Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thinking outside the box

There is a lot of talk about whether cards look better with or without borders. I can see points for both, but in general I'm a border guy. Borders help make a set distinguishable over time. Most Fleer Ultra sets will never be able to say that.

But here is one thing about bordered sets that I've never seen brought up anywhere else, and it has to do with the 1991 Topps set:

Some of the player images OVERLAP THE BORDER!

Here is what I mean:

Felix Fermin's foot doesn't get cut off at the toe just because his spikes have hit the white border. They overlap into the white space!

Why all the exclamation points?

Well, up until this time, as far as I can tell, Topps sets featured a clearly defined border. And the image didn't stray into it. Pick whatever pre-1991 set you want. There's no glove straying into the black edges in 1971 Topps. There's no bat wandering into the purple of 1975 Topps. There's no elbow bumping up against the hockey stick in 1982 Topps.

But in 1991 Topps, time and again ...

... players are breaking the border wall.

It's like they've entered into a new dimension. All those years of being confined within four corners. All those "rules" about the pristine white border. So constraining.

It didn't matter anymore. Did it, Dwight Evans' bat?

I knew there was a reason I liked 1991 Topps other than the original, terrific photography. They were literally thinking outside the box!

However, I'm not willing to give Topps full credit.

I have my suspicions that it got this border-barrier-breaking idea from somewhere else. And, no, it was not Upper Deck.

It was Fleer.

During the late 1980s, Fleer went with very thick borders. I don't even think you can call them borders in some cases. And there's no way they could get a full major league baseball player within the photo space reserved for, say 1989 Fleer.

So the players instead broke out into the border, most notably in 1990 Fleer.

I think this is where the '91 Topps idea originated.

Early '90s Classic did the same thing periodically.

But even if it wasn't original I think it was best executed  by '91 Topps.

Now, if only it could have been done with 2008 Topps.


  1. Nice selection of examples. I think it is a cool effect on those cards. Never thought about the Fleer Connection. I like how there are a handful of 2010 Topps cards where some element of the Photo overlays the big wave swoosh.

  2. I sort of just ripped a pack of 1990 Fleer shortly before reading this, pulling 21 such cards from a 100 card repack. The only card that didn't break the border was a subset design.

  3. I love 1991 Topps and how it overlaps the border, but there's a set that precedes all of these, although the border overlap is subtle and doesn't occur on absolutely every card...

    1964 Topps.

    1. How very late '80s Fleer of 1964 Topps. :)

      You're right it's pretty subtle on '64 Topps and not as dramatic or as interesting as '91 Topps.

  4. Mine will be an unpopular opinion, but that has never stopped me before. I dislike it when image bleeds into the border, but I understand the counterpoint. The way I have always looked at is that if the border is going to be there, then it needs to be used like a border. If you put a border on your wall, you don't tear a piece out to let the wall shines through. I agree that the white border is boring and unnecessary at times, but if it is going to be used it should be used properly.

  5. I wish 1988 Score had done this with that stupid inside the border line...

  6. All those overlaps require the graphic artists to do a lot of cut outs, which I've done many times, and it's time consuming and kind of dreary work. The big effort was on 92 Score where they chopped out a third of the background, replaced it with a gradient, then had the player overlap the gradient, which required a lot of cut out work. Of course, I may be the only one who knows that since I may be the only person that's ever seen 92 Score.

  7. 1964 isn't the earliest Topps did this--most of the heads on 1959 Topps Football overlap the top border (I have no idea if anybody did it before 1959). It's a thin border, too, so a miscut ends up lopping off the the top of a head, and then of course there's the corresponding floating scalp on a different card.