- It was the final year Topps used their traditional, thick card stock.
- It was the final year Topps sealed their cards in wax packs.
- It was the final year those wax packs came with a stick of bubble gum.
And as you can see on the top left of Nolan Ryan's card here, Topps was also celebrating 40 years of producing baseball cards.
That's a lot of history. But there's something else about Nolan's card that's important, too:
Over the previous couple of years, the newer baseball card brands (Upper Deck in particular) had been displaying very fine, creative photography on their cards. 1991 was the first year Topps seemed to step up their own game.
Just how much of a statement did they make?
Well, that Nolan Ryan card is the very first card of the set. How's that for an opener?
Pretty good timing for a 40th anniversary, too.
And card #1 was just the start. Have a look at these examples.
And on top of those cards, now look at these.
As for the overall design of the card, you can see it's somewhat simplistic. However, I think that's fine because it doesn't take away from the elements you really want to notice: the 40th anniversary logo at the top left and and the team name at the bottom right (which is done in each team's official wordmark). And of course, the imagery itself.
Before we get back to the gems of the set, though, let's note that Topps also maintained some traditional baseball card style in 1991.
I'm happy about this.
You can imagine there may have been some pressure to go overboard with the fancier, more modern action shots in order to keep up with Score and Upper Deck and the premium brands. But every good complete set needs some posed shots, too—especially when you've got 792 cards to create.
I mean, look at Rafael Palmeiro there. That's a baseball card. Tradition, I say!
And speaking of tradition, here's a shot of the card back.
It's mostly what you'd expect with the full bio, stats, and "league leader in italics" style, but note the monthly scoreboard on the bottom. Clever little departure there. Tony Fernandez had a pretty good September/October.
Now let's continue with the stunners in this set.
First, move your eyes from left to right and watch as three infielders morph into one to complete a double play.
Now go from right to left and watch these three guys combine to wallop a baseball.
Finally, here are my four favorite cards in the entire set.
Fantastic cards, right? And you can find plenty more on your own.
Before this set, the last time Topps featured so many compelling action shots in a set was probably in 1973.
I'm very happy to have finally put this set together. Big thanks to Bo from Baseball Cards Come to Life! for helping me out with a big stack of them.
And thanks for reading, as always.