Back when I came up with my original list of topics for this series, I thought it might be fun to take some time to focus upon the part of the card that so many baseball card blog neglect. This blog is no exception — far more often than not, when I post a baseball card’s image, I only provide the front of the card. In fact, a review of all my 2011 Phillies Cards in Review posts thus far shows that I’ve posted the back of the card only once over the course of the series. However, now that I’ve made it to this particular topic, I find that my enthusiasm for it has ebbed significantly. Although I won’t be declaring any set as bearing the best back design of the year, I feel that there is still merit in noting some of the highlights from the side of the card you rarely see on the net.
For starters, Topps’s decades-long adherence to its classic layout on its flagship brand deserves applause. They did a wonderful job of adapting the design on the front for use on the back, and their decision to note players who appeared on the same card number in previous years was a nice way to incorporate its long history into this year’s product. For all my complaining about Topps appearing lazy, their effort on the backs of this year’s Topps cards certainly was not. The only thing that could have made the back of the Domonic Brown card better was knowing a year (and which player) a Phillie previously appeared on card #421. (That would be Doug Bird in 1980 and Curt Schilling in 1993.)
Along those lines, I feel like that Topps did a decent job of creating a back for its Gypsy Queen release. Like the overwhelming majority of cards issued during the 19th century, the original Gypsy Queen cards were blank-backed. If Topps was going for a faithful reproduction of the originals, I would likely have preferred their version of the card did the same. However, Topps put a modern spin on the photos in the design which justifies catering to modern collectors expectations regarding some sort of design on the back. However, I did have a minor complaint: their insistence on maintaining the block of legalese they’ve recently crafted for their cards really does detract from the overall look on the back. I do not know why Topps insists upon it — but if the lawyers from either MLB or the MLBPA insisted upon it, then the legal profession really has run amok.
For the It Just Needs to Be Said As Often As Possible Department: the backs of the Lineage design clearly suggest that after spending so much time actually caring about the backs on Gypsy Queen and their flagship Topps brand, Topps decided to phone it in and take it easy for a while. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that their graphic designers were required to focus their creative energies instead on either a WWE set, a Garbage Pail Kids Flashback series, or some other monstrosity that really wasn’t worth the time or energy wasted upon it.
Finally, the last card back I’d like to comment upon is the one Topps created for its Heritage Clubhouse Collection Game-Used Memorabilia inserts. I don’t know for certain whether Topps adapted the illustration from a vintage issue (it’s too detailed to be an original cartoon from the back of a 1962 Topps card) or created it especially for this particular series, but it was a really nice touch that helped ensure the cards carried the flavor of the 1962 design. It would have been nice to see something specifically tailored for the player on the front of the card — or even to have anything more than just the player’s name, team, and position — but when you compare it to what was created for the Lineage brand, it almost have to be thankful that Topps at least made the effort.
At this point, I’m down to just the Best Card of the Year and Set of the Year — the two posts I’ve been the most looking forward to writing. Furthermore, it looks like I’ll even get them finished before the 2012 Topps cards start appearing in my local Target.
Featured Card Backs: 2011 Topps Marquee #39, Cole Hamels; 2011 Topps #421, Domonic Brown; 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen Mini Parallels #47, Jimmy Rollins; 2011 Topps Lineage #53, Mike Schmidt; 2011 Topps Heritage Clubhouse Collection Relics #CCR-PP, Placido Polanco