Topps 1957 Football set consists of 154 cards, each measuring the newly standard-sized 2-1/2” by 3-1/2”. A player portrait is placed side-by-side with an "action" scene on the front of each horizontally oriented piece, with the athletes' names, teams and positions also identified. The set is anchored by depictions of George Blanda, Frank Gifford, Bobby Layne and Y.A. Tittle, with the rookie cards of Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas and Paul Hornung among the most powerful group of debut collectibles in any sport, and other first-year Hall of Famer appearances include cards of Raymond Berry, "Night Train" Lane and Tommy McDonald. Topps released its 1957 set in two series: the first group of 88 cards was followed by a smaller, 66-card run of "High Numbers, " with the latter containing the “big three” of the rookie crop. Although 1957 Topps "Highs" as a category are not excessively difficult to find, certain numbers in that run were short printed and are correspondingly elusive. Many remember this set for contributing two specialty elements to the hobby: the "Error Card" and the "Checklist." The former is occasionally observed on card #58, which features the Rams' Willard Sherman. In a very few instances, the team name (which should occupy the caption block at the card's right side) was left unprinted. Sherman is left soaring in a midair "action" portrayal on these rare "Error" pieces, and the cards look strangely incomplete. Checklist cards were produced in two different color schemes but sparingly placed into card packs.
By 1957, the Topps Company was quite well established as the market leader in the field of baseball cards, even though they had taken a tentative approach to football cards prior to that season. Perhaps energized by the success of its 1957 Baseball release, which was newly standard-sized with 2 ½" by 3 ½" cards and which promenaded a superb, real-photo theme, the company decided on a much more serious commitment to football than it had demonstrated in the past.
A quirky felt-backed issue, a group of odd "scratch-off" collectibles, and the colorful "All-Americans" highlighted Topps' gridiron heritage to this point; all of these featured only college players. Dabbling in the NFL realm for the first time in 1956 (after rival manufacturer Bowman was no longer a factor), the result was essentially a much-abridged version of 1956 Baseball. 1956 Topps Football provided a short, 120-card roster that accommodated Team Cards as well as depictions of established stars.
Composition - The 1957 Topps Football issue consists of 154 cards. A set tha''s relatively short and quite efficient in its construction, 1957s are memorable in style; each player is featured on the obverse in a portrait likeness placed side-by-side with an "action" scene. The cards are horizontal in orientation, with the athletes' names, teams and positions identified on the fronts, and biographical and statistical information - plus cartoons, which were becoming a Topps hallmark - decorating the backs.
The 1957 issue, in addition to solving the various shortcomings that resulted from its maker's prior indecision with respect to the sport, inaugurated a pattern of football-card continuity that would serve Topps nicely for the next several decades. At last, the company was prepared to be thoughtful and methodical with respect to a pastime that was becoming increasingly important to America's sports fans.
Each 1957 entry seems to have been carefully selected, an aspect that jives satisfactorily with its brevity. Virtually all of the day's significant stars are present, including such legends as Frank Gifford, Y.A. Tittle, George Blanda and Bobby Layne. Additionally, whoever made the final call in terms of content took care to recognize the NFL's future superstars. The set's formidable rookie triumvirate, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas and Paul Hornung, is among the most powerful group of debut collectibles in any sport, and other first-year Hall of Famer appearances include cards of Ray Berry, "Night Train" Lane and Tommy McDonald.
Key Features and Rarities - The 1957s, possibly because a bit of tentativeness remained among Topps' decision makers, were released in two series: the first group of 88 cards was followed by a smaller, 66-card run of "High Numbers." The latter bunch is slightly more difficult to obtain, and naturally, it contains the "Big Three" within the release's rookie crop. Furthermore, although 1957 Topps' "Highs" as a category are not excessively tough to find, certain numbers in that run were short printed and are correspondingly elusive.
The "regular" cards, the stars and the rookies form the general-interest portion of 1957 Topps' story, but there are also two sub-plots that have captivated enthusiasts for 50 years. In a very real sense, 1957 Topps Football solidified the importance of two specialty elements, the "Error Card" and the "Checklist."
The former is occasionally observed on card #58, which features the Rams' Willard Sherman. In a very few instances, the team name (which should occupy the caption block at the card's right side) was left unprinted. Sherman is left soaring in a midair "action" portrayal on these rare "Error" pieces, and the cards look strangely incomplete. Although misprints were nothing new to trading cards, "Sherman" No Team - has steadily gained popularity as a scarce and quantifiable variation piece of which, significantly, a much more plentiful "Corrected " version was produced.
Checklist cards engage the imagination in a different way. Although Topps had tossed a few of these cards into the company's Baseball and Football packs in 1956, the concept remained fundamentally untested. (And the jury was still out as to the cards' innate desirability. Did a young consumer, hoping for a big star, derive pleasure upon receiving a lackluster checklist card in his penny pack?) In hindsight, it looks like the confectioner was simply undecided about checklists in 1957. Topps made the card (in two different color schemes) but seeded them into packs only sparingly. So, the football specialist of today not only has to find one of the very challenging pieces, but typically aspires to locate the item in respectable, unmarked condition too... not an easy task! Topps elected to add checklist designs to the backs of its Team Cards in 1958, and later solved the matter altogether by incorporating the items into regular sets as standard numbered cards. Still the un-numbered 1957 Topps Football Checklist card stands as a special milestone.
Bottom Line - Topps' 1957 Football production marked an observable turning point. The company was finished with large-sized cards, college players and novelty themes that tended to trivialize a sport which was beginning to rival the World Series as a source of autumn-season enthusiasm. Its 154 cards were ideally conceived and attractive, and its player content was appropriately robust. With the emergence of its 1957 Football production (and with the influence of its competitor, Bowman, now two years removed into the past) one thing became clear: Topps was determined to take charge in a new realm.
|Checklist 1-154 (Bazooka)|
|Checklist 1-154 (Twin Blony)|
|J.C. Caroline/Leo Elter/Mike McCormack (Advertising Panel)|
|16||John Henry Johnson|
|18||Bob St. Clair|
|22||Norm Van Brocklin|
|58||Bill Sherman (Cor. Rams Team On Front)|
|58||Bill Sherman (Err. No Team/Position)|
|58||Bill Sherman (Err. No Team/W Position)|