Perhaps the craziest card back Topps ever tried

Bobby's seen better days, but he happened to be closest to the scanner, thus he wins. By the way - don't take bites out of your cards. The nutritional value is really limited.

It’s just my theory, but I think that when Topps wanted to try something, the basic thought process went something like this: if the idea is a sure-fire winner, it was always implemented in baseball first. Baseball was the bread-and-butter, so whatever was new and cool went there. If an idea was a little more out there and Topps wasn’t really sure how well it would work, they wouldn’t risk it in baseball, but they’d give it a go in hockey. Hockey was more like Topps’ string beans. Worth having, but if something went wrong, hey, it was just hockey.

For example – full-colour photography? Winner. Baseball got it in 1957. Hockey got it in 1958-59. Full career stats on the back? Winner for sure. Baseball again got it in 1957. Hockey waited till 1971. Heck, there wasn’t even a career totals line until 1966-67.

However – the scratch-off question on the card back? Part of 1962-63 and 1965-66 hockey. I don’t think it ever appeared in baseball. Scratch-offs on the front? 1980-81 hockey had it, I sincerely hope nothing else was so afflicted. Split-run sets by region? They tried that variation in ’81-82. “Tall Boys” layout? Hockey, basketball and football all got it, but not baseball (save for one odd “giant” run – not a main set).

The oddest of all, though, has to be the backs of the 1960-61 hockey set. The entire thing is dominated by the trivia question and cartoon – this might not be a bad thing if either were really legible, but this is where it got “interesting”.

This really isn't all that convenient to read. The scan is better than reality.

The question was printed in red. The answer was in the exact same space, but printed in blue. The theory was that you would put a red piece of “paper” over the red-printed card back, revealing the hidden answer. I have yet to find any form of paper that actually worked. Obviously the intent was some form of crepe or other mostly translucent paper, but the blue printing was so weak that there’s no way it could ever be read. The best answer I ever found was the red lens off an old pair of 3D glasses. Old-style 3D glasses aren’t always available, though. Maybe they were everywhere in 1960.

After a lot of years of not being able to read these at all, I got my hands on a piece of red film (looks like red acetate) used in the printing process. It works rather well and lets me show off how these things were supposed to be viewed (though to make the scan readable, I still had to monkey with the levels). 50 years after its printing, here is the answer:

So now you know.

Interesting idea – iffy execution. Needless to say, no baseball set ever featured a back like this. 🙂

There were a number of other things interesting about 1960-61, but I’ll have to get the appropriate cards scanned to show just what other stunts Topps tried.

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This entry was posted in Card Design, Vintage Hockey and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Perhaps the craziest card back Topps ever tried

  1. alan niester says:

    as i recall from my kid days, each pack of the cards came with the requisite red film

  2. 1967ers says:

    Really? That’s fantastic! I’ve been collecting old hockey for 30 years and that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that.

    Thanks very much!

  3. kazi says:

    agree with Alan above–I remember getting the red film in with the cards–it was red and kind of like the stuff that use use to wrap gift baaskets–just found your site and lots of interesting reading

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