Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Baltimore Colt Card History Pt. 3 The Early 60s.

1960 Topps #5 Jim Parker

After the two colorful and innovative sets Topps produced in '58 and '59 they took a step back in 1960, at least in my eyes. 

1960 Topps

On the plus side Topps had better photographs in the '60 set than the ones they used previously. Mostly posed portraits and 'action' shots with training camp backgrounds. But the set is otherwise pretty nondescript. The player names, team and position on a color football. The colors are random through the set with the Colts getting mostly red with a couple of orange and a yellow. Other teams had blue and green mixed in. To me the design isn't 'clean' enough to be clean (and I do like plain, simple designs) nor is it 'fancy' enough to be 'fancy'. If that makes any sense. It's just sort of 'there'. 

The Colts got the first 10 cards in the 132 card set with #11 being their team card. The Colts' team card has the second series checklist on the reverse.

1960 Topps #4 Ray Berry

The Johnny Unitas card always draws comments because of his 'spaced out' expression. My 'Colts Project' copy is far from pristine but it fills the spot. I have a nicer copy in my Unitas PC. 

1960 Topps #1 Johnny Unitas

1960 Topps #6 George Preas

I wish Topps had used the actual background for the team cards. I don't understand the point of doing otherwise. They have used natural backgrounds on previous team cards so why do this in a set where player cards show trees, grass and sky? It was one of my complaints with the 1959 baseball set as well. At least the leaping colt makes an appearance.
1960 Topps #11 Colts Team w/2nd Series checklist back

Green card backs are new. The usual vitals appear at the top with either year/career numbers or a bio blurb below that. 'Football Funnies", at least the ones I can read on the cards I have, are not particularly football related outside of kids wearing helmets in 'Bazooka joke style' comic panels.

Here is the above comic panel shown in a larger scan.

1960 Topps Metallic Sticker

Topps had these 'metallic stickers' as inserts in 1960. The above image is actually the one I purchased from COMC and and am awaiting delivery on. The fact that I'm now close enough to finishing off my wantlist of vintage Colts regular cards that I can chase inserts is a good sign I guess.

In '60 Fleer had jumped into the football card game with a set featuring players from the brand new AFL. In 1961 they expanded their football offering and included NFL cards. Topps added AFL players to their set as well in '61 so while this was the 2nd year of competition for kids' nickels between the two companies it was the first (and only) year that saw them both going 'all out' with players from both leagues.

1961 Topps

Topps' set in 1961 isn't much of an improvement over 1960 and may very well be a step backwards. The eight Colts included are shown with portrait photos for the most part. These are cut and pasted on solid color backgrounds of orange, red or yellow. Green and blue backgrounds show up with other teams. There are no team logos on either the front or back. The Fleer set used the teams' logos so I'm not sure if there was a licensing issue this year. Anyone?

1961 Topps #6 Jim Parker 

1961 Topps #4 Ray Berry

1961 Topps #9 Colts Team

Blue backs are new but the standard elements remain. Vitals, a bio paragraph or stat box and a 'coin rub' cartoon are set horizontally for the player cards.

The team card, horizontal on the front gets a vertical back.

Scattered throughout the set are '1960 Football Highlights' cards. The Colts are shown on this one commemorating Johnny U's 25 TD passes. His numbers were impressive at the time but in the current NFL they would be mundane. Times have changed.

1961 Topps #57 Highlights Johnny Unitas

The tattoos that Topps issued in the early 60s as inserts are generally out-of-sight pricewise, particularly the Unitas which is considered a 'test issue'. But this sticker, which I just purchased minus the tab (you can see the perforation markings on the left), was very cheap.

                                              1961 Topps 'flocked' sticker

Meanwhile, across the tracks, Fleer was producing what may be my favorite football set not issued by Philly Gum.

1961 Fleer

The majority of the players in the Fleer set are shown in pregame stadium shots and many of the NFL players had their picture taken at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. That fact, I'll admit, has a bearing on my view of this set. But beyond that these are terrific cards. These are football players by God!

The cards feature great posed portraits, the team logo and clean white borders and text block. There are ten Colts in the set, seven of them are in the Pro or College Football Hall of Fame, or both.

1961 Fleer #36 Bill Pellington

1961 Fleer #39 Art Donovan

1961 Fleer #37 Gino Marchetti

The backs don't quite match up to the fronts but the team logo makes another appearance at least. Each player gets a minimal info block and a fair sized paragraph write-up.

The light green doesn't do much to make the cards readable and on faded/browned cardboard like the Marchetti card below the white name and green titles all but disappear. Several of my cards in this set have similar back issues so I guess it's an issue with the cardboard used.

