Set size: 198 cards
Short printed High Series: AFL cards 133-198 are slightly more expensive than the NFL cards.
Card Size: Standard 2 1/2" x 3 1/2"
Corrected Errors and Variations: none
Best card: Jack Kemp
Key Rookies: Don Maynard, Jim Otto, John Brodie, Hank Jordan, Tom Flores
Subsets: Team cards, Highlight cards (NFL only)
Gimmick: Coin rub photo
Back ink colors: Light blue
League: NFL & AFL
Team Logos? No
Night Owl Style Nickname: The Boring set
Teams included in the set: NFL: Baltimore Colts, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Saint Louis Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins
AFL: Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Texans, Denver Broncos, Houston Oilers, New York Titans, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers (Italics indicates first appearance for the team in a Topps set)
Why I chose this card: Max McGee looks like he's debating whether he will punch the photographer right in the mush. I think he did.
Topps went all minimalist on their card designs in 1961. Maybe Sy Berger was a fan of Mark Rothko? At any rate, card design was austere in 1961. The football release seems to be a mix of the 1961 and 1958 baseball designs. Large unadorned photo up top, box o' personal info on the bottom (just one for football though, with a foreboding black background) and even the background was washed away, replaced with the solid color scrapbook style of the '58 baseball set. This set may or may not have influenced the 2010 Magic set, but if you slap a packers logo on the bottom left corner and put Max in super hi-def it's pretty close. The back even more plain than the front. Two-thirds of the back is chewed up by a coin rub Make A Photo gimmick. Bio information and stats are squeezed into a box on the left side of the card and much of that is taken up by the player's name. This is the kind of set that makes nascent custom card designers think to them selves "Hell, even I can do that". Topps got the card number right though: top left, bold font, blue on white, easy to read.
If you're a team collector, there's a decent chance that the first cards in your binder are from this set. Nine teams made their debut in the '61 set including the entire AFL. The set is split in half, with the NFL getting the first 132 cards in the set while the AFL closes it out with 66 more cards in the slightly more scarce high series. The early '60s stars are all here: Jim Brown, Johnny U, Jack Kemp, George Blanda. Jim Otto, Don Maynard and John Brodie head up the rookie class. There are sadly no logos to be found (You'll need to go to the 1961 Fleer set for that) but the NFL teams have team cards on a nifty gridiron background and action highlights with a TV set motif. Part of me wonders if the AFL cards were an afterthought inserted after Fleer's rival NFL/AFL set challenge. Competition would make Topps step up their game for the 1962 set. .
1961 set at Vintage Football Gallery.com.