Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Card back countdown: #9 - 1953 Topps

Clem Labine cards on back-to-back posts! It must be Clem Labine week here at Night Owl Cards!

Actually, the Labine card is featured because it's my only 1953 Topps Dodger card. It's here to serve as an example for the No. 9 overall card back in the countdown.

The '53 Topps card back is one of the most original card backs that there is. That's the reason it is on the countdown because overall I'm not terribly enthralled with it. The same goes with the front of the '53 Topps cards. I know that's practically sacrilegious to say here in card blog land with all the love for the painted pictures. But I can only get myself to admire their uniqueness and the effort that went into them. Just can't get into the final product.

Anyway, here is the back:

Among the interesting items on this card back are:

1. The insanely large card number. It's got to be the largest card number ever used for a set. I find it interesting that the dugout quiz references blindness because you'd practically have to be blind not to see that card number.

2. The first cartoons in a Topps base set. I know it's not a cartoon in the traditional sense. But each quiz on each card featured a cartoon-style drawing for the first time. This particular one is interesting, vaguely creepy and politically incorrect all at the same time.

3. The signature overlapping the write-up. Can you imagine if Topps pulled that today? There would be 67 bloggers equipped with torches and pitchforks at Topps' headquarters. It certainly is different. It adds to the overall look of the back, even though it's not exactly user-friendly.

4. The vertical format. After going horizontal in the 1952 set, Topps tried the vertical look. It makes the '53 set stand out. But apparently Topps didn't like it much, because it didn't use a vertical card back in its base set again until 1967.

5. The vertical nature of the player statistics. That's quite unique. I have to stare at the stats for awhile to figure out where things are. I am so used to the horizontal set up with stats. I wonder if any other sets oriented their stats that way.

There are some minor issues with this card back. Readability (black on red is never good) is the big one. But I'm willing to look past them because the '53 set features so many unusual items, especially for its time, that it deserves to be ranked where it is.

The '50s card backs were trend-setters and they should be treated that way.

Best of the set:

When I'm rich and I have more than a handful of '53 Topps, I'll update this. But for now I'm skipping it.

(previous card back countdown selections):

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