Monday, February 23, 2009

Complementary colors

It may seem odd to some, but the colors that card companies use in their designs each year are important to me, as they are for many collectors. In a perfect world, we would like to see the design colors reflect the teams' colors. Red for the Reds and Red Sox, blue for the Blue Jays, orange for the Orioles, and fill-in-the-blank for whatever color the Diamondbacks are wearing these days.

Sometimes that's not possible when the design is the same regardless of the team. Or when the color scheme is all over the place like 1975 or 1990 Topps.

It's interesting because I absolutely love the '75 set and all its wackadoo colors, but for other sets, like 1981 or 1992 Topps, I insist on proper color representation for my team.

All this comes to mind because of some Dodgers cards that arrived today from madding of Cards on Cards. He sent some because I am trying to complete separate Dodger team sets for years in which I have the whole set. And a number of those years come during an era in which Topps was doing everything in their power to avoid the color blue when featuring the Dodgers.

In 1979, as shown up top, Topps thought pink would be an appropriate color to feature on Dodger cards. Now, imagine that you are a 13-year-old boy, just coming to terms with what it means to be of the male persuasion and you pull cards of your favorite team and the first color you see is pink. Ugh.

This set, to this day, is one of my least favorite Topps sets and a lot of it comes from the fact that I didn't like the Dodger cards that year.

So, for the following year, I was looking forward to a better color selection for the Dodgers. Perhaps blue, maybe? That would be a good color, right? Bleeding Dodger blue and all that?

Topps didn't think so. They chose more pink on the position flag and red and yellow for the team flag. Pink, red and yellow do not go together. The whole combination is jarring. The team flag colors were a lot like the colors Topps chose for the Dodgers in 1966:

Again, red and yellow is not a good look for the Dodgers. But the 1980 cards were better than the 1979 ones and that year was the first time I ever tried to complete an entire set. It's one of several complete sets from the '80s I have today.

In 1981, Topps had competition from Fleer and Donruss. But to kids of that era, Topps was still king. The other brands, we thought, were infringing on Topps' territory. And, geez, how could we afford to collect three sets? So, I was looking forward to what Topps could do, and as always, what the Dodgers cards would look like.

And what did I get for my loyalty? More pink. All those girls who were collecting Strawberry Shortcake dolls back then? These were the cards for you. I, meanwhile, was appalled. The blue hat was the first blue used in a Topps design on a Dodger card since 1978. But the overwhelming pink theme disappointed me. I collected fewer Topps cards that year than I had in five years. Again, I blame the color scheme.

By 1982, I was in high school and although I still collected cards, they didn't mean as much to me. Still, a small part of me looked forward to what Topps had in store for the Dodgers. I went out to the strip mall near me and picked up some cards at the drug store.

MORE PINK! @$%#&@! What is going on! And they added purple to the mix, too. Well, the "My Little Pony" crowd is certainly happy with these cards!

That same year Fleer featured blurry photos and a ton of errors but at least they had enough sense to use blue with the Dodgers cards. I much preferred the Fleer in 1982.

By 1983, I cared even less. I was three months away from graduating from high school by the time the cards came out. I had a lot more things on my mind. But when the cards came out, I was pleasantly surprised. Finally. FINALLY. Topps used blue with the Dodgers. Of course, they also threw in green, too, which is bizarre, but there was no pink in sight. That set, mostly because of other aspects (action pix, inset photos, etc.), became my favorite set of the 1980s.

From there, Topps did things right with the Dodgers. More blue in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987. Then 1988 came along. I was in college. I bought three cello packs and when I pulled the one Dodger card (I remember it was Alex Trevino), I saw this:


I didn't buy another pack the entire year.

There are other examples of color schemes that don't work with the Dodgers. The green at the bottom of the 1994 cards looks awful. And the green with the 1997 cards is very odd.

In 1972, Topps used gold for the Dodgers. Another perplexing choice. Especially since they used blue for the Pirates, Orioles and Cardinals, three teams with no blue in their uniforms. In 1958, all of the Dodgers have that bright yellow background. If you view all of the cards together it looks like the sun beaming back at you.

The Dodgers aren't the only team to get screwed in the color department on their cards. In 1981, it was green for the Rangers, yellow for the Twins and more pink for the Yankees and Tigers. Blue for the Pirates in 1979. Green for the Reds in 1972. What are your least favorite color designs for your teams?

If it wasn't for Topps getting it perfect sometimes (black and yellow for the Pirates, and blue and orange for the Mets in '81), I'd think that maybe there was some reason for the clashing color schemes. But maybe Topps just doesn't put as much thought into that stuff as collectors do.

And sometimes the color can be off and it doesn't matter. Like this card.

It's pink. But it's perfect.


  1. Thank you for this post. I could never figure out the rhyme or reason Topps used goofy colors that had nothing to do with the teams. I just got used to it after a while. Andy of '78 Topps fames theorizes Topps was trying to balance the colors of ink used. Who knows. All I know is as a kid Topps used purple and orange for the Pirates in '82. Blue! and gold in '83. Gold, red! and white? in '88. Black and gray? in '89 and so on. I could never figure out what was wrong using black and gold.

  2. I dub thee The Stinky Pinkys of Los Angeles.