Friday, February 25, 2011

Players on the Tube

On Monday, I revisited an article I'd written several years ago. Today, I'll do it again.

In 2004, I wrote a newsletter article about the 1955 Bowman set and the then-new invention of color TV. The article appeared again in 2007 in the SMR magazine that PSA puts out. Click here to read it (in PDF format).

However, what many collectors don't realize is that the '55 Bowman set wasn't the first to use a television design. That honor goes to the 1950 Drake's set:

Card #22 -- Eddie Stanky

While many collectors remember Drake's for the cards they included on the packaging of their various snack boxes during the 1980s, in 1950 they were a smaller regional bakery and these cards were available in packages of oatmeal cookies or "Jumble" cookies. The cards aren't impossible to collect, but they weren't widely collected when they were new and the black borders make them tough in high condition.

For more about the 1950 Drake's set, here's a link to the set description in my main site.

After 1955, the TV-inspired design never went away. Topps would return to the concept in 1966, for both its football and hockey cards:

The football design used cherry-colored woodgrain, similar to the one used in the '55 Bowman set. However, they removed the "Color TV" faceplate and the knobs below the picture tube to place the player's name, team and position.

The used the exact same design for their hockey cards that year. I borrowed the image of this Mikita card; it very well may be an O-Pee-Chee, judging by the Canadian-styled spelling of "Centre." (Edited: the explanation appears in the Comments section.)

Too bad Topps didn't use the TV-design for its 1966 baseball set. The design they went with is often pointed out as one of the more unimaginative of the 1960s, and even a horizontal design may have been neat, since there hadn't been one of those since 1960.However, Topps didn't toss the TV out the window:

In fact, they used the design as part of the next two years' World Series recaps. That was a good use for the designs, since many fans watched the games on their own televisions.

They even revisited the concept a couple of years after that:

But of course, that was a TV show, so the design was perfectly suited for it.


  1. There was no 1966-67 OPC, at least not under their own name.

    From about 1961-62 onwards, OPC handled the printing and distribution of Topps hockey cards, and all Topps hockey from 1954-68 would have had bilingual backs, as Canada was mostly the target market. The packs used to make this clear with a label that said something to the effect of "licensed and distributed by OPC, London Ont."

    The spelling of center/centre and defence/defense seems to vary from year to year, though it seems consistent within a given set.

    Topps did print a test set using the 1966-67 design aimed at the US market. 1967-68 was the first year there were distinct Topps/OPC sets.

  2. I've mentioned in previous posts that hockey isn't one of my stronger points. Thanks for that info, I'll edit the entry to reflect that.

  3. A lot of that depends on where you're from. From what I see, large areas of the US simply never had those cards, particularly the older ones.

    The '66-67 set is a huge one for collectors (of hockey, anyway) but I think a lot of it is circumstantial - it's the last pre-expansion set and it's the set with the Bobby Orr RC. As a design, though, I've long thought it was kind of lacking. Other than the colour of the players' collars, there's almost nothing that distinguishes one team from another. Unless you know the players on sight, a Ranger and a Maple Leaf are almost indistinguishable. This isn't apparent on the Mikita because you see his torso, but 80% of the cards are just head shots.

    Anyway, I really enjoy this blog and am now hunting down "the book." :)

  4. I actually really like the 1973 Baseball blog, as well. I've just found the last two cards I needed for 1973 OPC and I've learned an awful lot from those posts. In the past, it never really occurred to me to look at the old ballparks and the circumstances of the shot. Now, that's mostly what I do.