Sunday, October 18, 2020

Similar, but different

I took a few vacation days and part of my time off has been spent organizing my collection. I came across these 4 cards in a 4 slot Ultra Pro page that I had bought from an auction at a card shop sometime back. It must have been a good deal in my opinion because I'm not going after any of the sets featured and am not a particular fan of either player. If I had to guess, I probably paid about a dollar a card.

It's no secret that card companies are known for using the same phot of different cards, but these similar, but different photos.

The 1967 and 1968 Billy Williams pose are nearly identical although the background is different. I prefer the batting cage in the background of the 1967 card.

The 1968 and 1969 Jim Hunter cards are very similar as well. Again, the backgrounds appear to be a little different and his head is turned a bit, but they are very similar. I guess I prefer the 1969 card because you can see the free Athletics jersey in that shot.

What was Topps thinking? Did they realize how similar the photos were to each other? Probably not. I would suspect that the same person picked the photos used on the cards and since the liked the photo once, they liked it again the next year without realizing that it was so similar to the picture used the year before.

What do you think? Are there any books out there written by Topps employees that would provide any insight into the process? If so, I'd love to read it.


  1. I do know that Topps was limited in its photo selection during that period because Marvin Miller had recently taken over the union, seen how poorly Topps was paying players, and told them not to pose for Topps' photographers to put pressure on the company. The pictures of Catfish Hunter were probably taken when the A's were in Kansas City, so they only used the capless ones so people wouldn't know how old the pictures were. They reached a settlement after the 1968 season ended, so in the later series in 1969 there are more new photos, and starting in 1970 the only issues are players who recently changed teams.

    With the Williams, it might be that they had limited photo choices, but it also may just be as you say that someone liked that pose for him and didn't check the previous year's card.

    1. Great information about the players union Brett!

    2. Echoing Brett. Many of the photos in the 1969 set are from much earlier, some going all the back to 1963 or 1964!

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  2. I'd totally buy a book written by a former Topps employee. I wouldn't just want insight on photo selection, I'd love to hear interesting stories about Sy and the history behind some of their oddball issues.