Forget stickers and albums: between 1975 and 1982, the American company were tempting kids across the UK by selling packets of soccer picture cards containing their very own USP – a stick of Bazooka chewing gum.
Topps were the creators of Bazooka gum. When they started out in 1938, sales of the chewy substance were slow, but in the 1950’s they hatched a master plan to include sticks of the stuff in packets with picture cards of well-known baseball players. Sales rocketed and the rest, as they say, is history.
The 1978/79 collection
|Left: Ooh look - it's Thin Frank!|
Right: John Gregory - for the
man that doesn't have to try too
They were sold in newsagents virtually everywhere and stood out easily in their bright blue packets. Having attempted extreme mastication with the unyielding pink Bazooka gum, you could happily turn your attention to the cards which, in the case of the English collection, mainly featured players from the First and Second Division.
|Docherty and Kindon: Green tint|
That said, the card designers could be said to have had a momentary lapse of reason from time to time. For a start, many of the images feature green tinted backgrounds, giving a somewhat otherworldly atmosphere to a natural, if dull, match scenario.
|Left/middle: The 'Hamptons take the 'P';|
Right: Don Masson in fictional kit
One other final foible could be seen on the name banners at the top of each card. Though the designers did well to cram in long team names like 'Manchester Utd' or 'Middlesbrough', some names like Southampton and Wolverhampton simply had the 'P' taken out of them…
Turn the cards over and a wealth of information was available at your fingertips. The basics were all there – name, height, weight, birthplace – plus a summary of personal statistics in recent seasons.
|Orange backs: Fun, facts and|
quiz questions galore.
On the left of every card was a small area set aside for quiz questions, pictures and club profiles, although the postage stamp-sized area didn't allow much room for detail. Not that this was much of a problem for the Who Am I? questions – a conundrum where the identity of a well-known player had to be deciphered by clues shown on five different cards. Even if you had all five clues, you still needed a sixth card to find out what the answer was and with clues like "I relax by playing my guitar", the whole thing seemed to be rather futile.
|World Cup history cards.|
This being the season following the 1978 World Cup however, it was perhaps no surprise to see that some of the 396 cards in this collection cashed in on the history of the event.
These World Cup cards featured a blue-tinted picture on the front along with the score from the Final, while on the back there was a very concise outline of the tournament, the four best teams and the leading scorers.
For serious collectors only...
With no album to house your collection, your junior self had to carry your cards to school if you wanted to compare them with those of your friends, and they could make a sizable pile very quickly, rest assured.
Perhaps this was their key appeal though. The cards were far bigger than Panini stickers and made you feel like you really owned something substantial. These were large-scale cards for large-scale football enthusiasts, regardless of age.
The pictures were bright and colourful (if comedically altered at times) and there was lots of information to read on the backs too. In fact, Topps' Footballer cards had an identity all of their own – a far cry from the Topps soccer cards of today, but no less appealing for football nostalgists everywhere.
With grateful thanks to Nigel's Webspace for giving us permission to use the wrapper image above.