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Turn it over!

I sent out the first four giveaway packages earlier this week. That means, yup, I'm back at the post office!

It wasn't nearly as traumatic as the last time. First of all, the place was empty. Second, one of the workers behind the counter wasn't wearing a mask. I don't know what that's about, but I prefer to consider it a positive sign.

So I've made progress in that area. I haven't worked up the effort to check out a big box card aisle yet. But there's no incentive to do that either. Bowman? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Besides, the guy at work, who has to grab all the very latest, informed me yesterday that he cleared out most of the freshly stocked Bowman at the nearby Target.

The appeal of modern cards shrinks and shrinks by the month. As much as I enjoy opening packs, the items inside -- quite honestly -- I wish could be more like what I was opening as a kid. You know, cards that are interesting.

There are lots of reasons I'm finding modern cards more and more boring but one of those reasons is today's card backs. Yes, the card backs. Basically the thing that distinguishes a card from a regular photograph.

Here is your typical modern card back:

This is what you get if you're lucky.

I would call this the minimum effort. The stats are there, the vitals are there, a mind-numbing write-up that would only interest Brandon Woodruff is there. But there are no extras on this card back. When I was collecting as a kid, there were extras.

An example:

This is a 1970 Topps card of Dave Boswell. The 1970 set arrived before I was collecting but it's the same general era.

Because Boswell pitched before I started following baseball, I don't know much about him. I'm trying to do better in that area, but there are so many players.

The one thing that I do know about Dave Boswell is that he got into a fight with Billy Martin, his own manager, at a bar. Martin punched him in the face (to add a little context, Boswell punched his fellow teammate, Bob Allison, first. Allison was trying to keep Boswell from getting to a coach, which no doubt would've ended in a punching as well).

So, I need to find out a little more about Boswell and as a kid to find out a little more, you turned over your card back. They were always filled with interesting little factoids. And I'm sure I'll learn something new because the card certainly isn't going to tell me about Boswell's fist fight!

OK, so it IS going to tell me about Boswell's fist fight! It may have downplayed it as "brief skirmish" but try to imagine a modern Topps card back discussing a player's fight with his manager.

I get that wonderfully salacious cartoon, plus the uplifting story of Boswell overcoming a career of injury to win 20 games. And you've got your stats and vitals, too. All on one card back, 2020 Topps, one card back!

The Boswell card came from Greg of The Collective Mind. He and Jeff from Cardboard Catastrophes each sent me some 1970 Topps cards for my set quest that arrived at about the same time. Some of the cards each sent were the same ones and each package contained a note mentioning that some were off-condition set-fillers.

But now that I have two batches of those, I can see which ones will fit in my set and look at the backs, too. Fun for hours!

This is a selection from Cardboard Catastrophes. All of these work well in my collection. I would even say they are "McCool".

There's McCool's card back. I'm not sure a six-year veteran of the major leagues wants to be known as having "great potential."

These 1970 Topps cards are from The Collective Mind. Most of these are in good enough shape for my set binder, too.

The obvious card candidate for turning over in this batch is the team card, because this is what they put on team cards back then. Today, Topps tries to get by with a paragraph about the team's most recent season. Here you get a breakdown of the entire franchise history.

Yup, card backs used to be worth turning over.

Lots of good stuff on the back of the manager card, too. A complete managing record, documentation of exactly how ancient he is by letting kiddies know that he pitched in the THIRTIES! And, oh, by the way, his actual first name is "Chalmer".

Sometimes in those days the card back was even better than the card front! Pat Kelly's 1970 Topps card shows a tight shot of his head with an airbrushed black cap. But on the back is a wealth of knowledge. Pat Kelly stole 40 bases last year! He was Philadelphia's best athlete! His brother plays for the Cleveland Browns!

I think the back should be the front!

Just a few more cards from The Collective Mind (he actually sent me more non-1970 cards, you'll see those another day).

A number of the cards that I received I once owned before deciding I had no desire to collect the 1970 set and traded them away. Now I'm reversing course and it's quite embarrassing.

The Johnny Edwards card here is one I once had in my collection.

