I’ve talked about these before (although I haven’t done it here), but I found something nifty enough to merit doing it again.
If you were getting gas in 1970 (the kind that goes in your car) and you happened to purchase it at Esso, you could get a little package with six perforated stamps. You could keep these in an Esso-supplied wallet or better yet in a nice-looking album. There were 252 stamps in all, which is an awful lot to collect when you’re only getting six at a time. Then again, it’s not as though cars were particularly fuel efficient in 1970. I do see a lot of completed albums out there.
What made these stamps particularly cool is that they represented the only game-action shots you could get that year. Topps and OPC had only posed shots (it had been this way for years) and the last card set with a lot of game photography was 1954-55 Parkhurst. Very few of those players were still around, and not too many kids from 1970 would have seen them.
This set has, to the best of my knowledge, the only image of Gerry Cheevers actually wearing that famous mask of his. There are recent cards (produced during the last 5 years or so) that show him in it, but nothing else from his actual playing career. (1979-80 is the closest, with the mask on the top of his head.)
The set was also interesting because it ended up having more players in it than OPC did. The OPC set was larger at 264 cards, but they gave away a lot of space to checklists, All-Stars, Award Winners, etc. Esso had 252 stamps, every one of which was a player.
At 18 players per team (14 teams that season), Esso presented pretty much a complete lineup, including rookies and guys who just did spot duty. For some players, they appear in this set a year or two earlier than they do in any Topps/OPC set. For others, this is the only time you see them with a particular team.
While not too many people are into WHA stalwarts like Danny Lawson (Calgary Cowboys!) or Al Karlander, they’re in this set. I find it kind of neat to see them breaking in during their short NHL stints.
1970-71 was the first season for both Buffalo and Vancouver and Esso still managed to get game shots of all the players. Even today, card makers struggle with this when there’s a new expansion team or a significant uniform change. There was no airbrushing here. The Leafs changed their uniform for ’70-71 and there isn’t a single picture with the old look. OPC would take two full seasons to catch up.
All this is great, but what really drove me to post about this was the discovery on youtube of part of the 1970 Esso ad campaign. We need more ads like this:
I have the stamps, but not the album. Seeing that, I may need to pick one up. It looks a lot better than I thought.
The album had a handful of the stamps pre-printed, so those players were short-printed as actual stamps. When picking them up, you have to be sure it’s really the stamp and hasn’t just been cut out from the album (made that mistake twice). Otherwise, it’s a great set to collect. Original booklets with the stamps still attached tend to be a bit pricey.