Saturday, February 21, 2015

Baltimore Colts Card History Pt.7 The mid 70s

In the early 70s I was neck deep into college life and I had taken a few years off from paying attention to football cards. But with the '74 set I am now beginning to see cards I remembered picking up when they were fresh. I remember finding packs at the Eckerds' (now CVS) Pharmacy near my apartment. 

I never had many of them and none of the ones I did have survived to be seen here. Quite a few of the mid-70s cards I have now came from fellow collectors and bloggers like Mark Hoyle and Joe Shlabotnik. That makes these cards even better. 

1974 Topps #172 Cotton Speyrer
1974 Topps

Sort of a subtle but clever design for the Topps set in 1974. The player is framed with a goal post and the players names were below the cross bar. Each team had a unique color combo for the team name box. And of course, we are in the middle of the 'no license' period in which Topps had to airbrush out any official team logos. They could use the team nickname though, unlike the current situation with Panini baseball that only allows the city. Topps was now fully engaged with large football sets with 500+ cards. The Colts had as many as 22 cards not including 'specials' in these sets.

There were no special cards in the set as far as I can tell other than an All-Pro subset of which the Colts had none. Parker Brothers had some sort of NFL-based game this year and it included about 50 cards based on the '74 Topps set. Some of these had completely different pictures as the Topps regular version, some were identical except for slightly different copyright lines. The Colts had one player in that set, Don McCauley whose card had the same photo.

1974 Topps #524 Bert Jones

The Colts are shown with a mixture of portraits and posed action shots with a training camp or practice field background. All the Colts had vertically oriented cards but there were a handful of horizontal ones scattered through the set.

1974 Topps #197 Tom Drougas

That is except for the one game action photo used for George Hunt.

1974 Topps #482 George Hunt 

The blue and yellow backs on dark cardboard are crowded with stats, a bio, a cartoon and a box containing a 'football game' play.

The team checklists were available by mail as a set. I don't know if they were also in packs or not but I doubt it. 

Interestingly the backs were printed in a different color than the regular cards. The colors resemble but don't match any of the Topps sets of the middle of the decade that I came across. I'm sure they match something and were produced as part of some other set's print run. This is where you find the 'rules' for the game plays shown on the back of the regular cards.

Other than the Parker Brothers game cards I don't know of any inserts, food issues or oddballs that had Baltimore Colts included.

1975 Topps

There is a bit more variety in the photos of the 1975 set. Sideline 'candid' shots appeared and portraits with a blue background were there, too. Others seem to be just shots taken in previous camps and holdovers from 1974. There were no horizontal player cards that I see in the set except for the leaders and All Pro cards. The Colts had no All Pros. And a few players were shown in actual game 'action' shots but again, no Colts.

The design isn't exactly inspiring but it has a charm that has had me thinking about collecting the set. It looks better in a binder than it does flipping through a stack of them. That helmet though!

The Colts got red and yellow as a theme, some other teams had crazier ones. The Oilers were stuck with orange and purple.

1975 Topps #247 Raymond Chester

1975 Topps #329 Bruce "I did Shakespeare in college" Laird

1974 Topps #301 Tim "I played Little League ball with Commishbob" Berra

The backs are different than what came before from Topps. The 'tilted' elements gave them a sort of 3D feel. The info about how the player landed with his club is new as well.

There are two subsets that included a Colt. Lydell Mitchell got a Highlights card.

1975 Topps #456 Lydell Mitchell 1974 Highlights

And he was the AFC receptions leader so he made that card as well. On a side note it's interesting how few receptions could get you on a leaders card in 1975.

1974 Topps #3 Receiving Leaders w/Lydell Mitchell

There are no inserts or other off the wall sets that involve any Colts that I know of. The widely distributed checklists were not team specific but more along the line of the standard Topps 'checklist by series'. But there was also a set of team checklist cards that were available only through the mail. Those babies are hard to find. I'm not chasing it since it's not an item that was available in packs or any other easy way.

They look like this in uncut form (not my photo, taken from an auction site):

I can't blog the '75 Colts without showing my favorite of the bunch,....

1975 Topps # 476 Dan Dickel

1976 Topps

Topps went pretty straightforward with the '76 design. A big football contained the team name and the position and players name were next to that. The colors used varied by team as they did each year of these 70s Topps sets. Maybe it's just my diminishing ability to pay attention to detail but these 70s Topps sets all seem to run together. I know because I inserted the '75 Dickel card into this '76 part of the post and hadn't noticed it until I was labeling them. Sigh.

The Leaders cards are horizontal, the rest vertical. A new subset of Record Breakers appeared but there were no Colts involved.

