Monday, December 16, 2013

Color my world

I love color. Have I established this? I have. How much do I love color? I love color so much that I'm envious of women in the summertime and black NFL players at the ESPYs. I'd like to wear something as showstopping as all that.

I love color so much that I want to be one of those artists who throws different shades of paint against a wall and people rave about it.

I love color so much that I never want to be color-blind, a dog or live in the '50s.

I always want to see color and all of it.

This is why my favorite baseball card sets are the same ones that some consider garish, ugly or the worst ever. They want to live in a dignified, well-balanced, limited hue world. How dull of them. I'll be over here trying to win the lights and display contest.

Yep, I've gone commercial.

And tonight, I'm going to roll around in that beautiful palette and reveal a post I've been sitting on for a long time.

I'm going to count down the Top 10 most colorful baseball card sets of all-time.

Don't worry, I'll give you time to find your sunglasses.

Only a couple of rules here before we begin.

First, "colorful" is not the same as "bright" or "flashy." 1991 Fleer is "bright." Late 1990s Bowman's Best is "flashy." But I wouldn't consider either "colorful." Colorful, to me, is defined as multiple colors on a single card. So that also rules out sets like 1959 Topps and 2004 Finest, both of which I love for their respective color schemes, but they fall slightly short in the "overkill of color" department.

Second, I've eliminated food sets from contention. If I included them, this countdown would be nothing but food sets. But I like to think of card company sets as being a little more committed to design than food sets. Food sets are just trying to get you to buy their food. So they'll make the cards as eye-popping as possible.

OK, now we're ready.

Activate sunglasses if you must.

The 10 Most Colorful Baseball Card Sets Of All-Time

10. 2002 Fleer Tradition

Compared with the sets to come this one is downright subdued. But it really stands out during an era when card design shied away from multi-color displays. Also, please note, the set is made in America, even if two of the players featured here are not.

9. 1994 Topps Finest

I was tempted to eliminate this from contention because the cards don't vary much from each other. But any set that includes every color of the rainbow on each card needs to be included. There's a reason I call this set "The Carnival Midway Set."

8. 1990 Topps

Often considered one of the ugliest sets ever made, you can't deny that it's colorful. I secretly enjoy this set just because of how dismissive Topps was with conventional color rules here. Purple, blue, green AND orange? Surrrrre! Why not? Believe it or not, some of the cards on their own are quite enjoyable.

7. 1998 Circa Thunder

Sure, the cards make you feel like you're going to get sucked into a 1970s psychedelic color vortex. That's why I like them. I also like them for being vastly out of step with all of the silver and gold mojo going on during the late '90s.

6. 1980 TCMA Baseball Immortals

I think all these cards came from Max. He finds the best stuff. I've loved this set since I first saw it in a mail-order catalog. As you can tell, it pays tribute to another set that we will see very soon. And that is a very good thing.

5. 1990 Classic

I don't know who was responsible for all the neon in the late 1980s. Miami Vice? Ocean Pacific? The Fresh Prince? It sure produced some eye-straining stuff. But 1990 Classic is nothing but fun, as long as you don't wear those designs on your pants.

4. 2001 Upper Deck '70s Decade

Upper Deck didn't give in to color like Topps did. UD's most colorful sets were targeted at kids, which is marginalizing color if you ask me. So it's understandable that its most colorful set -- and the only UD set I'm trying to complete -- is a rip-off of a Topps set.

3. 1960 Topps

The 1950s and '60s was a great time for lots of bright colors. These sets have a lot in common with the food sets that would pop up in the '80s and '90s, except that Topps devoted hundreds of cards to being devastatingly colorful. The most colorful of all was 1960 Topps. You don't even notice the one image is black and white.

2. 1972 Topps

I would love to hear from people who came up with the designs for past Topps sets. What was the inspiration for the '72 set, especially after two relatively bleak sets -- color-wise anyway -- like 1970 and 1971 Topps? At any rate, this set is a classic and, as I've said before, kind of in the back of my brain as the template for all card sets.

1. 1975 Topps

Everyone knew this would be No. 1, right? I know I'm a little biased, but I would hope that this set would be in everyone's top 3. I don't think it's possible to ever make a set more colorful than this one. But I sure wish someone would try.

Today, color seems to be reserved for parallels and inserts. Color is used as an enticement to buy more cards. I'd rather see card companies put their color in the main set. Perhaps then they would one day make something as memorable as 1972 or 1975 Topps.

Don't get nervous with color!

They're just cards after all.

It's not like anyone's asking you to wear these colors.

Not that there would be anything wrong with that.


  1. I would go with 1972 as number 1 and number 2. I think you overrated 1990 Topps. While there is lots of colors in the set - the set really is not Colorful. I know it sounds odd but when I think of colorful sets I think of 1981 Donruss and 1965 Topps. Maybe it was the thin white card board the yellow team names and color lined outline on the cards stand out. Also. on 1965 Topps those Colorful banners and team names. Get 9 cards from each set and put them in plastics sheets and i think you will see what I mean

    1. You're right. It does sound odd. I'm defining "colorful" as multi-colored and I said in the post that the card must be colorful by itself, not based on how it looks collectively with other cards in the set. 1965 Topps is colorful, but not colorful enough.

  2. I always figured 1972 Topps happened something like this:

    Manager dude: We've gotten some letters that the designs the last couple years have been drab...

    Stoner design dude: I'll make some sug...

    *every one in room* no!!!

    conservative design dude: (slightly miffed) oh? they want color? I'll give them color...

    [draws most ridiculous thing he could think of...]

    manager dude: That's brilliant!

    *conservative design dude faints*

    and, scene.

  3. I think '95 Fleer is one of the more colorful sets not on this list. Yes, 99 percent of collectors seem to hate it. There's no denying it was a wildly colorful set, though. I think '75 Topps would be my #1 as well.

  4. Staring at those Thunder cards gave me a headache. Gotta dig all those colors though.

  5. It's time for Topps to pull a color explosion out of the hat, right? 1972 was perfect after the grey and black of '70-'71. 1975 was perfect after the white-bordered, subtle color of '73-'74. After these two super-white sets in '13-'14 howzabout we get psychedelic again, Topps? It's time. Good call.

  6. Thanks. I like the colorful ... and the shiny, too. But those 94 Finest cards that are colorful and fully shine-ified, they just look like a mess to me. Gotta love 72 and 75 Topps though. Good choices.

  7. Wow That's one bloody rainbow post.
    Sadly we don't see those colourful cards anymore. They always go for the clean-design.