Recycled Images on 1969 Topps Mini-Card Albums

December 1st, 2011  |  Published in error cards, Football Card Trivia

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.
Green Bay Packers 1969 Topps Mini-Card AlbumBart Starr 1962 Topps football 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.
Baltimore Colts 1969 Topps Mini-Card AlbumZeke Bratkowski 1962 Topps football card
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.
Minnesota Vikings 1969 Topps Mini-Card AlbumDon Perkins 1962 Topps rookie football card
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?
Denver Broncos 1969 Topps Mini-Card AlbumOllie Matson 1962 Topps football card
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.
Washington Redskins 1969 Topps Mini-Card AlbumJohn Aveni 1962 Topps football card
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.

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Ollie Matson, Hall of Fame Everything

February 20th, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Ollie Matson 1952 Bowman Large rookie football cardWhen I read yesterday that Ollie Matson had passed away, I thought I’d do a quick web search for him. It kept me busy for a couple of hours. A San Francisco Chronicle article provides the best summary I found of Matson’s career. The article includes a recent photo and a few photos from his playing days.

Before reading about Matson yesterday, I didn’t know about his 1951 San Francisco Dons team. The Dons went undefeated in 1951, but, because they refused to play without their two black team members, Matson and Burl Toler, they were not invited to a bowl game. A book about the team, by Dr. Kristine Setting Clark, is available. Two other Pro Football Hall of Famers, Gino Marchetti and Bob St. Clair, were also members of the 1951 Dons team.

Matson’s two rookie cards–1952 Bowman Large and 1952 Bowman Small–picture him in his Dons uniform. His 1952 Bowman Large card, pictured on the right, is one of my all-time favorite football cards. The back of the card shows that Matson was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals in 1952. He shared NFL Rookie of the Year honors that season with Hugh McElhenny.

Ollie Matson 1959 Topps football cardBefore joining the Cardinals, Matson ran track in the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympics. He won two medals: a bronze in the 400-meter dash and a silver in the 1600-meter relay. (For other pro football players who won Olympic medals, see my blog article on the subject.)

According to Matson’s page on the Pro Football Hall of Fame web site, he spent the 1953 season in the military, and he returned to the Cardinals in 1954. In total, he played 14 seasons for the Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Detroit Lions, and Philadelphia Eagles. According to his page at, he was a fullback, halfback, flanker, defensive back, and kick returner at various times during his NFL career. He is a member of the Cardinals Ring of Honor and the Philadelphia Eagles Honor Roll.

During his long NFL career, Matson appeared on at least 16 football cards. My favorite, after his 1952 Bowman cards, is his 1959 Topps card, pictured on the left.

You can see all of Ollie Matson’s football cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.

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The Philadelphia Eagles Honor Roll

November 12th, 2010  |  Published in Halls of Fame, New in the Gallery

1974 Topps Harold Carmichael rookie football cardToday I added the ability to search the Vintage Football Card Gallery for members of the Philadelphia Eagles Honor Roll. I found the list of Honor Roll inductees, along with summaries of their careers, in the Eagles media guide. As I have written in earlier posts, I like looking at team halls of fame because they include the second tier of stars, the ones who have not made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

One name on the Eagles Honor Roll surprised me: Ollie Matson. I didn’t know that he had been an Eagle! So I looked up his stats and found that he had played for Philadelphia from 1964 to 1966, his last three seasons before retiring. He didn’t appear on a football card during those years, I suppose because his production had waned by then. According to Wikipedia, when the Eagles introduced their Honor Roll in 1987, they inducted all former Eagles who were members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So they included Matson, though his best years had been with the Cardinals and Rams.

Another member of the Eagles Honor Roll inaugural class, Harold Carmichael, is pictured above. This is Carmichael’s rookie card, a 1974 Topps.

You can use the Gallery’s Advanced Search page to find cards of members of the Eagles Honor Roll or other team halls of fame.

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Olympic Medalists on Football Cards

June 11th, 2010  |  Published in Football Card Trivia

1968 Topps Homer Jones football card backOne day, while scanning cards, I noticed that the cartoon on the back of Homer Jones’s 1968 Topps card said that “Homer defeated the Russians in the 1960 Olympics.” Hmm, I thought, that’s a good idea for a blog article. There was a problem, though: I couldn’t find a reference saying that Jones had ever competed in the Olympics. He was a star sprinter at Texas Southern, and he might have defeated the Russians in some competition, but it doesn’t appear to have been in the Olympic Games. (According to his Wikipedia page, however, Jones did invent the touchdown spike, which is “said to be the origin of post-touchdown celebrations.” While not quite beating the Russians, that’s still quite a legacy.)

