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Monday, November 28, 2011

Topps Decade in Review: 1971-1980

Another day, another decade! This time, I continue my review with the '70s. While the 1980s were fairly mediocre, the 1970s have a collection of sets that are purely forgettable. The 1990s could be considered a decade of improvement - better card stock, better quality printing, and better design; the 2000s were a decade in modern design. The 1970s were evidence of complacency from manufacturing in a monopoly environment.

As always, here is a full decade of Topps, in order from worst-to-first designs (my opinion only).
 I started my journey in 1978, and this post begins with the same year. Could I have been born in a more boring year, as far as card design goes? There is no life in this card. I could have made this design in third grade. "I'll just show off my cursive handwriting here, and we gotta put the guy's name somewhere, so we'll put it in this empty space a the bottom... and what about the position? Oh, let's just put it off-center in a baseball out of the way." Bonus points to Jamie for trying to hit the cameraman with his bat.
 The 1977 was one of four years where flags or banners were used in card design. It's also the least attractive version. While there is some minimal effort in design, it feels like they said "hey, put everything up here, and we'll put the photo under it. Oh, and we need to put the facsimile autograph on, because we haven't done that enough this decade." If you ask me, and you didn't, the best design as far as facsimile signatures go is 1952.
 What makes the use of flags or banners on the 1970s cards less appealing is the fact that all four of them came between 1974 and 1980. This would be the first use, which isn't bad, really - it flows into the card. There is nothing interesting about the text, though.
It's the ultimate laziness to take the same design from 6 years ago, stylize it just a little, and call it a new issue. Who needs team locations in 1980? We can just put the position where the city was, and stick the player name in that big empty space at the top. Done!
This is the first "vintage" set I'm collecting (over 50% and counting!), but it's one of the least interesting. What makes this one better than those above? The iPod guy dancing in the bottom corner of the card. Each position had a unique shadow, adding a little bit extra to the 1973 set over most of the second half of the decade.
 Three years later, the iPod man becomes a full line art drawing, and the set receives an injection of color. The follow-up to the super-crayola 1975s had to have color, and this set does a pretty good job of including it. But I wonder if young collectors were disappointed with the return to plain white borders after the really fun 1975s.
If it wasn't for that little baseball in the lower left with the smiling topps logo, this set would be ranked much lower. 1979 is the last year in this list with a banner, and one of the least interesting. I'm giving this set too much credit just for including the logo, but it's the only set in the decade with the Topps logo on the front. In fact, I think it might be the first time Topps put its logo on the front of a card. (Vintage experts, correct me if I'm wrong.) That must count for something, right?
 I really like the 1971 set. The black borders are a departure from the norm and give the card a look of class. The font is unique, especially with the use of lowercase letters for the player and position. While I'm not focusing on photography, there are several interesting action shots in the set (and the only one I am showing this decade - purely based on random card picking).
These cards remind me of a movie marquee. I'm sure that's the idea, with the 3-D letters at the top and triple-bordering with their own borders (black, red, black, yellow, black, red, black, photo!). The player's name is shown like a headliner at a nightclub. Maybe Horace Clarke is doing stand-up comedy after the game! It's colorful and flashy, and fits right in the decade.
Is there any other set that could be called the best of the 1970s? The colors are bright and the borders aren't white - they're multi-colored! There's a shadowy, detailed baseball with the position, and the player's name is in another color! The team name is also shadowed and in yet another color. This set just oozes color. If you wring out a 1975 Topps, drops of different colors fall to your feet. It's not just a great design - it feels like Topps put all its effort for the decade into this one set - or at least all its effort for a few years. And then, it took the next decade off.

Check out the Number 5 Type Collection look at the decade.

Let me know what you think of my comments above! I want to close out this Topps series by the end of the year, so expect the '60s and '50s to follow within the next few weeks.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your link to my decade profile! And doubly cool that you included Jamie Quirk, worst of the decade or not. One of the all-time utility guys. :-)