Friday, April 1, 2016

Taken for fools

It's no secret that Topps, and other card companies, employ all kinds of trickery to get collectors to buy their products. "Tricks of the trade" has a whole new meaning when every product features 12 different variation sets and the company doesn't announce any of them.

If you're of a particular mind-set, you might think you're being taken for a fool. But fools, in reality, is probably what we are as collectors. We collect little picture cards of athletes, who are better than us only in a talent that quickly becomes irrelevant for 99 percent of the population by the time they're out of school. Is this what we really value in life?

OK, but before I get too deep, I'll steer it back to one of the oldest tricks in Topps' trade. It's their annual April Fool's Day trick, and it continues throughout the year.

I'm referring to the airbrushing and photoshopping that goes on to create alternate realities on those little pieces of cardboard. The photos are not truthful, they're not real, and anybody who believes they are would be a fool -- or feel foolish once they discovered what they what thought was real isn't.

The internet is filled with examples of airbrushed/photoshopped cards, and one of card blogs' main purposes is to point them out. I've done it here and in all of my other blogs.

But on the occasion of this day, instead of pulling some kind of unfunny prank, I dug out 10 airbrushed/photoshopped cards that I haven't shown here before. So, no 1975 Rudy May, no 1987 Mike Laga. These are all new -- except all of the cards are old.

So, here we go, 10 cards of trickery -- 11 if you include Brent "Get The Knack" Knackert up there. Consider it added value.

Danny Walton is featured as an Astro in his too smooth helmet, but he's really not in an Astros uniform. What uniform could he be wearing? Well, that's a good question. Prior to the Astros, he had hit below .200 for the fourth straight time with the Dodgers in 1976. But this 1978 card was also his first Topps card since 1973, a five-year span in which Walton also played for the Twins and various minor league teams. Still, I'm saying it's the Dodgers.

A Blue Jays cap was a dead giveaway of an airbrushing in 1977 because nobody had played for the Blue Jays when the set was first released. I do have to admit though that out of all of the airbrushed Blue Jays caps in the '77 set, this might be the best one. There are some real stinkers.

This is the only one from this group that you could convince me is not airbrushed. After all, Roberge did pitch in 26 games for the Astros in 1979. But that cap. It does not look real at all when you see it in person.

The beauty of 1960s cards is the blatant disregard for any kind of accuracy. In what dimension would an Expos uniform look like that? Topps may have airbrushed the "C" off of Grant's cap, but we all know that's a Cleveland Indians jersey he's wearing, which he hadn't worn since 1964! Did I mention this is a card from 1969?

Perhaps this 1990 airbrushing isn't as obvious as Brent Knackert, but it's a definite art job. Daniels played in just 11 games for the Dodgers in 1989 after being traded by the Reds in July of that year. Apparently there was no photographer available for those 11 games because that cap is far too light for the rest of the photo. It's almost a dream cap.

When I want to put on an airbrushing party, I go right for the 1982 Traded set. That's a set that will play the hits all night. There is so much airbrushing going on that I don't even know if the set is real. Topps is telling you Mike is "Proly" a Cub. There is no way.

More Cubs fun. Moises Alou had played for the Astros through the 2001 season. So how was Topps going to get him in a Cubs uniform for the 2002 set? Through the magic of photoshop, of course! That helmet is too vibrant and the "C" is too large.

Here is Alou again (he moved around a lot). He's trying to convince you that he's not a San Francisco Giant and is really a New York Met. See the road uniform piping? See? He's a Met! Unfortunately, virtually all of the fans in the stands are wearing Giants colors -- and Alou hadn't played a game for the Mets when the 2007 set first appeared. Better photoshopping than the 2002 card, but I'm wise to you.

Players like this must be murder on card producers. Octavio Dotel had played for three teams in 2010, the eighth, ninth and 10th teams of his career. And now you're telling me, he's playing for the Blue Jays? The 11th team? It was too much to handle. I'm thinking Dotel is actually in a Rockies uniform as the Blue Jays gear looks a bit dark and the number is starting to migrate down his mid-section.

