They're back -- smaller but better.
Topps is bringing back its 1953 baseball cards. The '53s were larger than today's cards (2 5/8 x 3 3/4 vs. today's standard 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 ), and they came in wax packs with gum. Factory sets didn't exist.
The new '53s, which are in hobby shops, are cards of the '90s. They're printed on Stadium Club-quality stock, are modern-era-sized and go by the name Topps Archives -- The Ultimate 1953 Set. They come 12 to a pack, wrapped in foil and sell for $1.25 a pack -- no gum included -- and, in a classic touch, no factory sets. They also will be somewhat scarce. Topps is limiting production to 18,000 cases.
The 1953 set contains 274 cards, although it is numbered to 280. There was no players' association in those days, and card companies contracted with individual players, so Topps had to repeat the process for the reprint set. It got 273 authorizations from players or their estates (only Billy Loes said no) and then expanded the set to 330.
The cards may come as a shock to new collectors. Player portraits on the reprinted cards are painted, and the backs have baseball carddom's first trivia quiz and facsimile autographs. New cards have black-and-white photos and no autographs.
What's new are three checklist cards and 57 "cards that never were," cards produced in the style of the '53s of people who probably should have been in the set but weren't. Stars include Ted Williams, Duke Snider, Bobby Thomson, Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn. There are also cards for managers Rogers Hornsby, Leo Durocher and Casey Stengel, Hall of Fame inductees Dizzy Dean and Al Simmons, and Eleanor Engle, who was signed in 1952 as a shortstop by Harrisburg of the Professional Inter-State League but was barred from playing by organized baseball because she was a woman.
True to its '90s roots, the set includes Hall of Fame home-run king Hank Aaron -- as a "Hot Prospect."
"There's a lot of interest in the older card sets," says Topps' Timm Boyle, "and your average collector can't shell out $12,000 [for a near-mint 1953 set]."
This is Topps' second reprint set; in 1983, it did the 1952 baseball set. Boyle says Topps is looking to do others, possibly some football sets.
Basketball extras: SkyBox collectors can put their 1991-92 cards a SkyBox binder. The black 2-inch, D-ring binder is designed to hold up to 700 cards and has the SkyBox logo on the spine and cover. It has a suggested retail price of $12.99. . . . NBA Hoops is offering five mail-in premiums for Series I: a free basketball centennial card; a centennial patch ($2.50); two centennial stickers ($1); a card, a patch and a sticker ($3); and NBA Hoops' first Art Cards Poster, which features last season's Series II Art Cards ($6.99 plus $2 shipping and handling). All offers end Aug. 31, 1992. Check wrappers for details.
Think spring: Kayo Cards Ltd. has been named the official trading card of the Professional Spring Football League, which will begin play in February. Besides producing a four-color set which will be available next spring, Kayo has agreed to sponsor the league's three combines for testing prospective players.
Today, baseball card show to benefit Loch Raven Recreation Council Baseball League, Loch Raven Optimist Bingo Hall (Loch Raven Boulevard and Taylor Avenue), (410) 931-4881.
Sunday, baseball card show, Towson Quality Inn (I-695, Exit 26 S), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (410) 239-7446.
Jan. 11-12, baseball card show, Montgomery County Fairgrounds, Gaithersburg (I-270, Exit 11), Jan. 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Jan. 12, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 329-2188.