Friday, January 30, 2015

Baltimore Colts Card History Pt. 6 The early 70's.

1970 Topps #201 Mike Curtis
1970 Topps

For their 1970 set Topps rolled out a 263 card, two series effort with players shown in an oval 'frame' and a banner with the player name and team. Colt players had a red banner and white name but the team name was done in either white or yellow. A cursory glace at the set as a whole didn't reveal any other teams with this kind of variation but I didn't look that deeply. Every player in the set had his position in yellow on a football.

1970 Topps #180 John Unitas

There were just ten Colts included, a number I think held true for each team. The Colts' photos were done outdoors or against a painted brick wall.

1970 Topps #142 Tom Matte

The backs bring some of the period's hockey sets to my mind. Orange/red with an odd mix of blue/purple and white. Interestingly the backs had somewhat different formats depending on the player's position. Note Unitas' stat lines and white card number circle above his name while guard Bob Vogel has his card number incorporated in the text box.  Each player had a 'fact' cartoon relating to him.

One of the inserts for 1970 was a Topps Super Glossy card. These were about standard card size with a shiny finish and the players set against a rainbow-like background. Matte and Johnny U. represent the Colts.

Another insert in the Topps set were these posters. Not their best offering. This one had it's blog moment a while ago as well.

Topps Supers (not the same as the Super Glossies) were oversized and printed on thick cardboard. Once again the two Colts (Matte and Unitas) had a post here last month

Kelloggs jumped into the football card business with a set that had four of my guys in it. I blogged these a few weeks ago.

I've completed everything on my 1970 Colts checklist. 

1971 Topps

There were eleven Colts in the colorful '71 Topps set. They got red framed photos since they were an AFC team, NFC teams got blue. But 'All Stars' were shown with a two color frame. See the Bubba Smith card below. Player names were done in either yellow or white, I can't see any regular pattern for the variation. Once again there were 263 cards put out in two series. The odd number comes from the fact that the second series checklist was double printed and released with both series.

1971 Topps #221 Roy Hilton

Below the player was his team, position and conference designation (or All Star status) and a generic cartoon football player that corresponded with the player's position. I guess licensing issues were creeping into things again as a team logo or helmet would have made a much better design element, at least IMHO.

1971 Topps #242 Earl Morrall

1971 Topps #53 Bubba Smith (a Fuji gift)

The vertical design of the reverse was pretty crowded. The name and number box also included the player vitals and now birth date, home town and pro debut year were added. That space was shared with a player fact cartoon. Below that each player had a write-up and skill position players got stat boxes. 

A game card insert, similar to those Topps had done for baseball was the insert for 1971. Mike Curtis and Johnny Unitas were in the set. The 'play' on Unitas' card was 'fumble' which bugs me. LOL That's why I didn't scan it. Full disclosure: Unitas held the career fumble record for awhile but has been eclipsed by many players since he retired in 1973 and he now ranks 20th.

Kellogg's brought out another football set. There were three Colts included, Johnny Unitas (whose card I lack), Mike Curtis and Bob Grant. The inclusion of Grant seems pretty odd. He had played for three seasons for the Colts and while he wasn't a bench jockey, neither was he particularly notworthy having only started 10 games at that point. In fact Grant was cut by the Colts and playing for Washington by the time these cards were issued. He played in six games that season and was out of football after that.

In the last decade or so Bob Grant has been an outspoken 'independent advocate' for retired NFL players' rights taking on both the NFL and, maybe surprisingly, the NFLPA.

Here's a switch.... a Bazooka card that I could actually afford! This Unitas came on a three player panel in 1970 on the back of gum boxes. Looks like the same photo as the 1970 Topps Super, doesn't it?

Also available were a group of cards issued in Dell magazines. I have no memories of these but I have found references to them online and managed to track down the two available Colts in the 'set'. Looks like Johnny U. is in the middle of a golf swing. The dates on these are a moving target, they are listed as 1971/72. Who knows.

1972 Topps

Topps went with a horizontal for the '72 football set, the third fourth third fourth time they had done that following the iconic '57 set and the '62 set. Their 1966 AFL set was also horizontal. 

Why the confusion? Well....the COLTS are horizontal, but other teams had vertical cards. I've puzzled over this for years. OK, not really but it did make me wonder. But it finally hit me when I was scrolling through the set online. Teams with four or five letter nicknames... Colts, Bears, Lions, Jets, Bills, 49ers, Rams and Cards got horizontal cards with the short name fitting easily on the card vertically. The rest of the teams got vertical cards with the team shown across the top. 

I can't believe I never noticed that before. I feel like the last guy on earth to taste beer. And the Colts were given pink cards with white lettering for the team name. The players' names were done in colors that contrasted with the photo apparently. 

1972 Topps #190 Bubba Smith

Well, well, well. What do we have here? Colts cards showing players in their white jerseys. No Colt had appeared in his road Colts jersey since the 1953 Bowman set. I previously stated that Tom Matte was the guy who broke that streak but I guess 'credit' should go to Bubba Smith since he had a lower card number in this set. But no's just nice to see my team in their beautiful road unis. I loved them. 

1971 Topps #216 Tom Matte

Here is another first. This is the first time that Johnny Unitas has appeared on a card without his trademark flattop. Even 'The Man' made concessions to the crazy 70's I suppose.

