Well, actually Topps has been doing football cards since 1948, not 1956. And they didn't have NFL cards at all for four of those years. And no NFL Properties license (or logos) for another decade or so. And absolutely no talent for making football cards at all, ever. And they have an exclusive license to produce cards for the only sport that really matters. And MMA and Wrestling licenses that will probably outsell most of the other sports. And a bunch of non-sports products. And they'll probably run a a double reverse around the license and put out something football related anyway. Oh, they also sell gum.
Topps will be fine. I'll be fine, you'll be fine, the hobby will be fine, everybody will be fine. However, I simply cannot let such a melodramatic wave of retro nostalgia angst go to waste. This is a golden opportunity to begin a huge long-ass project that I've wanted to do for 2 years but don't really have time for and will end up abandoning about a third of the way into it anyway when I get bored or distracted or evicted from my house or something. So with no further ado (lies!) here's the beginning of...
CARDBOARD JUNKIE'S REVIEW OF EVERY TOPPS FOOTBALL BASE SET EVER
Let's start with the early days of Topps football cards before they got mixed up with that newfangled NFL. What an unmitigated disaster that was, just look how it turned out for them! They shoulda stuck with the college cards, like they did with these four sets here:
1948 Topps Magic
Set size: 252 cards over 19 series
Actual football cards in the set: um, 18? maybe?
Card Size: 7/8" x 1 7/16"
Best card: Doak Walker, maybe Chuck Bednarik
Rookies: probably all of 'em
I don't have any of these cards so I used a 2009 Topps Magic insert to illustrate what they kinda sorta looked like. These cards were an early early trading card gimmick. The cards came out of the pack blank, when you got the card wet and pasted it to the wrapper or put it in direct sunlight or some such nonsense the picture would 'develop' and you'd have a card with a really faded and blotchy image of some celebrity or whatnot. This was Topps' first set of anything ever so it'e pretty historical. Not historical enough for me to pick up even a type card, apparently.
1950 Topps Felt Backs
Set size: 100 cards with 25 extra color variations
Card Size: 7/8" x 1 7/16"
Best card: Joe Paterno
Rookies: most of 'em
I don't even have a reprint of these scarce little buggers. Haven't even seen one in person that I can recall. You can take a look at 'em here and here if you wish. Check out the crazy eyes on Harry Ulinski! These cards were tinly like the '48 Magic cards and had a black & white image of the player surrounded by a solid color border on the front, and a felt college pennant on the back. The fronts have red, blue, green or brown borders with the colors divided equally in the 100 card set. Cards with a brown border can also be found with a scarce yellow border variation. The best card by far in the set is one of Joe Paterno, back when he was quarterback of Brown university. There are also four hall of famers in the set and a college football card of 1958 AL MVP Jackie Jensen. If anyone out there actually has one of these things in their collection, please let me know because I've seriously never even seen one before.
1951 Topps Magic
Set size: 75 cards
Card Size: 2 1/16" x 2 15/16"
Best card: Vic Janowicz? Really?
Rookies: I don't know, man. I don't have a good football price guide to tell me these things.
This is the set Topps resurrected into an odd retro college sticker auto set this year. The cards are a little bigger and have full color fronts this time. Topps still gimmicked up the set with a scratch-off trivia question on the back. If you lose your mind and decide you just have to collect a complete set of cards from the '50s, this might be a good one to tackle. There are only 75 cards in the set, making it the smallest Topps football base set. There are also virtually no stars in the set at all. My ancient football card price guide from 1985 shows only 7 out of the 75 cards in the set book for more than the common price. Those players are: Babe Parilli, Bill Wade, Jim Weatherall, Marion Campbell, Bert Rechichar, John Bright and Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder Vic Janowicz. The most interesting card in the set has to be George Young, the long time NFL executive who built three Super Bowl champs.
1955 Topps All American
Set size: 100 cards, cards 93-100 are short printed
Card Size: 2 5/8" x 3 5/8"
Best card: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Other good cards: Jim Thorpe, Knute Rockne, Red Grange, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham, Sid Luckman, Ernie Nevers, Don Hutson.
As far as I'm concerned this is the greatest football card set in the history of carddom. The set features some of the absolute greatest players in college football history. The design is absolutely unique with the color action photo superimposed ove a black and white stock football photo. The college logos were made up by Topps and are often completely random. There's even a trivia cartoon on the back. A full gallery of the cards can be found here. A good look at the two best cards in the set, Jim Thorpe and The Four Horsemen, can be found here. The most interesting card in the set is one of Byron "Whizzer" White, who later became a Supreme Court Justice. He was also the guy who accidentally ran backwards 51 yards on a play resulting in an NFL record for biggest yardage loss on a play from scrimmage. Oops.