The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Conquest, War, Famine and Death. The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley, Layden. The former a harbinger of the end of the world, the latter the Notre Dame backfield from 1922-24. Oh, and the centerpiece of the 1955 Topps All American Football set.
Unable to sign NFL players due to Bowman's exclusive contracts, Topps turned to the college ranks for the third time in seven years to compete with a 100 card set. A card of the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame (#68) anchors the set but there are numerous big name players within. The set is a classic, possibly the most collected vintage football set in the hobby. A fairly recent find of unopened cello boxes has driven many high quality cards into the marketplace and brought down prices but does not seem to have brought any clarity to a major feature of this set: 34 allegedly short printed cards.
All American was printed on 110 card half/220 card full sheets, 11 rows of 10 cards per half. Or, depending upon orientation, 10 rows of 11 cards. With some rare exceptions (1952 Baseball high numbers), Topps would muck around with short prints on a row-by-row basis for their Giant Size cards. That would mean a 110 card sheet as was used in 1955 should have a total number of short prints divisible by either 10 (portrait) or 11 (landscape). 34 does not work in this scenario but an examination of a partial uncut sheet reveals a haphazard arrangement.
This fifty card partial appeared in a Legendary Auction awhile back; another partial is known with the same configuration and subsections of it have also been sighted:
The back is intact:
I plotted all the numbers onto a spreadsheet and here is what I came up with:
The lack of a pattern across full rows or columns makes me wonder if the SP's are properly identified. And there are 31 of the 34 on less than half the sheet, which does not make sense. Anything is possible, especially since Topps was stuffing over 20 cards into some cello packs in their final beat down of Bowman but I would have expected three rows of cards to show up with SP's occupying each slot. Another problem is that there would have to be some overprinted cards if 34 are short prints. While I cannot find any listings for overprints, I have to think they exist. If anything, I would have expected a run that hinted at either 20 overprints and no short prints but if you throw over 20% of the set into one pack, I guess you have to throttle things a bit. Tinsley and White had swapped backs in the first run, in case you were wondering why I highlighted them.
Did Topps mix up their short prints in a random, yet biased pattern? Is the conventional hobby wisdom on the SP's flawed? I am not sure what the answer is yet.