It's 2016 and we're altering photos is still as practiced as it was back in the '50s and '60s. Mark Trumbo, who was traded to Baltimore last December, has still yet to play an actual major league game for the Orioles. Yet, magically, here he is -- an Oriole. The Baltimore script is on there without a wrinkle. And somebody colored the cap in Trumbo's helmet orange -- I don't even know if the Orioles wear orange caps.

But in the alternate world that Topps is pitching to us fools, sure they wear orange caps. They've always worn orange caps.

And, so, we dutifully place Trumbo with our other Orioles cards.

It's never been so much fun being a fool.


  1. The 2012 Jays and Marlins cards were interesting.. The flag set had the old uniform while the Opening Day set had some... Interesting.... Photoshop going on..

  2. No way that Danny Walton is a shopped Dodgers jersey, unless they shopped out the buttons too. That's a double knit pullover, and the Dodgers never had a pull over jersey in the 70's.

  3. Mike is Proly a Cub - I found that way funnier than I probably should.

  4. I'd be interested in seeing a preference poll. Exactly what would collectors prefer in these situations?
    Players in airbrushed/photoshopped unis of their new team
    Players in their old team uni but identified as being with their new team (e.g. Kazmir in an Astro uniform identified as a Dodger)
    OPC style (different than the option just above)
    Panini style (everything airbrushed to a generic no-team uni)
    Players in their old team unis and identified as being with that team (e.g. Kazmir in an Astro uni identified as an Astro)
    No card of said player at all until the update sets (please note that Series 2 goes to bed very shortly after Series 1 does)
    Delaying the new cards (e.g. Series 1 debuts in June)
    Big head, no hat
    Other (I know there must be others)

    I'll take the airbrushing/photoshop option every time. Fleer did the bit of leaving them in their old uni while identifying them with their new team...and I absolutely HATE that. OPC makes for a nice oddity...because they're OPC...but I wouldn't want the Topps flagship like that. Not having the player with his new team (e.g. Kazmir as Astro, not Dodger) is plenty maddening, too. And I'm certainly not open to an argument that puts out the new cards in June (and, since players are always changing teams, it wouldn't help anyway), let alone waiting for the Update Series. And I don't know too many people who like "big head, no hat". Airbrush away, Topps; you got my vote.

    1. I would rather have a caption stating the player is now with a new team over some fake stuff any day. Ideally a player traded to a new team would appear in series 2 with an action photo in the new uniform, but as an NBA collector we have not gotten a series 2 since 2002-03.

    2. At this point airbrushing is a tradition. I'd hate to deprive future generations of it. We're not talking anything near sacrilege as removing gum, but it should stay.

  5. Or, Topps could hire someone with "better" photoshop skills.

  6. If you want to see really bad photoshopping, take a look at the 2000 Topps USA Basketball set. It was so bad it killed the concept of Olympic team sets. Here's an example...

  7. I'm glad I didn't get to the point in card collecting where a photo shopped card caused me angst.I remember seeing cards like this as a kid ,knowing there was something off about them but never knowing what It was.The 1988 Tito Landrum comes to mind.I actually liked them,simply because they looked different than the rest.

  8. Some of the shops are good.. Some look so fake it's distracting.. Case in Point: Hanley Ramirez' 2012 card.

    If the person doing the airbrushing could be consistent, it'd be another thing as well.. Take a look at the 1977 Jays Topps cards for what I mean..

  9. I think I have the worst eyes around... b/c it's so hard for me to identify most airbrushing jobs. I guess in this sense... it's kind of a blessing.

  10. That Bert Roberge card looks odd all around... I'd bet a blaster of Opening Day that the original photo was in black and white - possibly taken while Roberge was with the Astros - and then was colorized by a Topps artist.

    FYI, Trumbo's card features an accurate depiction of an Orioles road helmet: Black crown, orange bill.