The Subtle Differences Between 1958 Topps Football and 1959 Topps Baseball Cards

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.

1958 Topps #62 Jim Brown
1959 Topps #10 Mickey Mantle

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.

1958 Topps #22 John Unitas

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.

1959 Topps #514 Bob Gibson

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.

1958 Topps #66 Bart Starr – Reverse
1959 Topps #478 Robert Clemente – Reverse

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.

PS: You can see all the unopened products Topps produced for the 1958 Football and 1959 Baseball release on the Unopened Archive.

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