Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Esso Top Team Collection (1973)

As we’ve already discovered, Esso were more than adept at luring Britain’s football-loving motorists onto its petrol station forecourts. Starting with the legendary World Cup Coin Collection in 1969, they went on to make several other items that kids would nag their parents for and parents would collect on the quiet when the rest of the family weren't looking.

One such item was the Top Team Collection, launched in 1973. Having decided that the novelty of authentic metal coins had probably worn off after four years, Esso opted to update the format with its new ‘photo-discs.’ These were circular pieces of thin metal coated in plastic with the image of one of Britain’s top football players depicted on one side. Having armed yourself with the three-part gatefold presentation board, all you needed to do was ‘moisten the back of the photo-disc and press firmly on to the appropriate ready-gummed circle’ to fix it in place.

There were 22 photo-discs to collect, each wrapped individually in its own packet and given away whenever you filled your car with three gallons of Esso’s finest. Many top players from the home nations were featured. Among them were John Toshack, Billy Bremner, Bobby Moore and a trend-bucking Kenny Dalglish who seemed insistent on re-enacting the opening titles from The Brady Bunch with his side-on profile picture.

One section of the presentation album was given over to describing each of the players in a generic and somewhat rudimentary fashion. The reverse had a colourful illustration showing what it would look like if all 22 ‘soccer superstars’ were brought together to pose for a team photograph. The artwork was rather nice, actually, and could certainly give The Sun a run for its money when it came to the accurate depiction of the subjects involved.

To complete the item, there were colour photographs showing all four British national sides and the players you’d have found in them at the time. Much like Wales, the England team were seen on the training field (including Rodney Marsh looking somewhat out of place in his red sweater), while Northern Ireland lined up all in green, ready to face yet another opponent.

As for Scotland, they appeared to be dressed in full kit while enjoying the hospitality of a local hotel. I say “full kit” - Willie Morgan was resolutely wearing his favourite red sneakers while Billy Bremner opted for white trainers instead. Really, lads… couldn't you find your slippers?

The Esso Top Team Collection was a smart attempt at trying to recreate the World Cup Coin frenzy around the time of Mexico ‘70, but alas it never quite reached those heights. The production values might have been better, but somehow the sight of Leighton James on a coloured disc was never going to compare with that of Gordon Banks on a proper commemorative coin. You’d have to go a long way to beat that, but at least you had the petrol to get you there.


  1. Brilliant! Takes me right back. I've still got mine, along with the World Cup 1970 coins, club badges and FA Cup Centenary coins!

    1. Thanks Chris! Sounds like you've got quite an impressive collection there... :)

  2. I have a Mike England coin but it has the name of Peter Storey on the back. Does anyone have a similar one? Is this a common error in the production of these discs? Or do I have a 44 year old unique coin/disc ?

  3. I have this open too offers fentonbarry@yahoo.co.uk