Monday, October 24, 2011

Never underestimate the memory of a card collector

I am convinced that when I am a night owl of advanced years, living at the friendly, neighborhood old folks home, losing bits of my memory every day, my knowledge of baseball card minutiae will be the last to go.

I probably won't retain much in those days. My daughter's married name? Gone. My favorite foods? Gone. But I will still remember Phil Garner's reverse negative 1982 Donruss card and Glenn Hubbard's '84 Fleer snake photo.

Another example of that steel trap collector's memory exhibited itself as I was sorting the 1981 Topps Traded set (yes, I'm still writing about this thing). As I mentioned before, the vast majority of the cards in this set are all new to me. I've never seen the cards before. But then I came across this card of Bill Fahey, a career-long backup catcher for a variety of teams.

"Wait a minute," I thought. "I've seen this card before. I've seen this photo before. Did Topps repeat Fahey's card?"

Well, yeah, they sort of did.

That is Fahey's 1982 Topps card. It's the same photo, just cropped a little looser than the 1981 Traded card.

Of course, this fascinated me so much that I had to go through a bunch of other '81 Traded cards and compare them with the '82 Topps set.

The first card I went to after Fahey was another card that looked suspiciously familiar.

Here is Frank Tanana's first Topps card as a Red Sox player.

And here is Tanana's second Topps card as a Red Sox, the last card in the 1982 set. And it's the exact same photo.

I didn't find anything else as blatant as the Fahey and Tanana examples, but there were a number of photos that you could tell were taken at the same time, maybe even a few clicks away from each other.

They simply turned Gene Nelson around for his 1982 shot.

Mike Proly is still hanging out in the dugout, looking this way and that.

Lenny Randle is still in Yankee Stadium, looking this way and that.

This isn't the first time Topps reused a Bill Travers photo shoot.

We can't let that magnificent mustache go to waste.

Topps even went back to the same well for action photos. I believe this is from the same game.

This one, too, judging by the fans in the stands. It appears that it either got warmer or colder as the game progressed (depending on which photo was taken earlier), because one of the coaches in the dugout has removed his jacket.

There are several other cards in which it's fairly obvious that each photo came from the same day. A closeup shot on one card and a full body shot on another card, but everything else is the same. A photo of a player in the batting cage in one photo and a head shot in the other photo, but the exact same jersey and T-shirt.

I'm not sure when the 1981 Traded set was released, but it's understandable that Topps did this. There couldn't have been a lot of time between the release of the '81 Traded set and the 1982 set. To Topps' credit, when it came to the airbrushed cards in the '81 Traded set, Topps did seem to try to find updated shots of the player in his new uniform for the 1982 set.

Although I'm not so sure about this one:

A hatless Bob Walk featuring a likely airbrushed Braves uniform (that Atlanta script looks much too small) in the '81 Traded set.

I think Topps just plopped a Braves cap on him for 1982.

So, there you go. All of that after getting suspicious about one Bill Fahey card. And now I'm probably going to have to check all my other traded cards from this time period.

By the way, if you're unlucky enough to be my roommate in the old folks home, this is the kind of stuff you can expect to hear out of me.

That and '80s rock n' roll.

Just a warning.


  1. If I don't drop dead of diabetes from all the sugary sweet ponies, I'll be happy to be your roomie when we're both in Depends. I might even listen to some of your rambling before I yank my hearing aid!

  2. I love this, but... I feel so cheated.

    I'll add one more to your list.... check out the '81 Topps Traded & '82 base set Fred Lynn. I think there's probably more than we know, I'm just not familiar enough with the '81 Traded's.

    Man, you talkin' about '81/'82 lately has got me thinkin' about coming out of my hiatus far sooner than April. ;-)

  3. Here's to all the spouses and significant others out there (especially mine) that put up with this kind of thing every day.

  4. Makes you wonder how many people even noticed 30 years ago...

  5. Great work on the photo research!

  6. Compare the 1982 Topps Rod Carew In Action with the 1982 Fleer Rod Carew

  7. Yup, I'm aware of the Carews. That was a case of a photographer selling the same photo to each card company. It was well-documented in '82.

  8. Maybe we should all retire to the same home.

  9. Got the complete set this week also and the one that jumped out at me is Rick Bosetti. His 82 Topps is a cropped version of the 81 TT card.

  10. Check out the 1987 Topps Traded Lance Parrish and the 1988 Topps Lance Parrish. Some photo -- just every so-slightly cropped for '88.