Little Black Rectangles (Or, In the Eye of the Beholder)

In my quest for sets to complete, manageable sets, not too expensive for a one-time purchase, I’ve begun to look, in earnest, at old Topps inserts. I’ve got my share – 1969 Deckle and Decals (see last post), a random assortment of others – but there’s always room for more.

I’d like to grab some 1968 and 1972 posters.

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I don’t have any of them and they’re pretty nice, much nicer than the 1970 posters I do have

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(though not as nice as the 1967 pinups). But, since I have none, will I really put together a set? I’m pretty doubtful. Still, I’ll occasionally look for a lot and, if I do end up snatching some, we’ll see what happens.

What’s been grabbing me are the 1970 and 1971 Topps Scratch-Offs. Why? Not because of looks. These are the most unattractive inserts that Topps ever produced. Ugly little head shots on the front, a centerfold of black rectangles and a back that clearly didn’t take too long to design, all housed on rough cardboard (that’s how I remember them).

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It’s in the remembering that the scratch offs live.  They’re inserts I had, unlike the posters which I never did, so don’t have any feelings about one way or the other. I have a connection to these scratch offs that is real and, though they repulse me in most ways, they attract me in others.

Interestingly, I don’t recall them in 1971 packs, only in 1970. Turns out there is a distinguishing mark to tell the two apart – 1970’s are white inside, 1971’s red.

70-71T-Scratchoffs-backs

Both sets are 24 cards, both should be pretty reasonable to buy unscratched (though a NM 1970 set recently sold for $117.50, way more than I’d consider.)  I’m thinking $65 for 1970, $75-80 for 1971, harder to come by, which is why I don’t remember them.

I’ve also been slightly obsessed with the 1970 Topps Football Glossy inserts, but that’s for another blog.

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Author: Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is the former Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.

8 thoughts on “Little Black Rectangles (Or, In the Eye of the Beholder)”

  1. I’ve been “working on” the 1970-71 scratch offs for years (obviously not often). My dilemna: Whether you store them in sheets or sleeves, how do you store them such that you can tell the difference between 1970s and 1971? I have them in sheets (I need 4 or 5 from each) and they are identical. Even the Mike Hegan in the Pilots hat is reused in 1971 unchanged. I kind of want to unfold them and store them just so I can see the difference. It is ridiculously unimportant, I know, but yet I fret.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I would, but certain people have pressured me for years to put everything in sheets.

        But yes, these cards are about as “condition-INsensitive” as you can get. In fact, many of them are off-center but only on the inner printing — you need to unfold to notice.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I know the scratch offs weren’t included in ’71 packs. Perhaps Mark knows how they were distributed. I’ll look it up as well. I an currently building the ’70 football glossy set. Of course I’m not nearly as condition sensitive as some ex-mayor I know.

    Liked by 1 person

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