Monday, March 2, 2009

Stock It To Me

Like a bowl of soup, a bubblegum card needs some good stock in order to be considered palatable. Topps generally would use three types of stock for their regular issue sets: gray, cream or white. Sometimes I would imagine which particular stock was used to print a certain set had more to do with what was lying around the warehouse or available cheaply from their print supplier than with aesthetics. Rightly so, since the profit margins involved in the confectionery/card trade could be somewhat woeful from year to year. Usually though, only one card stock would be used per set. In 1960, the Topps baseball cards used three, sometimes all in the same series.

This handy chart details which series had which color of stock on the reverse:

More on this phenomenon below but the fifth series is the one where all the action is. If you look at how the cream and gray backs hop around, you unlock the secret of the uncut sheets. 110 cards were printed first, then runs of 88 in the next three series. Starting with series 5, only 66 cards per series would have been printed as the season concluded.

But first, while everybody surely knows what they look like, here is a representative example of a 1960 Topps card:

Topps used a variety of obverse designs, many of them grouped together. You had your Rookie cards:

Your Rookie All Stars:

Your Regular All Stars:

Your World Series cards:

Your Manager cards:

Your Coaches cards:

And your Team cards, front:

And back, with Checklist (the last year Topps would use the team cards for this purpose):

You will notice that the 5th series on the checklist runs from 353-429 but the fact of the matter is that they were printed as shown in the chart above. Topps would often create arbitrary series runs so that you were getting a preview of the next series and this would result in a mix of fourth and fifth series cards in a fourth series pack, to cite one possible example. They would refine (and complicate) this practice in the coming years and when I finally have my head wrapped around that, it will be featured in what will likely be my longest blog post of all time. But that is for another day, far, far away.

In addition, there were some multi-player cards, one of which is quite useful to show the three types of card stock used by Topps.

Card #399 is ordinary enough-three young pitchers captured in all their glory:

But the back tells a different story. All three stock variations can be seen clearly here and in order they are gray, cream and white:

The cream is a little hard to pick up in a scan but it is a distinct shade when compared to the other two. This is not the first time Topps did this and I plan to explore this in conjuntion with some earlier sets very soon but for now I'll keep my secrets.

Cards from 287-374 also have another difference, black printing of the player's name on back where it is white in all of the other series. I don't know why this happened as it was not continued but you can see it makes things more legible:

It is entirely possible all of these differences can be explained as something that occurred due to three different printers being used in 1960. In light of what has come out about print subcontracting work in the 1962 set it would not surprise me.

Here is a look at a partial uncut sheet before I sign off. Nice, huh? No idea where I got the scan from (sorry).

As I was researching this post, I noticed Cardboard Junkie just posted about this set, albeit from a different perspective. Great minds think alike!

No comments: