Friday, March 19, 2010

1981 Topps Coke Team Sets

A Detour from the Checklist

To the best of my research, Topps created 11 team sets of 11 cards each of cards with a similar design to their regular set, but with a Coke logo on the front. I became aware of these because I have the Detroit Tigers complete set. I have no recollection of how I received these. They were sitting in a box with a checklist card in a plastic case, so I must've bought these as a complete set at some point. I really have no idea if these were distributed at games or in packages of Coke, or if they were some kind of redemption prize. This appears to be a complete checklist of the cards listed here. It seems this promotion must've been on the east coast and midwest based on the teams they made sets for.

Since I have a complete Tigers set in front of me, it is interesting to note that all cards are identical except the photo on the Aurelio Lopez card is different. Shown above the card with the moustache is from the regular Topps set. Who knows why this was changed. After searching around the internet, I came across this blog devoted to Cincinnati Reds cards that had photos of the complete Reds set. It appears the only change was the elimination of the All-Star banner on Johnny Bench's card leading to a slightly different cropping of the same photo on the card.

I also came across one more interesting change after searching around ebay for examples. The Bruce Sutter card in the St. Louis Cardinals set is definetly airbrushed, but the card in the 1981 Topps Traded set showing him in a Cardinals uniform is definitely a photograph (this was his first year in St. Louis). Also, the last transaction that shows up in the regular Topps traded set is the June 12, 1981 trade that sent Rick Reushel to the Yankees from the Cubs for Doug Bird, so the traded set had to be released after that date. I can't find any transaction after the offseason between 1980-1981 that shows up in the Coke cards. So these sets seemed to have came out in between the regular set and the traded set.

But I suspect they didn't all come out at the same time. After searching the checklists, I suspect the Phillies and Pirates sets came out before the others, as Greg Luzinski is shown in the Phillies set and Ed Ott is shown in the Pirates set. Neither one played for these teams in 1981, Luzinski played on the White Sox and Ed Ott was a California Angel. They are both shown in the traded set in their new uniforms. There are no players on either of the Phillies or Pirates Coke sets that show up in the traded set. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, and Kansas City Royals set also have no players that show up in the regular traded set, although this may be because none of these teams acquired anyone of significance. Every other team has at least one player that appears in the Topps traded set and no one who didn't play for that team in 1981.

In the end, this is a useless set for my project, as it doesn't allow me to fill in the blanks of our checklist not already filled by the 4 major sets out in 1981.

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