If you collect vintage cards across multiple sports, you may have noticed that the 1958 Topps football and 1959 Topps baseball sets have a similar design. This article will look at their subtle and not-so-subtle design differences.
First, while the cards share a similar design, I haven’t found any references to why Topps mimicked the 1958 football design for their 1959 baseball release. Was the football design so popular they decided to double down? Or was a similar design planned well in advance? I’m not sure.
The 1958 Topps football set has 132 cards featuring posed player photos within an oval surrounded by a colorful border. Topps listed the player’s name underneath the picture with their position and team, all in capital letters—the cards commonly suffered fisheye print defects and unfocused photos. The borders on the “red” backs typically display chipping.
The 1959 Topps baseball set had a then-record 572 cards. They also featured each player’s head and shoulders or full-body pose, but this time within a circular (rather than oval) cutout and a color background above and below the image. Conceptually, the front is incredibly similar to the football release. But this time, the player’s name is above the image in all lower case letters (at a slight angle), and Topps included a facsimile autograph on the photo and a team logo.
The back of the baseball release shares little in common with the football backs, which had a big football fun scratch-off area. The baseball cards have typical biographical information, statistics, and a small cartoon.
Neither set shares much in common with their sports predecessor or subsequent releases, but for some reason, Topps decided on a similar design aesthetic moving from football to baseball season. I would have suspected a popular baseball design would have influenced the next football design, not the other way, but perhaps the release timeline didn’t allow that kind of flexibility.