In my research for Jones, I found a list of other pro football players who had competed in the Olympics. It’s a long list, so I narrowed it down to those who had won medals, and then to those who appeared on vintage football cards. That left six players, a number suitable for a blog article. I also added one more I knew of, Brick Muller.

Jim Thorpe

1933 Sport Kings Jim Thorpe rookie cardJim Thorpe won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon in the Stockholm Olympics in 1912. In 1913, the International Olympic Committee took the medals away when they learned that Thorpe had played minor league baseball (and thus had been a professional athlete) before participating in the Olympics. In 1982, Thorpe’s family succeeded in having his medals restored.

Thorpe played professional football from 1915 to 1928, for six different teams. He was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 1963. Thorpe also played professional baseball–including seven seasons in the major leagues–from 1909 to 1922. Pictured here is his rookie card, from the 1933 Sport Kings multi-sport set.

Harold “Brick” Muller

Brick Muller 1926 Spalding Champions football cardBrick Muller took a silver medal in the high jump at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. He played and coached one season in the NFL, 1926, for the Los Angeles Buccaneers. (The Buccaneers lasted just one season in the NFL.) Like Jim Thorpe, in 1951 he was among the inaugural class of players elected to College Football Hall of Fame. Muller is shown here on his 1926 Spalding Champions card. He also appeared on a 1955 Topps All-American football card.

Clyde Scott

1950 Bowman Clyde Scott rookie football cardClyde Scott won a silver medal in the 110 meter hurdles in the 1948 Olympics in London. He played four seasons in the NFL, as a running back and defensive back for the Eagles and Lions. He appeared on the 1950 Bowman card pictured here, and on a 1951 Bowman card. According to Scott’s profile on the Encyclopedia of Arkansas web site, the readers of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette named Scott the state’s Athlete of the Century in 2000.

Ollie Matson

1962 Topps Ollie Matson football cardOllie Matson won a bronze medal in the 400 meters and a silver in the 1600 meter relay in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. He then had a fourteen-year, Hall of Fame career in the NFL. Matson appeared on a lot of cards. Pictured here is his 1962 Topps card.

Bo Roberson

1966 Topps Bo Roberson football cardBo Roberson took silver in the long jump in the 1960 Olympics in Rome, missing the gold medal by a centimeter. He then played six seasons in the AFL, for four different teams. His 1966 Topps card is pictured here. According to a his profile at, after football, Roberson attended law school, earned a master’s degree at Whitworth College, and earned his doctorate degree at age 58. Wow.

Bob Hayes

Bob Hayes 1971 Topps Game Card“Bullet” Bob Hayes won two gold medals in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, in the 100 meter sprint and 400 meter relay. Hayes then played wide receiver for eleven years for the Cowboys and 49ers, and he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. Hayes appeared on many football cards; the one pictured here is a 1971 Topps Game card.

Henry Carr

1966 Philadelphia Henry Carr rookie football cardHenry Carr also won two gold medals in the 1964 Tokyo Games, in the 200 meter sprint and 1600 meter relay. The New York Giants, according to an article at, then signed Carr primarily to cover Bob Hayes. Carr spent three years with the Giants, the highlight of his career being a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown in 1966. His 1966 Philadelphia card is pictured here.

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S is for Scratch-Offs

January 9th, 2010  |  Published in ABCs of Vintage Football Cards

In the 1950s and 1960s, when the card companies were still marketing to kids, they tried to make the cards interactive and fun to play with. They made cards you could punch out and stand up, they put puzzles on the backs of the cards, and they inserted stamps, stickers, and decals into the packs with the regular cards. They also liked to put scratch-off cartoons and quizzes on the card backs.

1951 Topps Magic cards were the first football cards with scratch-off backs, the scratch-offs accounting for the “magic” in the name. The material Topps used for the scratch-offs was similar to that used on today’s lottery tickets: a silver-gray coating that crumbled off when you scratched it. Scratching off the crumbly coating revealed a picture of the player’s school, along with the school’s name. The feature apparently was a hit, because most 1951 Topps cards I see have been scratched.