1972 Topps #165 John Unitas

1972 Topps #232 Norm Bulaich

1972 Topps #326  Mike Curtis (3rd Series card)

1972 Topps # Rick Volk (a gift from Fuji)

The '72 set is unique in other ways. It's the last vintage football set Topps put out in series. The third series was basely distributed. Cards from that series, the last 88 in the set, are therefore more expensive. The Colts had four cards in the 3rd Series: Baltimore Colts: No. 278 Bubba Smith All-Pro (AP), No. 281 Ted Hendricks (AP), No. 297 Ray May, No. 326 Mike Curtis. That high number Bubba Smith is his third card in the '72 set. He had the regular card (see above) and a Pro Action one as well.

I have the May and Curtis cards but I continue to shop for the two All Pro cards, Ted Hendricks and Bubba Smith. They have a special design. This is a scan of the Ted Hendricks I found on the 'net. Both usually go for over $20 ungraded. Update on these: I won both the Hendricks and Bubba for just under $20 each. Yeah for me... and snipe programs!

1972 Topps #281 Ted Hendricks AP (3rd Series card) Not my card

The backs are a pretty typical Topps cardback design of the era. Blue on green makes the small print hard to read. The expanded vitals continued as dod the cartoon. Among regular Colts players' cards only Bubba Smith lacks any stats. The other defensive guys got interception stats.

There were no 'team' cards but there were "Pro Action" cards. They featured on-the-field game photos. The players had their team logos airbrushed out. The backs had cartoon football quiz questions. There were four Colts featured on these and they had both vertical and horizontal cards in that group.

Kicker Jim O'Brien appeared on the AFC scoring leaders card (#7).

Bad hair among kickers seems to have been universal in 1972.

The set had cards for the 1971 post-season games. The Colts had two of these. The AFC Semi Final game was a Colts win, the Finals was a disastrous loss to Miami. So guess which one I'm scanning.

Complete box scores made up the reverse on these cards. 

The NFLPA had at least three offering for collectors in 1972. A vinyl sticker and a 'fabric iron-on' and  set of 'stamps. The fabric 'card' was sold in vending machines apparently. I'm not sure about the die cut vinyl piece. This is a shot of the die cut Unitas which I picked up recently. The scan makes it look like one of those stand-ups that get punched out of a square background but that's not the case. The outline of the entire piece is visible around Unitas. He is the only Colt I believe. 

The fabric card is more expensive and I don't see many for sale or bid. The Colts are represented by Unitas and Mike Curtis.

They also issued something called the Wonderful World of Football stamps and may have put some out in 1971 as well. I just stumbled across these while researching the other items and found a photo of what may or may not be a complete Colts set on eBay.

Lastly there is a set of stamps put out by Sunoco (Sun Oil) and were sold or given away at their gas stations. 24 players in a set for each NFL team.. There were albums available to mount them and even a set of 'update' stamps that came out later in the season. I have the regular 24 Colts stamps. I don't have the heart to figure out how to find the 'update' ones. Updating the Sunoco Updates: I stumbled across the two Colts included in the updated player stamps and added them to my Baltimore Colts Wantlist. I also found the album for $10 shipped and it's on it's way. Updating the Update to the Sunoco Updates: Oct 25, 2017...I was able to find the two 'update' players. One is now posted below the regular set..

 These things are 1.5" x 2.5" in size. I scanned the Fred Miller stamp with the '72 Bubba Smith Pro Action to show the relative size. BTW...Fred Miller was a very solid player for the Colts for a decade, made three Pro Bowls, but never appeared on any card outside of this Sunoco Stamp.

This Lonnie Hepburn is one of two players Sunoco added to the set, identifying them as 'new players'.

1973 Topps

After all the 1972 foolishness it's a relief to go over the '73 Topps set. The cards featured a ribbon-like decoration next to a square photo and player-position-team done in a thin sans serif font. I actually like this set quite a bit but I'm not sure why. Each team had a specific color combo. 

Anyway Topps increased the size of the set to 500+ cards so the Colts got 19 players in it. All the Colts had their cards aligned vertically but there are some horizontal cards scattered through some other teams. There were some special cards, league leaders, Boyhood photos, etc. but none that involved the Colts. (Yippee!) 

The Colts had a wide assortment of photo styles in the set....some game action photos, posed shots, portraits, and some of the 'pregame' snapshots that were seen previously, like the Bubba Smith card.

And sadly, there was no Johnny Unitas card. For the first time since 1956 he was absent from a Colts team set. He appeared as a San Diego Charger on card #455, a card that makes my face twitch every time I see it.

Instead of Johnny U. we got Marty D. Pfffftttt.

Topps made the print bigger on the card backs, at least for the players' vitals. The usual format of stats for skills guys and more text for linemen was in order.

The cartoons didn't relate to the player on the card and they were in the form of quiz questions.

The 20th Colts card was their un-numbered checklist. This is mine and it's in the process of being upgraded for a dollar. That pink thing with the Topps logo is supposed to be a football helmet. Fail.

Here's the back. I guess some of the other teams' checklists made up puzzles while some, like the Colts', served as ads.

That wraps up the early 70s Colts cards. This post just never seemed to end for me. I need a break. I'll start the mid-70s Colts in a few days.


  1. I like the 73 set also. First football set I completed

  2. So much to comment on, but I'll keep it to one observation on 1970 Topps: The yellow "Colts" works so much better than white.