily my favorite insert set, and perhaps my favorite set overall.

1971 Topps

1971 Topps is my favorite regular 1970s set. The colored borders on the 1971 Topps cards make them brighter than the other 70s Topps cards, and also more challenging to find in high grade. (Cards of AFC players have red borders; cards of NFC players have blue ones.) The cards don’t have team logos on them, but the little cartoon football players on the front are kind of fun. There’s a different cartoon player for each position.

The 1971 Topps set was the first set to acknowledge the players that were All-Pros the previous season. The All-Pros’ cards have borders that are half blue and half red, like the Paul Warfield card shown here. The 1971 Topps set was another 263-card set released in two series, and its second series checklist appeared in the first series, as well.

It is in the 1971 Topps set that we see the first airbrushed helmets. Though the set doesn’t include any “in action” cards labeled as such, three of the regular cards–Joe Kapp, Jake Scott, and Dennis Shaw–show images of the players in action, and the logos on their helmets have been airbrushed away. This was the start of a dreadful practice.

1972 Topps

In 1972, Topps fully embraced airbrushing. The 1972 set included 42 “Pro Action” cards, and the helmets on those had to be airbrushed. Topps also used sideline photos for a few players, and they had to airbrush the helmets on those, as well. While they were at it, if a player had been traded to a different team, Topps just airbrushed an old photo to give him new colors. Why bother getting a new photo when you can just airbrush an old one?

The 1972 Topps set did have some firsts: it was the first to include “league leaders” cards, and it was the first to include cards for the previous year’s playoff games. Both of those are nice features. It was also the first to give All-Pro players both a regular card and an All-Pro card–overkill, if you ask me. Some star players–Floyd Little, for example–appear on four cards: regular, All-Pro, league leaders, and Pro Action.

This set was also the first–and, to my knowledge, only–football set to be released in three series. The third series appears to have been an afterthought. Why do I think this? Well, the first two 1972 series had a total of 263 cards, like the full 1969, 1970, and 1971 sets. The second series checklists from those sets appeared in both the first and second series, and so did the 1972 second series checklist. If Topps had planned a third series in 1972, wouldn’t they have continued this pattern and included a third series checklist in the second series? Also, 38 of the 88 third series cards are All-Pro and Pro Action cards, basically fillers. The remaining 50 cards are player cards, and though a few are Hall of Famers, none of them are major stars. The biggest names of the day–Unitas, Sayers, Simpson, Bradshaw, Namath, Staubach, Butkus, Griese, and Dawson–are all in the first or second series. And none of the league leaders who appear on cards 1 through 8 are among the player cards in the third series.

The third series was also released very late in 1972. I know I had lost interest in cards by the time they came out, because the only third series cards I had in my childhood collection were from a pack my brother gave me for Christmas. Evidently not many other kids bought the third series cards, either, because when I resumed collecting in 1989, they were scarce and worth much more than cards from the first two series. Larry Fritsch Cards apparently bought a lot of unopened third series cards, though, and as Fritsch has been selling them, the prices have fallen. Not only have a lot of third series cards entered the market recently, but they’ve all been brand new! Fritsch still has unopened boxes of 1972 Topps third series cards for sale.

1973 Topps

In 1973, Topps went to the other extreme and released all of their football cards in a single series. If the modern era is defined by large sets released in a single series, then 1973 is the beginning of the modern era for football cards. Topps was now clearly going for quantity over quality: there are 528 cards in the 1973 Topps set, and they are the plainest of the plain. Gone are any nice touches, even simple things like using the team’s colors in the little ribbon on the left side of the cards. Topps did, at least, use the same ribbon colors for all of the players on the same team. All St. Louis Cardinals cards, for example, have blue-and-orange ribbons.

Surprisingly, though Topps dramatically increased the number of cards in their set in 1973, they omitted some of the special cards they introduced in 1972. Like the 1972 set, the 1973 Topps set contains league leader cards and cards of the previous year’s playoff games, but it does not include Pro Action or All-Pro cards. The 1973 set does include three funky boyhood picture cards, but the bulk of the set is player cards. The large increase in the number of player cards meant that a lot of players made their first appearance on a card in 1973. I might be off by a card or two, but I count 196 rookie cards in the 1973 set! To me, the number of new faces is the set’s best feature.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a 70s set without some serious airbrushing. Here are a couple of beauties. The Paul Robinson card looks like a face-in-hole picture.

As I said at the top, 1973 was the last year I collected cards as a kid. Coincidentally, that’s about the end of what most collectors consider the vintage era. It’s also when Topps appeared to go into full cost control mode. By 1973, Topps was using the sparest of designs, they evidently chose not to spend money to license team logos, and they crudely airbrushed old photos of players rather than acquiring new ones. If I remember correctly, they did not include inserts in packs of 1973 cards, either.

I presume that with no competition, the company was just minimizing costs to maximize profits. Or, maybe, because inflation was high in the 70s, they were trying to reduce costs so they could keep prices low. Their customers–kids like me–didn’t care much what the cards looked like, so long as our favorite players were on them. Now, though, as vintage card collectors, we have dozens of old sets to choose from, and I prefer most 50s and 60s cards to those from the 70s.

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 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: , , , , , , , , , , ,