Last Sunday my youngest came in with a small envelope he had found tucked into our screen door. Turns out a small envelope from Mark Armour had gotten misdelivered and a nice neighbor had hand-delivered it to us. Mark’s sent me a couple postcards this break but this was the first envelope I’ve gotten for a while.
I almost dropped the whole package once I opened it up. Two toploaders slid out and the card on top was this 1958 Willie Mays All Star. Of all Topps’s All Star designs over the years this is one that many collectors still like the best. As the first of the All Star designs it certainly sets a very high bar.
The Mays card in particular is one of the nicest looking in the subset since it’s cropped a bit more loosely than the extreme headshots that make up much of the 1958 set (both All Stars and base cards). I like 1958 most when it involves silhouettes of archetypical baseball poses* and there are few poses more distinctive than being in a batting stance.
*Something I especially appreciated when it was displayed with Mike Mandel’s Photographer Baseball Cards at SFMOMA.
It’s also worth pointing out here that despite being part of the last series of cards released in 1958, Topps still didn’t have a photo of Mays in a San Francisco Giants cap. Instead they painted on the Seals-like SF logo that so many other 1958 cards show.
The “bumper” cards to this mays were two more-recent Heritage cards. The Cueto is a Chrome variant from 2018. I don’t mind the idea of jazzing up old designs with modern printing techniques but the consistent use of Chrome technology often feels like something Topps does reflexively instead of thinking about whether it’s a design that would actually be served well with it.
To my eyes, 1969 is not such a design. That Topps used opaque white ink on the borders is a bit of a sign here that they didn’t trust going fully-Chrome either.* I’d rather Topps thought about color foil stamping the name and position circles if they were going to jazz things up. Chrome? Save it for something like the 1975 design where the shiny colors will truly pop.
*1970 with chromed-out silver borders would’ve been an interesting option but for some reason Topps didn’t do the 2019 Chrome Heritage that way.
The McCovey is a Flashback from the 2019 Heritage set. I’ve tended to sleep on these cards but they often end up being one of the most-interesting designs that Topps makes each year. They have to be compatible with the Heritage design while also evoking the general graphic design sense of the year in question and also cover a wide range of subjects and photos.
That the Flashbacks cards usually end up looking good means that as much as many of the new cards look like undisciplined computer-graphics nightmares, there are designers at Topps who are both good and disciplined. I just wish Topps would trust them with other products more.
Anyway I’m glad my neighbor dropped this envelope off. Would’ve sucked for it to get mislaid. Thanks Mark!