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Fan Favorites Format to be Used in Football

by Paul Angilly
January 25, 2005

Over the past two years, the Topps Fan Favorites baseball card brand has become one of the most popular sets of the year among long-time collectors, by combining previously-unused photos of retired stars on old Topps card designs with a pair of autographed cards from the past greats per box.

At the end of next month, Topps will bring that formula to football cards -- with a new twist -- when it releases its first All-Time Fan Favorites set for football, called the Classic Combos Edition.

Like the baseball sets from the past two years, the new Fan Favorites football set (officially referred to by Topps as a 2004 issue, although it’s not due out until the week of Feb. 28) features vintage, previously-unused photos of the players with card designs taken from Topps issues of the past.

The new twist with the 85-card football set is that the players are grouped into small subsets by team. For instance, there’s the "America’s Team" Dallas Cowboys of the late ’70s (Drew Pearson, Tony Hill, Tony Dorsett and Roger Staubach), the N.Y. Sack Exchange Jets of the ’80s (Marty Lyons, Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko), the "Purple People Eaters" Minnesota Vikings of the early ’70s (Gary Larsen, Alan Page, Jim Marshall and Carl Eller), the "Killer Bs" Miami Dolphins of the early ’80s (Kim Bokamper, Lyle Blackwood, Glenn Blackwood and Charles Bowser) and the "Steel Curtain" Pittsburgh Steelers of the ’70s (Joe Greene, Dwight White, Ernie Holmes and L.C. Greenwood).

A black border to the left and above the main card design includes the regular team name (such as Dallas Cowboys) and the nickname (such as "America’s Team"). There will also be both Chrome (numbered to 499) and Chrome Refractor (numbered to 99) parallels, found two per box.

All 85 players in the base set will have autograph cards randomly inserted at a rate of two per box. The autographs will also have their own parallel, called Team Combo Nicknames. All 85 players will sign an additional 10 cards each with their combo nickname, such as Joe Greene signing "the Steel Curtain" under his signature.

According to Topps, almost 40 percent of the players are signing for a card set for the very first time.

Other autographed inserts are: six "Co-Signers," featuring combos like Joe Namath/Don Maynard and Roger Staubach/Tony Dorsett, limited to just 50 copies each; and nine "Vintage Buy-Back Autographs" from players such as Y.A. Title, Ken Stabler and Larry Csonka, who will sign 20 of their original Topps cards.

Each box will also include one of 10 different sequentially-numbered, over-sized "Team Combo" cards.

Topps Fan Favorites will have a $5 suggested retail price for each 6-card pack, with 24 packs per box.

Gallery back and at its best: After a one-year absence, the Topps Gallery baseball brand is returning for 2005 with what may turn out to be one of the most attractive base sets of the year -- plus, you could pull an autograph from Pablo Picasso, among other artists.

As its name suggests, Gallery (due for release this week) features player paintings on the front of the cards, rather than photos. Based upon photos of the cards provided by Topps, this year’s set, printed on simulated canvas stock, may be the best-looking Gallery set to date.

The cards have full-bleed fronts, although a thin white border surrounds the bulk of the painting, with the area outside that border darkened to make the central part of the portrait stand out. A small, relatively unobtrusive Topps Gallery logo appears in the upper left corner inside the white border, with the player’s name (last name in script) and team name printed vertically outside the white border on the left of the card.

The 195-card base set includes 150 veterans, 20 rookies, 15 prospects and 10 retired stars. There is also a 195-card "Artist’s Proof" parallel found one per pack and 1-of-1 "Printing Plates" parallels (the actual plates used to print the cards) in four different colors.

There is also a special parallel 1-of-1 insert, featuring original sketches of all 195 players drawn directly onto the cards by Topps artist Murray Olderman, who created many of the cartoons seen on the backs of vintage Topps cards.

Speaking of artists, some better-known names can be found on 1-of-1 cut signature cards, including Dr. Seuss, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Norman Rockwell and Grandma Moses. Some of the artists are available in two versions.

The cards will be packaged as four mini boxes inside a larger box, with each mini box of five packs (5 cards per pack) having a $30 suggested retail price. Each mini box guarantees at least one autographed or relic card.

Other inserts include: 20 Gallo’s Gallery, featuring illustrations from sports cartoonist Bill Gallo of the New York Daily News; 22 Gallery Heritage and three Gallery Heritage Combos. Memorabilia Cards include: 12 Gallery Penmanship Autographs, four Gallery Heritage Autographed Relics (numbered to 25), 10 Gallery Heritage Relics and 40 Gallery Originals Relics.

Two Wolf Pack players in new set: American Hockey League MVP Jason LaBarbera and right winger Jozef Balej are the two featured Hartford Wolf Pack players in the AHL and Professional Hockey Players’ Association’s 2004-05 set of trading cards.

The set of 60 cards, manufactured by Choice Sportscards, was released this week. Called AHL Future Stars, it features action photos and career statistics of rising stars from all 28 AHL teams. The set can be purchased online at www.ahlstore.com or www.PHPA.com for $13.99, plus postage and handling.

This is the third straight year that Choice Sportscards (formerly known as Choice Marketing) has produced an AHL set. Both previous issues were titled "AHL Top Prospects" and included 45 player cards.

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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