Thursday, January 22, 2015

Baltimore Colt Card History Pt. 4 The Philly Gum Sets

1964 Philly Gum #12 John Unitas

In 1964 the license to produce NFL cards went to the Philadelphia Gum Company while Topps moved on to AFL sets. Philly Gum put out NFL cards for four seasons ending in 1967. The '64 set featured large square photos on a simple design. Each team had it's own color combo for the text box below the player and the Colts got a striking red and white design. This set, as well as the three Philly Gum sets that followed, contains 198 cards. Printing them on sheets of 264 meant that there were 66 'double prints' each year.

1964 Philly Gum

This set, or at least the Colts in it, are a big reason for my taking on this project. I had about half the 12 Colts and wanted to pick up the rest of them. One thing led to another and my goals expanded to finding all the Philly Gum Colts and then to completing all the vintage Baltimore Colts subsets.

The Colts were photographed for this set at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The lighting, the background, the richness of the colors and the color combo just make for a great team set. It's worth noting that while most of the teams have training camp/practice field backgrounds there are some interesting team sets here. The New York Giants were photographed at Yankee Stadium. Their cards look a lot like the Colts' cards.

The Browns are shown with a chain link fence behind them and behind that fence sits (or so legend has it) is the players' parking lot with Jim Brown's Cadillac featured in most of the shots. Great stuff.

It's impossible for me to pick a favorite among the Colts' cards but if I was asked to keep only one for my collection it would be the Unitas or one of these three I've posted. Gino Marchetti looks so 'Marchetti-ish' in this one. He's definitely the guy who refused to be carried to the locker room after he broke his leg in the '58 title game.
1964 Philly Gum #4 Gino Marchetti

1964 Philly Gum #5 Jim Martin

This is John Mackey's rookie card. Cardboard greatness.

1964 Philly Gum #3 John Mackey

Vertical blue and black backs were easy to read. As has been the case with football cards for years to this point skill guys get a stat box, linemen a blurb.

The listing of Pro Bowl and other honors is new. I'd like to see that on more cards. The cartoons relate to the player on the card and are in the form of a quiz question.

Each team also got a team card and a 'Play of the Year' card. Like all the team cards the Colts' card had a black and white team photo. At least the background is intact. The card has a different color scheme than the players' cards do but contains both the team helmet and logo. A team related paragraph and cartoon quiz question make up the back.

1964 Philly Gum #13 Baltimore Colts Team

The Play of the Year card shows Coach Don Shula as well as Memorial Stadium and has a play diagram linked to a specific game from the previous season. Interestingly the play diagrammed doesn't seem to be the same one described on the back. As a coach I always used the dotted line to indicate a pass in the air and this one shows Unitas hitting Jimmy Orr on an 'out route' rather than Jerry Hill in the flat.

1964 Philly Gum #14 Colts' Play of the Year/Don Shula card

1965 Philly Gum

Philly Gum had come up with a nice template with the inaugural '64 set and it never varied by a whole lot. Each of the four yearly sets had the same 'look and feel'. Again there were 198 cards in the set.

Year Two of Philadelphia Gum's license saw them break out the NFL shield logo for the front of the cards. It was the first time this has happened. Other than making the name box smaller to accomodate the league logo the cards stayed pretty much the same. There were twelve Colts in the set plus the same two 'extra cards', the team card and the 'Play of the Year' card.

Most of the players got posed shots showing them from the waist or numbers up. Tony Lorick's full action pose is an exception. The Colts were given light blue text for the player names and white for team and position. The other teams each had their own combination.

1965 Philly Gum #2 Ray Berry

1965 Philly Gum #12 John Unitas

1965 Philly Gum #10 Jim Parker

1965 Philly Gum #6 Tony Lorick

1965 Philly Gum #4 Wendell Harris

The backs went to a reddish color and the 'coin rub' cartoon returned. The layout remained about the same as the '64 set. Again any honors from the previous season are listed for the players.

Again the team card comes in with a color not associated with any other Colts' card. 

1965 Philly Gum #1 Colts Team

Other than the colors the Play of the Year idea returned unchanged. At least this time the diagram matches the action that's described on the back.

1965 Philly Gum #14 Colts' Play of the Year/Don Shula card

1966 Philly Gum

1966 Philly Gum #24 John Unitas

Philly Gum football returned in 1966 with a few changes but nothing that would make you wonder who produced them. The name-team-position box moved to the top of the card but similar posed portrait cards dominated, at least among the Colts' cards. Each team got it's own colors with light blue again on the Colts' cards.

The addition of the expansion Atlanta Falcons meant that the other teams would get one less card each. There are now 11 Colts players represented plus the two related team cards. There were six members of the College or Pro Football Halls of Fame among the 11 Colts.

1966 Philly Gum #20 Lou Michaels

1966 Philly Gum #25 Bob Vogel

1966 Philly Gum #15 Ray Berry

As seen with Ray Berry and Lou Michaels above and Jimmy Orr below the iconic Colts helmet is present in this set more than any previous one.

Single bar face mask alert!
1966 Philly Gum #22 Jimmy Orr

The backs of the cards have been re-arranged for '66. The alignment is now horizontal and printed in green. The left side has player vitals and a bio paragraph, the right side has a 'Guess Who Quiz'. There is a small black and white photo of a different player or coach and the idea is to guess his identity. You are directed to a different card to find the answer. Previous seasons honors were included in the section with vital stats although neither card I scanned had any. The stats box for 'skill position' players is gone, each player gets a text paragraph. This will hold true for 1967 as well.