The next football cards with scratch-off backs were 1958 Topps cards. Topps used a different material this time, a white substance that revealed a gray picture when rubbed, but that didn’t come off of the card. All of the player cards in the set had scratch-off backs, but, as shown on this Sonny Jurgensen rookie card, the questions and answers were not about the players on the cards. Even now, I’m disappointed.

Unlike the 1951 Topps cards, most of the 1958 Topps cards I see have not been rubbed. Perhaps it’s because the pictures were not as clear as on the 1951 cards. Or perhaps scraping the little silver-gray pellets onto the floor had been part of the fun. For whatever reason, after 1951, the magic was gone.

The scratch-offs on 1959 Topps football cards were also unrelated to the player, but they differed a bit from 1958. Part of the picture on each card was visible before rubbing, and you rubbed the card to reveal the rest. Maybe Topps exposed part of the picture to entice kids to rub the card, but I don’t see many 1959 Topps cards that are rubbed, either. To my knowledge, this was the only set in which parts of the pictures were already showing.

The backs of player cards in the 1960 Topps football set also had scratch-offs, but this time there were no questions and answers, just “Football Funnies” cartoons. I have just one rubbed card, the Matt Hazeltine card pictured here, and the cartoon on it isn’t even related to football. I know they were selling to kids, but I think Topps should have just printed the players’ stats, instead.

Topps persisted with the scratch-offs in 1961. Rubbing the back of a 1961 Topps card revealed a generic cartoon of a player in action, labeled with the name of the player on the card. Though the cartoons were generic, Topps at least took care to get the players’ numbers right. Elbert Dubenion, whose card is shown here, indeed wore number 44.

After 1961, Topps took a break from scratch-offs, instead simply printing cartoons on the card backs. The Philadelphia Gum Company picked up the slack, using the scratch-off feature on their cards in 1965 and 1967. Scratching a 1965 Philadelphia card revealed a picture of one player, and the name of another. To find the name of the pictured player, the card back directed you to a different card, which had the answer. This was a bit convoluted for a kid, I’d say. Philadelphia dispensed with the scratch-offs in 1966, but retained the picture-on-one-card, name-on-another quiz.
In 1967, Philadelphia again put scratch-offs on their cards, but this time they used simple questions and answers related to the player on the card. I don’t know how well the scratch-offs worked back then, but I recently rubbed the Dale Hackbart card shown here, and I can barely see the answer. (It’s “He teaches school.”)

Topps returned to scratch-offs in 1968, but they didn’t put them on every card. Only about 20% of the cards have the “Coin Rub” on the back, and the other 80% have cartoons about the players printed on them. I imagine that limiting the number of scratch-offs was a cost saving measure: someone at Topps wanted the scratch-offs, and someone else said “Why? The kids don’t scratch them, anyway.” And so they compromised. Rubbing the Coin Rub backs reveals cartoons like those on the other cards.

Cards with Coin Rub backs appear in both series of 1968 Topps cards. I thought that Topps might have arranged the Coin Rub cards in a pattern on the uncut sheets–perhaps all in the same row or column, for instance–but they appear to have scattered them randomly on the sheets.

In 1969 and 1970, Topps again put scratch-offs on only a small number of cards. As in 1968, the scratch-offs revealed cartoons about the players, like those on the other cards. In 1969 and 1970, though, the scratch-offs appeared only in the second series of each set. Perhaps this was an effort to boost interest in the second series, after kids had burned themselves out trying to complete the first series. To my knowledge, 1970 Topps is the last set containing cards with scratch-off backs.

Considering how few scratch-offs actually got scratched after 1951, I am surprised that Topps put them on cards for as long as they did. Maybe they assumed that kids were busy scratching them, and didn’t know otherwise until years later, when old cards started coming out of attics. Collectors today don’t appreciate the scratch-offs, either: customers often ask me whether the backs of cards I am selling have been scratched.

I am also surprised, considering collectors’ aversion to scratched cards, that PSA is not harsher when grading them. I often see PSA 7s that have been rubbed, and the 1958 Topps Sonny Jurgensen card above is a PSA 8 OC. To me, a rubbed card ought to grade excellent at best, since an exposed cartoon is certainly more distracting than, say, a quarter-inch hairline crease. What do you think?

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K is for KDKA Steelers–and Other Regional Sets

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.

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