Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A year of Topps designs: 1973

 I thought it might be interesting to take a look at Topps designs year-by-year, as they would have been consumed by the card-buying public (mostly kids in the vintage era). Here's a start with the only year where I currently own cards for all four sports, 1973. I have a few vintage basketball and hockey cards to trade. I happened to pull the baseball and football card from my trade boxes too:

First thing that stands out is how different the hockey design is from the other three. I wonder if the hockey cards were designed by the folks at O-Pee-Chee, where the other three sports were designed in the US?

The second thing that jumps out to me is that the other three designs are actually quite similar. All have white borders with a thick black line, and then a single addition to the design - the little baseball player, the banner, the large team name. While each design is certainly unique, there is enough similarity among the big three American sports that it felt like a unified brand for 1973.

The subsets in baseball and football mostly stayed within the pattern of the base cards. One similarity is that both baseball and football included Boyhood Photos cards. While there were six in baseball, each a separate card from that player's base card, there were only three in football, and those were the base card - for example this is the only card of Roman Gabriel in the set, and his full stats are on the back.
Certainly some similarities in design, most notably the blue font on top and pink on bottom. 

What other cards was Topps producing in '73? There were Wacky Packages, of course. Not really relevant for a design comparison because those were just the wacky package and nothing else. 

Creature Feature/You'll Die Laughing was a rehash of a 1966 set with monster jokes. The difference was that the '66 set had artwork of the monsters, the licensing of whom was from Universal. In '73, they just used photos instead of hiring an artist to make new drawings. The one exception was that the human faces could not be re-used - those were all replaced with the heads of Topps employees. Read this article from The Wrapper for more info on the set. Certainly as bare-boned a design as they come. Here is an example where you can see how the human heads do not fit naturally.
A much more polished look could be found in the 60-card set produced for the hit movie, Kung Fu. A pretty simple design, but much more clean and finished looking.
A very similar design was used in a test issue for another TV show, The Waltons, but a full card set was never produced. You can read more about it on the Topps Archives blog.


  1. Kung Fu was a television series, starring David Carradine, not a movie.

  2. I think the 73 football kind of resembles 74 baseball for some reason.

  3. The 1972-73 Topps basketball set design is awesome... and that Goodrich with the behind the back pass is really, really cool.

  4. Good eye on the font similarities across the baseball and football sets!