Well, look here. The coloring of the team card matches the players' cards. That's new.

1966 Philly Gum #14 Colts Team 

The old 'play of the year' format evolved into a clean picture of a play that is documented on the reverse. I love this shot of Lenny Moore and Jim Parker doing their thing. Merlin Olsen in pursuit makes it three Hall of Famers in the shot. I'm not sure but the Ram player on the ground between Moore and Parker may very well be Deacon Jones. That would make it four Hall guys.

1966 Philly Gum #26 Colts Play of the Year

The back of the play card has an illustrated officials' signals explanation rather than another 'guess the player' picture.. 

I'm going to break my own rule here and stick a non-Colt card into the mix. But only because it's one of the best football cards, ever. This is the Gale Sayers rookie card from this '66 Philly Gum set. It's not my scan. Oh how I wish I had this one to scan. Maybe some day.

1967 Philly Gum

1967 Philly Gum #16 Ordell Braase

The fourth and final Philly Gum NFL set retains the basic elements of the previous three but adds a slight twist... yellow borders. I'm sure someone at the company thought this was a good idea. They borders don't look bad when combined with the colors of some of the teams but when a team was assigned a name block like the pink one of the Cowboys or the purple of the Vikings it made for a bad look.

Another new club, the Saints, caused the team player totals to be reduced to ten per team plus the usual two extra cards per club. The Colts again had blue name/team/position blocks. I find the thin, sans-serif type to be 'cheap' looking somehow. I can't put my finger on it but it just doesn't look right. At least the size of it allowed them to use 'Johnny' as Unitas' first name this time.

Some of the photos look to have been taken in the same photo shoot as those that appeared in the previous year. Others look like Memorial Stadium shots from the '64 set. The Unitas card appears to be taken right after the '66 card. It's as if they said "OK, Mr. Unitas, hold that pose....let us put your helmet on you and try not to move".

It's worth noting that this set marks the first contributions to this project from fellow bloggers. Mark Hoyle and Joe Shlabotnik very both very generous in sending me Colts from many different sets from the late 60s right up through the Topps 1983 set. That's the final year of the Baltimore Colts franchise.

1967 Philly Gum #23 Johnny Unitas

1967 Philly Gum #14 Ray Berry (Error)

This 'Ray Berry" (above) card actually pictures cornerback Bobby Boyd who is also shown on his own card (below) which uses what is likely a shot taken for the '64 set.

1967 Philly Gum #15 Bob Boyd

1967 Philly Gum #19 Lenny Lyles (from Mark Hoyle)

The backs are done in brown with the pertinent player info on the right and a 'coin rub' quiz question pertaining to the player on the left. The questions actually like they were written by hand. Pro Bowl and other awards are listed again. 

The team card matches colors with the players' cards.

The 'officials' signals' feature previously included on the now defunct 'play of the year card' has moved to the team card.

A team logo card has been substituted for the 'play of the year' card. I have lots of love for the Leapin' Colt! I wish the current version of the team, the one that plays in another city, wouldn't use it. To mean it means BALTIMORE COLTS. But that's a whole other story.

The back has a nice summary of the Colts franchise up to that time. Note the reference to Johnny Unitas as "Mr. Quarterback". Indeed.

Semi Off Topic:
I actually love the New York Giants' cards in this set an awful lot. There are about six of them that are taken in Yankee Stadium featuring players with helmets on. They remind me of listening to Giants games with my father (he was a huge fan of them) with Marty Glickmann at the mike. The cards are awesome.

A bit of detective work has shown me that these '67 Giants cards were not necessarily 'outtakes' from the '64 photos. Allen Jacobs wasn't in the NFL until 1965 and he was a Packer that season. He came over to the Giants in 1966 so that likely when the shot was made.  

So that wraps up the four Philadelphia Gum seasons of NFL production as seen through the Baltimore Colts' cards. The sets are all very similar but each has aspects to make it stand out. As noted I'm partial to the 1964 set but collecting any of the four would be a blast.

Topps was back in the NFL card business in 1968. The Colts and the rest of the NFL teams joined the AFL clubs in Topps colorful 1968 set. That one is up next!


  1. All four of the Philly sets are great looking sets. The team sets must look nice all together in pages

  2. l like the Giants' cards in this set too, i think because of the helmets. Only Colts and Giants (and ex-Giants drafted by the expansion Saints) are shown wearing helmets.

  3. Love the 1967 Giants cards, I'll have to track some down. I was never a true Giants fan, but I've been moderately fond of them for much of my life. I was going to say I didn't know any of the players, but then I had a sudden realization - "Wait a minute, Carl Lockhart... Is that Spider Lockhart?" Sure enough, it is. That's one card I'm definitely going after.

    Did Philadelphia Gum do any cards other than 4 years of football and a scattering of non-sports sets? I really don't remember seeing them referenced much outside of football.

    1. One of their brands was 'Swell' Gum'. There was a Babe Ruth Story set under the Swell name in 1948 and in 1989/1990 they put out Baseball Greats sets. I have the Pierce from that one.

    2. Bob, Jim, thanks for the info! I can see at least four 1967 Giants I'd like to go after.... And I remember Swell gum, it was pretty nasty.