Saturday, November 27, 2010

1968 Topps Test Football Cloth Patches and Team Cards

In 1968 Topps issued a fantastic test set which featured a colorful team cloth patch

and an oversize (2 1/2" x 4 11/16") B & W team photo card

which featured a listing of all the players pictured on the card.

Thanks to The Topps Vault, I have a picture of one of the test wrappers

as well as a picture of the wax box proof:

As the wrapper and box show, the Real Cloth Football Patches are the featured item with the team photos being considered almost like an insert. According to Beckett, there was one cloth patch and one team card per pack.

Since Topps had regained the rights to produce NFL cards in 1968 (after a 4 year run in which they produced only AFL cards), the set features both NFL and AFL teams.

There are 44 different cloth patches, with 26 team logo patches and 18 patches with either numbers or letters (presumably so kids could make their own "uniform" as the side of the wrapper indicates or put their name or initials on their books).

Here is a look at the NFL cloth patches:

Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a picture of the Giants patch yet.

and here are the AFL team patches:

Here is an example of one of the number patches

and an example of the letter patches

Even though there were 26 teams in the league in 1968, there are only 25 team cards as the expansion Cincinnati Bengals do not have a team photo card (since they didn't play the previous season and therefore did not have a team photo).

Here are the NFL team cards:

and the AFL team cards:

This is one of my favorite Topps test sets, but its a shame that it was done on such a limited basis as I would really like to try to complete both the cloth patch and the team card sets. Unfortunately, as not many of these were made, the patches and team cards are very expensive.

There are usually a couple of team cards and occasionally a cloth patch available on ebay (which is how I've been able to track down these pictures over the years), but they certainly aren't cheap.

1968 was quite a year in terms of Topps oddball and test sets as The Topps Archive is showing with a review of a number of different issues, and I think Topps did a great job with this set.

The patches are very colorful and attractive, and the larger team photos with the players listed on the back is a great improvement over something like this:

One thing I can't help but think might have given Topps some inspiration to come up with this test issue is this:

In 1967 and 1968, Fleer issued cloth patch Baseball Emblems with patches for hats, shirts, books and uniforms (sound familiar?)

with a cloth patch with a circular team logo surrounded by a colorful border

and packaged with an oversize card (2 1/2" x 4 1/2")

Was Topps using this test to see if it was worthwhile to try to compete against Fleer for the sale of cloth patches? It seems like there is a little too much similarity between the two sets to say that it is entirely a coincidence that Topps was test marketing cloth patches without any thought of trying to compete against Fleer.

It appears this test issue was not a big success as Topps did not follow it up with any future cloth patch releases. I guessing Topps looked at the results of this test and figured there wasn't a strong enough demand for a product where the team logos were the main selling point, and decided they would concede that market niche to Fleer.

UPDATE 11/2013:

Thanks to a recent ebay auction, here are some pictures of the wax box: