Yes, I'm making Philadelphia Freedom the Official Song of 2009 Upper Deck Philadelphia Football Cards. Just be thankful I didn't use Pilot's Magic (or the hideous remake by that tween star) for Topps Magic Football. I'm also not posting my first packof Philadelphia yet, oh no. You'll have to wait for that a little while longer. First, you need to understand just what this Philadelphia business actually is.
So just what are Philadelphia football cards anyway? Philadelphia Gum (no not that one) was a company that manufactured - you guessed it - bubble gum. The founder got his start in the gum business at Bowman and his company manufactured the Swell brand bubble gum. I think Tootsie Roll or somebody owns them now, but who cars about the business stuff. Like many bubble gum manufacturers, they dabbled in trading cards here and there.
They have a couple of vintage baseball sets with a 1948 Babe Ruth tribute set and the 1948 Sports Thrills set. Anyone with a healthy pile of oddball cards has probably seen an example of Swell's All-Time sets from the late '80s. The company is best known for their football cards in the 60's though. You see, when the AFL popped up on the scene, Fleer, desperate for trading card products, jumped in the mix and put out a few AFL sets to compete with Topps, who had the NFL license. Then in 1964, Philadelphia swiped the NFL license away from Topps so Topps grabbed the AFL license away from Fleer and left them out in the cold (funny how this stuff is relevant to recent events). So if you were an NFL fan who wanted to collect your team's cards, you bought Philadelphia brand cards. At least until the merger when Topps took over again.
All in all, Philadelphia did a pretty good job with the NFL cards. The fronts are nice and simple with typical photography for the time, the backs are decent and have cartoons and scratch off quizzes and such on the back and the card stock isn't flimsy. They're just solid football cards. The very first Falcons cards are in Philadelphia sets, a fact that also endears them to me. If you want to take a look at the cards, Vintage Football Gallery has all four sets on their site. I've posted a sample from each set from my collection to show off here.
This is Philadelphia's first set and the one 2009 Philadelphia is based on. The original set is 198 cards and includes team cards as well as a "Play of the Year" card that showases the team coach and a diagram of a successful play run the previous season. Pretty nifty stuff for real football junkies. The big rookie from the set is Merlin Olson. Fronts are very simple: a photo of the player with a colored box underneath with the name, team and position.
The backs are blue onand back on grey card stock. The number is found inside a helmet that looks like it has the face mask put on incorrectly. There's also a pretty cool cartoon that Upper Deck unfortunately did not swipe.
1965 Philadelphia is almost identical to 1964 Philadelphia, save for the inclusion of the NFL shield on the front to show these cards are Serious Business. The set is once again 198 cards with Team cards and Play of the Year cards. I'm not sure who the big rookie is because I can't find a decent checklist online to save my life, but there's a Jim Brown card in the set which is nice.
The back is a little weaker than the previous year, with a harder to read red ink on grey card stock. The cartoon is replaced with a scratch off quiz which doesn't scratch off worth a damn because I tried. This is the only year the number isn't in the Philadelphia Broken Facemask Helmet Logo on the back, instead opting for the NFL shield.
As you can see, Philadelphia really kept it simple with their design. Certain companies *COUGHDONRUSSCOUGH* could learn from this bit of wisdom. Basically the name color bar has been moved up top with the NFL shield migrating from the lower right to the upper left corner. 198 cards in the set again, with team cards and a Play of the Year card for each team. A couple of new things are found in the set, there's a referee signal card at the end of the set next to the checklist and the Falsons get not one, but two cards with the Falcon logo emblazened upon it. One with the expansion roster printed on the back and another one that's just the insignia. The play of the Year cards have also gone from being a diagram to an actual action shot featuring players and everything. This is a pretty bad-ass set with rookies of Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers and Bullet Bob Hayes and the last card of Jim Brown.
The backs are really attractive on this one, with a bright green on white card stock with readable black ink for the text. No scratch off nonsense here either, the quiz is actually printed on the card. Philadelphia isn't too big on stats though, preferring to go with the bio and quiz format.
Last one, everybody out of the pool... Philadelphia went NUTS in their swan song. The color bar is back at the bottom and the shield lives among the photos in a top corner now. But check out the yellow border! Yowza! The border actually looks good too, unlike a certain set from 1991 that Shall Remain Nameless. The set holds steady at 198 card with one alteration: the Team Play card is gone, replaced by a Team Insignia card. If you love old NFL logos, this is the set for you! I'm sure Fleerfan has already got a post about 'em but it's late and I'm not going to search for it right now. Rookie cards: Dan Reeves and Tommy Nobis! This set is the holy grail for Falcons fans.
The backs are a simple, readable brown ink on wite cardstock. Unlike 1965, the scratch off quiz actually scratches. A judicial application of a nickel on the back of this card will reveal that Ray did in fact play Fullback at his Alma Mater.
So that's Philadelphia Football, a neat little footnote in the history of football cards. If you like vintage pigskin, these are nice ones to pick up when you can find them. At 198 cards per set, they're not too hard to complete either. I'm not exactly sure how UD got the rights to this design, but as far as retro sets go, this one was overdue.