Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Red Back, Wrong Back

Well your blogmaster picked up a very odd 1951 Topps Red Back last week. Offered for sale was a split panel of #7 Howie and #12 Jim Hegan:

 I already have an example of an intact panel plus a full set, so it wasn't those two mugs that grabbed my attention but rather what was shaking on the backs of these cards:

Yes, that is a large portion of the reverse of a 1951 Topps Team card!  This particular oddity was likely produced during the second run of Red Backs and Teams, where brilliant white stock was used (the first run was cream for both sets). I believe this would mean the Team cards were of the undated variety, the 1950 dated versions coming last since they only come on brilliant white stock.

So what to make of this monster?  Well, I think it means the Teams, which were on the same sheet as the Connie Mack All Stars (see the miscut below to see how they were next to each other on the sheet), but probably not the Red Backs, had been run off first.

My initial operating theory is that the red ink for the Team cards, which is the same as used on the Red Backs, was run off on a couple of Red Back sheets as a color test, then put aside to be used to  used with other waste sheets as protection on the tops and bottoms of each stack of uncut sheets as they were palletized and banded for transportation from the printer in Baltimore to Brooklyn. I still think that latter part is correct but am rehthinking if all three sets were on the same sheet since they were sold together as Baseball Candy in 1951

The orientation is right I think when my miscut backs are compared to Connie Mack above- printed to the side and not atop a Team card.

I have never seen anything like these two Red Backs and wonder if any more are out there.  I started a thread on Net54 about them as well, which may be worth checking in on. Hopefully more information can be developed.


Matthew Glidden said...

Re-reading the 1951 section of your book and this post made me wonder:

What if the Teams set size (9) indicates a "filler" release for "red ink" sheet space?

9 teams + 11 Connie Mack = 2 vertical rows of 10, with remaining vertical rows of 20 Red Backs filling out sheets left-to-right for white / cream print runs. Later, given strong Red Back sales and legal issues with Teams cards, Topps switches to a) Red Back-only sheets on white / cream stock and b) limited numbers of Connie Mack + 1950 Teams on tan stock.

That could mean Topps never meant to print all MLB teams, if only 9 fit on the combo sheet. In this case, including a Ty Cobb card (if intended) would've changed the layout to 8 Teams and 12 Connie Mack.

Your PDF's Red Backs section noted that Topps printers sometimes swapped front and back gloss. With the above 9 + 11 + Red Backs layout, a sheet put in backwards after printing the fronts yields the Red Back front / Teams back combo you uncovered. It would also produce Connie Mack cards with rounded corners, as are thought to exist.

What do you think, is this a plausible print layout that covers what you've seen?

toppcat said...

Matt-it could be. This print freak has me reconsidering a few things. I am going to cross-post your comment over at Net54 if you don't mind and see if anyone else can amplify. The sheets are probably larger than would hold a full set of each in that scenario as there would be 26 paired Red Backs to account for.

Comparing to Look n See, which is the nearest set in time with these dimensions, suggests a possible print array of 11 x 11 for 121 cards the size of a single Red Back. If you take 20 possible Teams and Connie Macks, that takes 40 slots and we add 52 to get to 92, so some would be double printed so there is room.

Matthew Glidden said...

Interesting, didn't think of Look n See as a proximate release. That would also make sense and shows how it's easy for baseball collectors (me) to consider only baseball. :-)

I suppose it'd help to link the red sheet print strategy to their blue sheet printing in this case, unless each product was printed at different shops. You'd still have 11 All-Stars (8 + 3 withdrawn) on blue sheets, but no Teams to provide filler.

Had the parallel thought that the Topps Russell Archives assets only included 9 usable team photos, establishing the set size, but don't think that's connected to a specific sheet layout and Russell likely would've covered every team at some point.