But despite the shortcomings on the reverse the fronts put the '61 Fleer far ahead of the Topps set. I've scanned four examples of the cards of the same player for comparisons sake. Take a look:

That Fleer Lenny Moore, with the view of the scoreboard along the right edge, is a Top Ten football card in my collection. And I'm more in love with that Fleer Artie Donovan card every time I see it. Those Fleer cards are just more 'alive'. It's too bad the company was relegated to 'AFL only' cards for the next two seasons before leaving the football cards business for a decade.

For the next two seasons Topps was again in the driver's seat as far as NFL cards were concerned. Luckily it appears that they were spurred on to better designs in 1962 and 1963. Oh, and Post cereal boxes featured NFL players in 1962. I've got some Colts to show off, too.

1962 Topps

For the first time since 1957 Topps went with a horizontal format for it's cards in '62. And the black border was downright revolutionary, at least in Topps sports cards. The cards, with a large full color shot and a smaller action one, are not unlike the 1960 Topps baseball cards. Name, team and position appear in a color box. The Colts had red and yellow boxes while other teams had these colors as well as blue and green.

1962 Topps #8 Gino Marchetti

1962 Topps #5 Raymond Berry

There were eleven Colts players plus a Colts team card in the 176 card set.
1962 Topps #12 Baltimore Colts Team 

1962 Topps #3 Alex "The Hawk" Hawkins

Vertical backs featured basic info, vitals, stats and/or a short bio and a cartoon that was tied into a football quiz question. The cartoon artwork seems more detailed and sophisticated than much of what has been seen up to now. I like it a lot.

Topps issued Football Bucks, miniature dollar bills with NFL players in 1962 as an insert into the packs of their football cards. There were four Colts in the 48 cards set. I need all four at this point, mostly because I haven't done a whole lot of insert chasing. They range from about $5 for Lenny Moore to $35 for Unitas.

1962 Post

Post Cereal boxes carried NFL cards that mirrored their baseball counterparts of the era. I have 11 of the 15 Colts. All are posed action shots with training camp backgrounds. Lots to love with these. You can find these in poorly trimmed condition (which I obviously have) and that holds down the cost. I'm fine with Post cards in this condition.

Topps had one more year of producing NFL cards before the licence went to Philadelphia Gum for four years.

1963 Topps

The 1963 football card set is colorful and fun. The 170 card set had eleven players for each team and a team card. The Colts cards are yellow and orange/brown. Johnny Unitas got card #1 for the fifth consecutive year. Oddly the team card (for all teams) didn't match the colors found on the players cards. The Unitas card is, as expected, the most expensive of the group. As is the case for the 1962 Unitas I lack a 1963 copy for this project but I have a mid-grade slabbed one for my Unitas PC.

Lots of grass, sky and trees are found behind the Colts players, five of whom are in the Hall of Fame. Taken individually these cards might not make you say "What a cool set!" but flipping through a few 9-pocket pages of these things will convince you it is.

1963 Topps #11 Bob Boyd

1963 Topps #9 Billy Ray Smith

1963 Topps #3 Ray Berry

1963 Topps #12 Baltimore Colts Team

'63 saw Topps change the color of the backs once again. The orange on white backs have the standard info and stats or a short bio. The cartoon is different though. Now it is in the form of a question pertaining to the player on the card and the answer is revealed by laying a small sheet of red cellophane over it. The cellophane came in every pack. I believe it is the first time the cellophane was used with a Topps product since the 1952 mostly non-sport Look 'N See set. Don't quote me on that though.

1963 will be the last Topps football set to contain NFL players until 1968. For the next four years the NFL license was held by the Philadelphia Gum Company and Topps took over the production of AFL cards. Fleer was the 'odd company out' and would be out of the football card business until the mid-1970s.

The Philly Gum sets will all be posted in the next of this series. The four editions range from good to terrific. Completing at least one of them is a 'back burner' project for me.


  1. More great cards. Looking forward to the Philadelphia sets!

  2. Love the cards! I've got to get more vintage football.

    A couple of observations...

    The uniform nerd in me noticed that they Colts had a somewhat unusual serifed "font" for their uni #'s which got introduced with the shoulder loops and seems to have gone away in the late 1960's. Unlike most block numbers, the Colts had serifs on numbers like 3, 6 and 9. Interesting.

    That Art Donovan card is a beauty.

    The Post cards are much nicer than their baseball counterparts since they used bigger photos.

    Finally, we take you to the Topps production facility in the summer of 1961:
    Hank: "Hey, Frank... Can you hand me the design you made for the football set?"
    Frank: "Football set?!? Uh... Uh.... " (Looks around, grabs a folder marked "Rejected Bazooka Designs", pulls a sample out and hands it to Hank. ) "Here you go!"
    Hank: "Not your best work, but eh, it's just Football."

  3. Wow - lots of familiar stuff in the 1961 football set. That blue back was re-used for 1961 CFL football and then licensed for the 1963 A&BC (Engliah) Footballers set. The TV action card was re-used in 1961-62 Topps hockey.

    Really cool to see them in this context.