The thing about the Topps "monopoly era" is that the card backs from that time all contained the same components. There were vital stats. There were game stats. There was a write-up. There was a cartoon. Between 1952 and 1977 that was the formula for almost every year.
That was fine by me. That's what I grew up with, and I liked it. That's why the card backs from this era are ranked higher than some more modern sets. But in terms of ranking the backs of cards, it's difficult to differentiate between them all. Most of it comes down to personal preference -- do I like the color on the back, do I like the style of cartoon, is the back readable, etc?
So there is not a lot of difference between a card back from, say, 1966 and a card back from 1970. There's no innovation to consider, just personal likes and dislikes.
The 1961 Topps set is not one of my favorites. My complete disinterest in 2010 Heritage confirms my opinion on that. But I think the card back fairs a littler better than the card front.
Not a great color choice for a background. But better than some (I still want to know what what people were smoking when they decided to use orange type on the back of the 1964 Topps set).
Still, everything that you need is there. Complete stats. A nice big card number. And not one, but two, cartoons.
In fact, with some cards in the 1961 set, you got three cartoons.
I like that. The cartoons are fairly simplistic. They convey what is written beneath them, although it's not very creative. The cartoons are rather small. You have to hold them up to your face to read them.
It took me a long time to figure out what was going on with the cartoons here. At first I thought it was one cartoon. Then I kept trying to figure out why a Dodger would be crying about Podres performance in the '55 Series (the pinstripes didn't register right away).
The cartoons also seem to have been drawn by at least two different people. The cartoons on the Davis and Roebuck cards look different.
All in all, the 1961 set has what I want in a card set. It's maybe a little dull, but if you slap a cartoon in there, feature a complete career of stats, and make it readable, that's all I need.
Best of the set:
Not with this one. Like many '50s and '60s cards, I don't have enough to feel comfortable finding the best card.
(previous card back countdown selections):
50. 1978 SSPC Yankee Yearbook
49. 1993 Score
48. 1999 Skybox Thunder
47. 2000 Upper Deck
46. 1999 Skybox Premium
45. 1953 Johnston Cookies Braves
44. 1995 Topps
43. 1997 Fleer
42. 1992 Pinnacle
41. 1989 Bowman
40. 1977 Kellogg's
39. 2004 Topps
38. 2004 Topps Total
37. 1992 Topps
36. 1992 Donruss
35. 2008 Upper Deck Documentary
34. 1963 Fleer
33. 1955 Bowman
32. 2006 Topps