Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A reason for my irrationality

As you may have gathered over the last three-plus years, I have very particular tastes. There are things I like and things I don't and the smallest detail can sway something from one category to another. This is especially true with people ... er, cards.

Sometimes I can't even explain it.

For example, the 1963 Topps set, and now, the 2012 Topps Heritage set. The '63 set is widely known as being colorful with a breakthrough design -- two aspects about card designs that I love. It is appreciated by many collectors and some consider it a favorite of Topps' sets of the '60s.

It should be a favorite of mine, too, considering my love for super-colorful sets like 1972 and 1975 Topps.

But it isn't.

Part of it is I'm just not a fan of the look of early '60s cards and early '60s design in general. The colors, the fonts are off-putting for some reason. I don't know why. That's for another post. As Topps progressed through the '60s, I began to like the sets more (1968 excluded) -- in other words, as it got closer to the '70s. The '70s and '80s are just more my style.

But there is another, bigger reason, for my opinion, which I already knew, but didn't hit home until I saw a post from Nick at Dime Boxes yesterday.

His Obak cards tipped me off.

Obak is a set that a fan of baseball history -- like me -- should love. But I don't. I like most of what's featured and I like the interesting factoids found in Obak, but the look of the cards makes me avoid collecting it.

In each case -- Obak, 1963 Topps, 2012 Topps Heritage -- the reason for my opinion is the same.

I don't like black-and-white and color photos mixing.

It's kind of ugly, and in the case of '63 Topps and its homage, the black-and-white image is almost useless because it appears as a lifeless blob amid all that color. There's a disconnect between that image and the rest of the card.

The scans seem to bring out the black-and-white image more, but I think ol' Frank's card would have looked a lot better if his tiny image was colorized.

If I had the time and ability, I'd do it myself to provide an example.

But I don't and I don't, so I'll just show one of the manager cards from '63. The managers didn't get a second image of themselves. Instead, Topps went with the team logo. But it's all in COLOR. It looks so much better. All of the card elements appear as one.

Now, you may be saying that the logo in the corner has been used countless times and removing the second image takes the heart out of the '63 set. Which is why I would have preferred if they just colorized the small image. You know, like the fantastic 1983 set.

I know I'm being picky. But I'm not alone. When I was first designing the sports section for the newspaper, there was some story that came over the wire about someone from long ago. I had a color image of the person from more recently, but I wanted something from his playing days, too. The story deserved a couple of photos. But all I could find were black-and-white images. So I tried to present them together. Black-and-white and color. It didn't look right.

The editor supervising me saw my attempt and he said, "you never mix black-and-white and color photographs."

I nodded in agreement. It's what my brain felt all along.

Since that time, I've heard that a few other times in the newspaper world. There are ways to get around it. Use the black-and-white photo, but surround it with color graphics and/or lettering. And designers more clever than I can mix a black-and-white photo with a bunch of color without you even noticing -- and definitely without you taking a step back and going "oh, no, that's not right."

And that's what I think when I see '63 Topps, 2012 Heritage and Obak: "Oh, no, that's not right."

Can you imagine if Topps kept the 1972 set with its colorful borders, but made the photograph black-and-white? Ick.

So, yes, I'm picky. Possibly anal retentive. Fussy, definitely. But not insane. Or at least there's a reason for my insanity.

At least I know the reason instead of shrugging my shoulders and saying, "I don't know. It's just ugly."

I know what I like. And now I know why.


  1. You and my wife would get along...always bickering about the little things...just kiddin'. I would have to say 1963 was an awesome year in cards, the game, and America...A 63 Topps was like 63 America, full of change, out with the old, in with the new. Times were changing and so were cards, because the 62 woodgrain was cool NOT! JFK was shot, later Oswold was killed, Viet Cong fighters were getting frisky, the black community was facing it's darkest days of adversity and fighting for equality, the Beatles emerged, the lottery began, and the doctor delivered his speech. Oh and Micheal Jordan was born. Cards are a huge part of American pop culture, rally rodent anyone? The 1963 Topps kind of fit in with the transition of out with the old, and in with the new, no matter how hard it is to accept changes. I dig em!

  2. ...In your defense; the heart wants what the heart wants. No argument there sir...Oh, and gas was something around 30 cents in 1963...Why do I know all of this? nope, I actually didn't google it all, I owe it all to a few failed quarters majoring in History...Good Theng I becam a riter! Now I can paid all my bilz.

  3. You don't like blacks, whites, and coloreds mixing, huh? You're a giant racist!

    Joking aside, I actually don't like the mixing of photos either. For black-and-white to work, there has to be a real dedication to it. B&W photos never work when just thrown in to an otherwise color scene.

  4. I always like it when B&W and color photos mix with a purpose, like in the 1978 Topps Manager cards, the "old" picture is in black and white, and the "current" picture is in color. This contrast works. Here, I have to agree that the style choice is a matter of taste and, I have to agree with you Greg, slightly ill-conceived.

    I always preferred the 1963 Fleer set. The Topps and Fleer sets from these years are kind of kissing cousins, style wise (I have no idea if that is coincidence or purposeful) Then again, I am a sucker for little position icons on my cards (see my love of 1973 and 1976 Topps).

  5. You know, there are a number of old sets that just leave me a little cold, and now that I think of it, every single one has a B&W picture on a coloured background. Interesting.

  6. I've always liked the '63 set because of the round window for the little picture. I didn't give much thought to the color/b&w difference. It is a little distracting, but I can live with it.