1976 Topps #53 Mike Barnes

1976 Topps #410 George Kunz

George Kunz along with two other Colts got the All Pro designation on their card. 

There was a good representation of the hair styles of the times on Colts cards in 1976. Mike Barnes (just above) was pretty shaggy. Some of the better examples follow.....

1976 Topps #351 Glenn Doughty

Doughty with the standard issue Afro.

1976 Topps #525 Bert Jones

The long wavy look for Bert Jones, the Ruston Rifle.

1976 Topps #92 Dan Dickel

Love the Dan Dickel 'look'. I wore my hair like this. Now I wish I had some of it back.

1976 Topps #503 Fred Cook

Fred Cook had a bad ass 'fro. And he should because he was one bad ass player. But as a person, he was a prince. Still is I suppose.

1976 Topps #193 Roger Carr

But leave it to the Louisiana cowboy, 'Sad' Roger Carr to spot the military look.

The backs were pretty well laid out, done in red and blue. Nothing special about what they contained. The quiz box had a cartoon and most contained a random question not specific to the player.

The quiz box on some of the cards asks you to ID a player who appears on a card among that team's players. The answer is given on the back of the checklist card (see below).

This year the checklists were were back to being numbered and issued in the packs. The reverse had the team leaders for the previous few seasons.

But the offer to order all of the checklists was there on the back, too. And the line between the 'boxes' on the back solves the 'Mystery Colt" quiz. It's John Dutton, #130.

1976 Topps #202 NFL Receiving Leaders w/Lydell Mitchell

The receiving leaders card had to squeeze in three players because Lydell Mitchell and Reggie Rucker tied for the AFC lead with 60 catches each. That card had some serious Afro hair styles going on!

After a couple of yaers that lacked inserts/oddballs 1976 had several. The most prominent were put out by the company that actually held the NFL license and was able to use full team names and logos. Good old Fleer didn't need any airbrush artists in '76.

1976 Fleer Team Action Sticker/Cards

These 'cards' were actually stickers and you could peel the fronts off and put them on your school binder. Fleer issued these things continuously through at least 1983 which is where I end this Baltimore Colts Project. The fabulous Fleer Sticker Project Blog contains way more info than I need to present here.

Fleer could show the logos and helmets as noted, but using the names of the players was not allowed (NFLPA held the rights to those) so the cards have a very generic 'feel'.

The pattern for these things varied very little over the years. There were two 'team action' cards and one for each Super Bowl. Even the numbering on these was consistent with only the addition of expansion teams (Falcons and Saints) pushed the numbering along. I have roughly half of the Fleer cards for '76-'83.

And also from Fleer there were various and sundry 'cloth' stickers. Check-listing these things is a difficult task. Again, the Fleer Sticker Project blog delves into them and once I've completed the standard cards I'll attempt to figure out what I have. I am pretty certain that this one is from 1976.

The sticker next to a regular card to show the size.

There were a couple of three food issues in 1976 that had Colts or Colt related cards. The Wonder Bread issues ran for three years but the only Baltimore Colt appeared in '76. I have more info on these and the companion/twin Holson Bread cards in this post from early this year.

Finally the makers of Popsicle products put these credit card-style cards into retail boxes. They are made out of thin plastic. One of each team with the Giants having a logo variation as well. Not hard to find these and they come pretty inexpensively. Obviously the license used was similar to the Fleer one and no player names are used.

Lydell Mitchell also appears on a '76 Crane Potato Chips 'disc'. These should be familiar to collectors of oddball baseball items of this era. They were distributed under several company sponsors in baseball versions while football had a couple as well. This is an internet picture. I have one of these on order and it's waaaay overdue. I'll replace this with my scan when it arrives.

The mid-70s Colts cards are fun if a bit subdued. Only the period's hair styles really jump out at you. And at least for the Colts' cards there are no expensive cards at all. "Every Colt a common!" would be a good title for this post.

Finally, this isn't a Colt card but hey, it's an awesome '76 football card being awesome!


  1. I love the Fleer Team Action stickers.

  2. Mention of the 1974 Parker Brothers game set off my "Spidey Sense", and I feel like I might've had some sort of encounter with it... Having been 9 at the time, I was certainly the target audience. I found two interesting articles on it (links below) and the game box looks familiar, but I didn't own it nor do I remember playing it. I'm thinking I have to go through my small accumulation of 1974's and see if I have any of these cards.

    Sports Collector's Digest gives a good overview and is from this past December:

    Near Mint Cards has images of the six cards that have different fronts:

  3. For some reason Cotton Speyrer looks to me like he's posing for one of those deodorant ads.

  4. Great overview of 70 football. I still gave my uncut checklist sheet from 75

  5. George Kunz hair style..I'll keep that in mind..