Tuesday, October 9, 2018

topps dusts off the 1978 design! sort of.

i was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon one of the recent topps on demand releases a couple of weeks ago.  these are the sets that are offered for sale online only 'while supplies last'. they are different in that regard from topps now sets, and even topps throwback thursday sets, as i understand it.  this particular set is called "inspired by '78", and features a modified 1978 topps design.

i didn't know about this in time to order a set from topps, so i went to ebay and picked up the two dodgers in the base set - clayton kershaw
and walker buehler
you can see that the big difference here is the full bleed photo.  other modifications include the elimination of the position ball and the smaller type for the player names.  the full bleed effect on the borders makes me think of natgeo.

the backs of these on demand sets are known for their uselessness
the text here seems disingenuous.  if the 1978 topps is such a classic design in topps' eyes, why has it been so sparingly used in fan favorite and archives sets? if the 40th anniversary is worth celebrating, why has the 35th anniversary of 1983 topps dominated the flagship sets?

while the '78 design has been largely absent this decade, it wasn't always this way.  one of the most famous basketball cards used the same design. yes, i'm talking about the 1980 topps larry bird/dr. j/magic johnson card
 in 1981, topps used the team name font on their squirt issue
and on the backs of their super home team cards
 and then there was 1982 cracker jack, which was a sort of mash-up of 1978 and 1979 topps
topps later resurrected the design for some of the early 2000's fan favorite sets. i think the most recent occurrence of the design being used was the reimagining of eddie murray's rookie card as a future stars that never were in 2014, which i featured in a post related to my quest for a 1978 topps master set.

i wound up purchasing a "full" 35-card issue on ebay.  this includes the complete 30-card base set, plus two numbered parallel cards, one 4-in-1 rookie card, one "then and now" card, and one "tfamous flashback" card.  those last three cards are from "insert" sets of varying sizes, so it would take quite a few set purchases to put together a truly full set.  autographs were seeded 1:2 sets, but i got shut out.

i did do ok with one of my numbered parallels - it was the blue (#/50) version of buehler's card
but the other was a purple (#/75) paul goldschmidt.
i did ok with my 4-in-1 rookie card - devers and torres, plus 2
but obviously would have preferred the one with buehler (and ohtani), or the one with alex verdugo (and soto and acuna).

my then & now card, modeled after the manager cards in the 1978 set, features dale murphy and ozzie albies
(shout out to giovanni who has been making some 1978 topps then & now cards for quite some time) there are no dodgers in this insert set, but a don sutton/walker buehler card would have made sense.

the last card in my purchase was the "famous flashback".  these are cards featuring players from the past, most of whom were in the 1978 set.  no steve garvey, or any other dodger in this set, but some nice players like rod carew, carl yastrzemski, eddie murray, jim rice, etc.  my card was joe morgan
it's not everyday that a card features someone wearing a skirt.  getty says that this is a photo of little joe taking bp at shea stadium, but that doesn't help me id the woman watching the reds pregame prep.

maybe the 2,040 sets issued with this 1978 inspired design will spark some ideas at topps, and we'll see more of the original design in next year's archives.  it would be a shame to have to wait until 2027 heritage.


  1. Well, the common complaint that Topps has avoided the '78 design because they can't duplicate the script is obviously not true after seeing these. I kinda like them.

  2. I like them better with borders. Are all of the backs so useless? Nice set. As a Dale Murphy collector , I like his then and now but would have been better with Narkskis or Freeman.