Sunday, September 5, 2010

About The 1974 Topps Set

The 1974 Topps set has some unique facts about it.  It was the first Topps set to not be issued in series.  The '73 set was the last set put out in series.  All 660 cards were issued in one set.  Later in the year, a special "Trades" set was issued to show players who had switched teams, presumably by trade.  All cards in the Trades set have the word "Traded" across the bottom of the picture.  This set was analogous to previous "high series" cards in years gone by.

The Trades set, since it was issued separately from the regular set, is considered by most card experts to NOT be a part of the 1974 Topps set itself.  But, contrary to the experts, I DO consider it to be part of the same set.  I collected them, and they were found in standard wax packs at the end of the year, I put them in the same shoe boxes with the same teams, I played with them just like the other cards, so those are the reasons why.  The Trades cards did not have their own unique numbers, starting with 661.  They used the same card number of the respective player in the regular set and added the letter "T" to the card number.  So, Jim Wynn's standard card number was 43, and his traded card was 43T.  The Trades checklist, unlike the checklist cards in the regular set, didn't have a card number.  The fronts of the Trades cards are a collection of some of the most hideous photograph air brushing in baseball card history.  Almost every card is airbrushed, since Topps had no time to get photographs of players in their new team's uniforms.  Bob Locker's card is difficult to determine whether it was airbrushed or not, and if it was, it was a good job.  The backs of the Trades cards contained no statistics, but were a mock "Baseball News" newspaper story and headline about the player's trade.

Topps also included a cool gimmick in '74: the Team checklist.  Team checklist cards were not part of the numbered set, but were both found in wax packs and purchased separately in sheet form.  You sent money to Topps, they'd send you the checklist sheets, and you'd cut the cards out (carefully) and put them in your set.  The team checklists were un-numbered, and had each player's signature on the front, while the rear of the card contained each team's checklist.  I will be posting each team checklist card immediately after that same team's normal team card (i.e. Baltimore Orioles will have their team checklist card posted after card #16).  [Update: Thanks to Joe and WW for their comments below.  Apparently team checklists were both part of wax packs and came in sheets.  Corrections have been made to this post.]

Specialty card in this set include: a special layout for Hank Aaron's card #1 announcing him as the new all-time home run king.  Five more cards show all of Hank's previous Topps card faces and give career info for the Hammer.  League leaders from 1973 in various categories.  All-Star cards showing all the starters in the 1973 game, position by position.  Post-season cards highlighting the playoffs, each game of the 1973 World Series and the A's celebration.  Also were non-team specific rookie stars cards.

One of the most interesting aspects of this set is that it was originally created with the idea that the San Diego Padres were going to move to Washington, D.C. for the '74 season.  No team name was created yet, and no uniforms were made.  So, Topps started issuing the Padres cards as "Washington" as the city name, and "Nat'l League" in place of the team name.  When the Padres announced they would remain in San Diego for the 1974 season, Topps altered all Padres cards back to the traditional (all of five years for this expansion team at the time!) San Diego Padres.  The Wash/Nat'l League cards were in the minority, and are more rare, and thus more valuable.  Not all Padres cards were issued with a Washington format.  I'm curious as to why this is, given that this '74 set was not issued in series, but as a whole set.  If anybody can shed some light on that, please let me know!

All in all, the 1974 Topps set is not my favorite set, design wise.  It's just the one I started collecting en masse.  It's the one I remember most.  I find the photography to be of lesser quality than of previous years, and the card design is just so-so.  The dark green backs often make it difficult to read the stats.  But I love the set nonetheless.  This post will be placed on my pages list at the top of the blog under "About This Set."


  1. I'm looking forward to your tour through the 1974 set. It was my first set and has always been my favorite. If only I can track down those last couple of "Nat'l Lea." cards to complete my master set!

    FYI, the team checklists did come in packs, but you could also purchase them through the mail. The ones that came through the mail came in an uncut sheet.

    There were also team checklists in the 1973 set. The fronts were the same, only the border was blue instead of red. I presume the autographs were different as well, but I've never checked. I hadn't bought packs of 1973 Topps, so I don't know if the 1973 team checklists were an insert... but I would guess they were.

    Keep up the good work!

    - Joe Shlabotnik

  2. I'm with you on including the traded cards as part of the regular set. But man, they did have some really ugly air brush jobs.

    Bob Locker's card was not airbrushed; he was with the A's from 1970-1972, so Topps just used an old photo. Based on the uniform he's wearing, it was a photo taken in Oakland in 1972.

    If you want to see what a really bad Bob Locker airbrushed card looks like, check this out.

  3. Thanks, Joe and WW for the info!

    After I wrote this I picked up the group of team checklists, and they were all pretty square and uniform in size, exactly fitting the size of all the other cards. I remember mailing away for the checklists and cutting them myself, and remembering not doing a perfect job. I used scissors instead of my dad's straight edge and utility knife. So, I guess I got these through wax packs.

    The Bob Locker card makes sense. And I did check our your link. Man, that one is lame!

  4. This was the first set I tried to collect and finally have the master after getting all variations of the team checklists (one and two asterisks). What I didn't understand about the tradeds was, why they chose guys like Bevacqua and Martinez while airbrushing Willie McCovey, Dave Cash and Jerry Reuss, and also the trick they pulled with Morales and Beckert. Love the set though.

  5. I loved this set too. I tackled the '75 set first, but then went back and put together a '74 set. I too consider the Traded series to be part of the "set" and it's included in my binder with the rest of the 660. The team checklist cards have eluded me to date . . . I may need to track these down.

  6. Love your blog. Very well done. This was a fun set to collect.

    We did not know what was happening at the time, but we would get far less duplicate cards - because the set was not issued in series, but as a whole.