Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tying up loose ends on the '75 blog

As most of you know, I finished off my blog dedicated to the 1975 Topps set this week. I had a lot of fun with that blog and it's sad to see it end. But I've said my final goodbyes and everything, so it's not like I can turn the airplane around.

Yet, here I am still writing about the '75 set -- and I plan to be doing so for as long as this blog is operating.

Since I can't add any more posts to the '75 blog, I have to tie up some loose ends here.

For example, the issue of the border colors.

On the other blog, I added up all the border colors and it came down to a nice neat list:

1. Green-light green: 55
2. Green-purple: 55
3. Orange-brown: 55
4. Pink-yellow: 55
5. Purple-pink: 55
6. Yellow-red: 39
7. Brown-orange: 33
8. Green-yellow: 33
9. Light blue-green: 33
10. Orange-yellow: 33
11. Red-orange: 33
12. Yellow-light blue: 33
13. Blue-orange: 22
14. Blue-tan: 22
15. Red-blue: 22
16. Red-yellow: 22
17. Tan-light blue: 22
18. Yellow-green: 22

As several readers said, it was interesting to see such a tidy list come out of what seemed to be nothing more than a random arrangement of brightly colored borders.

Some readers who are more numerically inclined than I found a logical pattern in those numbers. Since almost all of the above numbers are divisible by 11, reader 1967ers surmised that each sheet of 1975 Topps cards contained 11 columns. Reader MCT said that Topps sets at the time had 132 cards. That means each sheet was 12 rows deep (11x12=132). And that means there were five sheets altogether (132x5=660).

Reader Jim Q figured that Topps used its most common color combinations (the ones that appeared 55 times each) 50 percent of the time, the second-most common color combinations (the ones that appeared 33 times each) 30 percent of the time, and the least-used color combinations (the ones that appeared 22 times each) 20 percent of the time.

But there was a sticking point. If you noticed the color combinations, there is one number that is not divisible by 11. The yellow-red combination appears 39 times in the set.

However, the All-Star cards in the set also have yellow-red borders. So, adding the 17 All-Star cards in the set, I came up with 56 total yellow-red cards.

But 56 isn't divisible by 11 either.

There must've been an error somewhere. I noticed that. Several readers noticed that.

But I checked for two days -- when I had time -- and I couldn't find one. I searched all the yellow-red cards to see if I somehow mistakenly attributed a card that was NOT yellow-red as having a yellow-red border. But I didn't.

Even though I'm not a statistical analysis/combinations/permutations guy (I was scarred severely by this subject matter in college), this was starting to annoy me.

As reader MCT mentioned, the 56 total MUST be 55, because if it is, then there are six color combinations with 55 cards, which adds up to 330. And then there are six color combinations with 33 cards, which adds up to 198. And then there are six color combinations with 22 cards, which adds up to 132. And 330+198+132=660.

So I searched again. I searched all the All-Star cards this time. I searched and searched until the end (or is it the beginning?) of the blog. And I found the culprit:

Card No. 1.

Hank, you sneaky bastard.

I was assuming that all the All-Star cards had yellow-red borders! I forgot that one of them had an orange-brown border!

That means there are only 16 yellow-red All-Star cards. Add that 16 to the other 39 yellow-red cards and you get:


And yellow-red is now the sixth color combination with 55 cards.

So it all fits.

And if you're not mathematically inclined, just trust me.

It all fits.

I'm so happy that's off my mind.

As a reward for reading through all of that, here are my favorite cartoons from 1975 Topps -- as selected by the 9-year-old in me. I intended to list these on the '75 blog and I forgot.

These were my favorites when I was collecting the set back then. There are no numbers here. Just drawings and mindless commentary from a 9-year-old me:

Hee-hee. The mean man has a gun and a bat.

Cool! The ball went through his HAND!

Ebbets Field had a gingerbread roof?

Cool. The base is one fire!

Cool! Skulls! Poison!

(It's a wonder I emerged out of childhood in one piece).

I like TV, too!

Hee-Hee! The guy looks funny staring at the soap bubble!

That guy hid behind the gas station pumps and caught the ball!

There's a dragon monster at the ballpark!

Hee-hee. The tiny ball is making his hand big!

Thanks again to those of you who read the blog over there. And to those of you too young to know what collecting was about in the '70s, check it out sometime.

It was far out.


  1. Great deductions, (kudos to MCT also) this is invaluable historical information about card the set -this reminds me of an article from Baseball Card from 1984 as it tried to reconstruct the 1956 Topps baseball sheets

  2. Excellent stuff here Night Owl, I never would have looked at any set that way. Any other sets on the horizon you're thinking about writing in depth on? I'm sorry I missed the 75 chronicles, but will follow for sure the next vintage set you decide to write about (if indeed you do start another)

  3. Totally stealing this post when I get to 1975 next spring. Good job wrapping up the blog. I don't think I've finished anything ever on my blog.

  4. Nice wrap up, Mr Nite Owl. Had fun following along and reliving the cards that I used to call "The ugliest set Topps had produced" at least until the late 90s came around.
    I appreciate it much more now, thanks to you.

    The Green Monster cartoon was my favorite as a kid.
    As was the one with Bo Belinsky with the play boy bunny (that's a '75, right?)

  5. Belinsky and the Playboy Bunny is on the back of the '77 Bill Russell card. I should know. It's a Dodger card:

    Robert ~

    I've got plans, but I'm taking a break right now.

  6. Love the colorful 75 set... especially the cartoons.

    Mark Koenig threw a baseball that was clocked at 127 MPH? That's crazy!

  7. Thanks Night Owl for the great work on the '75 Blog. I enjoyed reading it every night during my lunch at work (yes a fellow 3rd shifter. You've inspired me to tackle the 1983 Topps set.

    Thanks, Brandon

  8. or, something could have been double printed, bringing the total to 56.

  9. I've never come across anything saying that any of the cards in the '75 set were double-printed. That was a known practice other years and listed as such (I first came across it in '78 -- when it was evident that certain cards were appearing more often). But I didn't experience that in '75.

  10. It would have had to have been 11 cards across and 12 rows deep. This would allow Topps to run bands of colour across the sheet. The bottom band of one card would be the same colour as the top band of the next row. That's why the off-centre cuts never reveal a third colour.

    If we really looked at the colour breakdowns, it might be possible to guess the order of the colour bands on the sheets.

    I really enjoyed this as well. I love how you guys can pick out the old ballparks. I can never tell.

    One of the local shops has an entire set of the minis. No idea what he wants for it.

  11. That sheet size was probably the standard for quite some time. I just checked an '84-85 OPC hockey set that I have uncut and it's also 11 across by 12 deep. 3*132

    I saw a '64-65 Tall Boys uncut sheet and it was also 11 across, though the height meant that they could only put 9 rows per sheet (which meant 20% of the set ended up short-printed, the rotters).

  12. I have one final '75 color combos post that backs up the division of border colors theory, as well as the 11x12, 132-cards-per-sheet conclusion, with pictures as proof. But it's taking me a little while to get together.

    In a day or so.

  13. Are the sheet numbers on the back of 1975 topps cards or was only like a 1980's thing?

    If they are, you could split out your 1975 topps set by sheet number and see if you can at least arrange the cards to look like a sheet using the color borders (the players might not be in the right sequence but it sounds like you can get close by using the colors).