On the back, you'll find all kinds of things that made no sense to me as a kid. 1221 chances? What the heck were chances? Putouts? I barely knew what those were, too. Alban? How do you pronounce that?

Here is a fun one. If you look closely at the text on the cartoon, you can see some number fudging on the date. The "68" looks terribly shaky and the "9" looks like it was squeezed in.

I honestly could go on for a few more hours about the card backs on the 1970 Topps cards I received, but you've all probably tuned out already. It never fails, anytime I discuss card backs, people automatically move on to something else.

I guess I don't blame them.

If you didn't grow up when I did, you probably only know card backs like old Brandon Woodruff here (I'm not even going to bring up the awkward wording in the write-up -- OK, I just did).

Or worse. It could be a Gypsy Queen card back. I don't think there's been a single GQ card back worth reading ever.

So, if you're interested in more than one side of a card -- I suggest you collect something vintage.

And when you get one of those vintage cards ...



This kind of stuff is what makes collecting fun! Looking at all aspects of a card, enjoying them. I'm trying to do more of that, especially since i can't go look through dime boxes.
Yes, the backs are great. Pre this millennia
Elliptical Man said…
Fun stuff.

I wonder why they changed. ESPN? Internet? Random marketing decision?
Nick said…
The back of that Boswell is fantastic! Talk about something that'd never fly with today's cards.
Alex Markle said…
Rough write-up on that Woodruff card.
Sascards67 said…
I don't think I've looked at the text on the back of a card for 20 years. My favorite backs are the 1978. My friends and I used to play whole games with those.
Got my PWE this week, thanks for braving the P.O. again!
I was recently looking at the backs of my near complete set of 85 Topps, which I know you've written about on a separate blog. I love the random personal facts about the players. Plan to highlight some of my favorites in an upcoming post. I'd much rather read about Woodruff's love puff racquetball than him oblique strain or whatever it was.
Old Cards said…
Interesting post and great looking cards. I really like the 1970 design. However, I got my 67 GTO that year, so I quit collecting cards and as a result I have only a handful of them. To me reading the card backs is just part of being a collector.
bbcardz said…
Great analysis/comparisons. Today's card backs do tend to be more sterile and bland. One can even argue that card backs have matured (and thus, less fun--like most adults). Maybe it's because more adults buy cards today than kids? Anybody know the sales demographics then and now?
Fuji said…
It's pretty cool that you work with a guy who collects cards too... even if he's the guy hoarding all of the Bowman. Just joshing. If I found blasters of Bowman at Target, I'd probably scoop them all up too.
Card bubbles said…
Most 90’s backs also have a second picture which helps in my mini collections.
Brett Alan said…
Love those old card backs. Leroy Kelly was a terrific player back in the day!

I do think the change was a matter of cards being more "adult". Even in the '80s they were more sterile, and by the time Upper Deck put a photo on the back with just a few years of stats and very little text the old-style backs were mostly dead. I suppose even Fleer in the '80s with their very bland backs (often with lots of empty space on the younger players) contributed. But, yes, these days they're not much trying to sell to kids. Then again, even when they ARE trying to appeal to kids, they don't do much--last year's Big League had a little "Did You Know" thing, but overall it's not much different from the flagship backs. They should bring back cartoons for Big League, but NEW cartoons that don't look like the ones from the '70s.
night owl said…
Big League is the exception among modern card backs and I'd love if other sets could at least do what Big League does on the back. But I don't understand why cards becoming more adult means boring card backs. Adults don't like interesting facts? Even if there's no cartoon you can at least find something besides what some pitcher's WHIP was in May of 2018. Also, I remember getting irked by Fleer's backs in the '80s. Even as a teenager I was like, "I'm not paying for empty space."
Anonymous said…
1st time commenter! love your blog. FYI Lee Maye was a great singer with the doo wop group the Crowns. Went by Arthur Lee Maye when he sang
Comatoad said…
Like so many things from our childhood, the art of the card back has fallen by the wayside. I used to think it would have been a great job to be the one responsible for writing those little vignettes on the back of cards. Que sera...
Angus said…
I just keep wondering where the French text is on the back of the cards like I remember from my childhood. ;)