Saturday, March 10, 2012

ONE SHEET, ONE SET - 1971/72 Topps

Time to show off a few more of the vintage goodies from my antique show haul of a couple weeks ago.

These cards were some of the nicest I've seen from this release (although I haven't really been hunting for them too hard) and the price was really nice.

In doing some research about this set, I've found some really neat information that I'll share at the end.

But for now, let's take a look at the design and layout from a truly memorable year.

1971/72 Topps

Now, before I start, I'll say that the OPC version from this year remains one of the most sought after sets from the 70's (maybe even of all vintage sets) and is a huge challenge to find in top shape.

The Topps counterpart is equally as appealing but has a number of benefits that really draws in a crowd.

The design is definitely an iconic one. Collectors can immediately point out these unique oval shaped, bubble lettered gems from a mile away. But does that necessarily make the card layout a good one?

I might become a little unpopular here for a moment, but I don't think the appeal to these cards from a design point is nearly as strong as some of its neighbouring releases. While the oval card shape with blue ring border and bubble letter team name are indeed unlike any other release, the 'wow factor' of the set pretty much ends there.

Yes, there's a team logo in the bottom right. Yes, there's the players name in the bottom left. Yes, there's the position in the bottom right. But that's it. All you're left with is the photo.

And that's where this set really falls short.

The 71/72 set might have utilized the 'cutout' of players, but the lack of background in the shots is more a miss than anything.

The pastel colors that act as a background might seem neat to some, but I think that it hurts the overall card design. Add to that the absolute top to bottom boring shots used in the set and I just can't get past it. In other years there was some attempt at action shots, but these cards just have a disconnect for me.

Further to that, a number of cards utilize the 'head swap' and 'jersey airbrushing'. It just loses points....simple as that.

If you disagree (and have some 70's cards handy) take a moment to do some comparing. Sets from 73/74, 75/76 and 77/78 are way ahead when it comes to photo presentation. Even the 69/70 release has a better selection in my opinion.

So what is it about the 71/72 set that has that mass appeal? I think it's because a number of the cards have that 'instant recognition' factor......because of the lack of (I'll call it) photo excitement.

Like a crappy commercial - you remember it.

Think of the Ken Dryden rookie, the Marcel Dionne rookie, the Guy 'La Fleur' rookie. To the vintage collector - automatic recall. Boring cards, but easily describable.

But enough about the card front. For what may seem like a lot of negatives on my part, this set does have some positives.

The card back is one of my favorites from the 70's and ranks high when it comes to all-time card backs.

The instantly recognizable 'darker tone' cardboard immediately indicates that this is a Topps release (plus the fact that there is no French on the card). The green and yellow tones on this darker cardboard really give off a neat color palette.

Although blocky, the layout is really clean and organized. I love the placement and fonts used for the player name, position, team and card number. It shows that a little time and care can really take something simple and make it impressive.

The player's attributes in one box and a cartoon unique to the individual in the other really gives some aesthetic balance in addition to good, simple information.

The green on yellow for the tidbit of info in the middle of the card really punches out nice. Its size is also relative to the stats below. Fewer years played, more tidbit - and vice versa (the Delvecchio in my sheet has just a single line of info while it includes 20 years of stats - all with Detroit. It's pretty cool to look at).

Speaking of stats, there complete. Complete player stats. Thank you vintage cards.

Again, I like the fonts used for the statistics as well as the sizing. Everything just fits nicely and the card back has a great overall look. It's not crammed in there at all. (note....just a little mice type at the bottom of the card too as opposed to loads of logos and muck).

Probably the coolest part of the card back for this set is that it is unique to the Topps release.

Here's the OPC card back from the same year.

It's pretty nice too. Similar ideas, but I love that Topps has something different. It's happened a couple times before, but it's rare to see. And often overlooked until you do a direct comparison.

When you take a look at the card design as a whole, it's got a lot of great attributes. Sure there are a few things I'd like to have seen done differently, but I think that's why this set is so sought after. It's unlike anything else ever released in the vintage era.

But what I really like about the Topps version are the set differences to its OPC counterpart.

In addition to the differing card backs, the Topps release is half the size of the OPC (132 cards vs. 264). That makes it a much more manageable set to build.

Half the size, and how about less than a quarter of the price of the OPC version. That's right...while the OPC set books for $1000-1500, the Topps release comes in around $200-350. A huge difference.

Why? Well, because it's half the size, there are some key cards missing (like the Lafleur RC, the Dionne RC, all the trophy cards, the Howe and Beliveau tribute cards just to name a few).

In fact, the only rookie card of note in the release is the Ken Dryden (and one could probably land a nice copy of it for under $100.

But less cards doesn't necessarily mean less interest. The Topps version has cards unique to its set. There are League Leaders cards (not included in the OPC release) and there's a Gordie Howe base card (that doesn't appear in the OPC version because Howe has a tribute card instead).

There's a lot of really cool things about the 71/72 Topps set. It looks like a fun build. A challenge for the vintage set builder (since cards from that era are always tough to find in tip top shape....and centered), a much less expensive option compared to its OPC brother and in the end can be just as rewarding to complete.

That doesn't forgive the below average photo selection. And at the end of the day, I'm scoring on design only.

3 out of 5


  1. I completely agree with everything you said, but I still love 'em and would sacrifice puppies to get them.

    1. You and a lot of other people.

      In the end, there a 'must have' set. No argument there.