An Eclectic Bunch

While Mark Hoyle’s mailday arrived while I was gone, I received a surprise from Mark Armour the day I returned to New Jersey.* Mark’s package was a fantastically eclectic group of cards—some of them very very much up my alley, others I suspect were there to make me laugh.

*Just in time given the airport chaos that developed by the end of last week.

Since the group is all over the place I figure I’ll start with my favorite card of the batch. This 1970 Kelloggs 3D McCovey is my second from this set* and the first Giants card. I love 3D lenticular cards as it is; a Willie McCovey in decent shape is awesomeness.

*The first came from Dimebox Nick.

These unfortunately don’t scan well. And since the ancient plastic doesn’t feel like something I want to handle too much, making a wiggle gif is not an activity I feel comfortable doing. I do however have to point out that I’m always surprised at how sharp the photos on these look in real life.

Two other great vintage cards in the 1961 Gil Hodges Post and the 1972 Fleer Laughlin Famous Feats Cy Young.The Hodges is my first 1961 Post card (I have a few from later years). For a long time these sets sort of confused me with their backless nature and how everything—stats, bio, photo, and numbering—is crammed on to the fronts. I’ve come to like them and their design efficiency now.

I also like the hand-trimmed nature of them. This Hodges is substantially overtrimmed but all the pertinent information is there aside from the top part of the card numbering (it’s #168). Seeing those janky hand-trimmed edges though reminds me of being a kid and trimming my own cards. I know that some little kid cut this out of his box of cereal almost 60 years ago and what’s not to love about that.

The Cy Young is my first 1970s Fleer Laughlin card. I have a few of the 1986 Fleer team logo stickers that reprinted this artwork in black and yellow on the backs. Seeing the artwork with red and blue and in the slightly larger size is a very different experience. I also like the writeup on the back side.

At first I thought this 1979 Topps Burger King card was just a header/packaging card. Then I turned it over and realized it was a checklist. These late-70s, early-80s Topps sets which feature the exact same design as the base set only different numbering to reflect the regional nature of their release are kind of fascinating. The photos are usually the same. Sometimes a rookie will get their own card. Othertimes a player shows up in an updated uniform. Usually though it’s the same image only it’s clearly been printed by a different printer.

This isn’t a bad thing. In some years the Burger King (or Coca Cola) sets aren’t printed as well. Other years they’re printed better. But there are always slight differences to notice. Croppings change slightly. So do fonts.

It’s a great reminder of how much work it used to take to prepare things for print. In this modern age where everything is direct-to-plate and a locked-up PDF is will generate the same output no matter when you run it, it’s easy to forget how many steps were involved in stripping cards together and burning plates by hand.

The handful of more-modern Giants cards about which I have little to say except that Brian Wilson’s beard is printed in a way that reminds me of those late-60s blacked out caps. Oh, and all these foil cards are a pain in the butt to scan.

Which takes me to the part of the mailer that was intended to make me laugh. First off, two 1991 Stadium Club cards where the Topps logo is masking the Olan Mills logo. I liked a lot of the cards in 1991 and 1992 but good lord the way Topps chose to depict draft picks in their early-1990s casual clothing and hairstyles has aged so poorly.* Besides these cards in 1991 Stadium Club, 1992 Topps and 1992 Bowman are also full of this kind of thing.

*So poorly that they’re arguably awesome now—but still they’re mostly WTF.

That Hillary vs Maverick play at the plate card is something else. I’m glad it’s not worse. I also really don’t want to know more about what set this came from.

I’m also morbidly curious where Mark got Australian Rules Football and Cricket cards from. The most interesting thing with these for me is noting how they conform to the Topps standard introduced in 1957.

I’ve become increasingly interested in the card-collecting traditions of other countries especially in how they were before standardizing on the American model. So things like the Japanese Calbee and Menko-like cards, Panini soccer stickers, or British tobacco card tradition are wonderful to learn about in how they suggest other ways of collecting and I find it sad that it seems like everything worldwide has standardized on the 2.5×3.5 card size.

In the case of these cards I found myself wondering if Australia had a card collecting tradition before standardizing on the Topps size and if it differed from the UK’s. I also noticed the rounded corners and common back on the Football card and only just made the connection that the standard Topps trading card size was probably based on the standard Poker-size cards that the US Playing Card Company had been producing since the late 19th century.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

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