Contrast & Compare: 1981 Topps/Coke Don Sutton And Art Howe

For today’s post I’d originally written more about 2015 Topps, but even I was bored by the final result.  I’ve scuttled that post and will instead focus on two 1981 Coca-Cola Astros cards I’ve recently acquired.

For anybody new to 1981 Coca-Cola sets, they were made by Topps to be largely Coke-sponsored versions of the 1981 Cards, they were issued in small cello packs by team and there were a handful of cards which were significantly different than the corresponding cards from 81T.

As best I can tell there are two of these “variations” in the 1981 Coke Astros set.  I’ll start with Don Sutton.

Up through 1980, Sutton pitched for the Dodgers, and it was with the Dodgers that the 1981 Topps set pictured him.
1981 Topps Don Sutton
However, over that winter he’d left Los Angeles as a free agent and signed with the Astros. The Coke cards, which went to press later, featured Sutton with the Astros border and some “Tequila Sunrise” striping airbrushed on to his jersey.
1981 Coke Don Sutton

Art Howe is the other card that differs significantly from the 1981 Topps counterpart… but he didn’t change teams and I couldn’t tell you why it’s different.

His 1981 Topps card shows him waiting at first base for something to happen.
1981 Topps Art Howe

His 1981 Coke card shows him at home plate waiting for a pitch.
1981 Coke Art Howe
Did someone at Coke reject the fielding photo?  Did they want something more in linke with the Coca-Cola corporate zeitgeist of the early 1980’s? Were they just not able to find the original photo in a timely manner? Damned if I know. I just know that I got to add two cards to my 1981 Topps binder, and since I’d originally completed the Topps set 34 years ago, that doesn’t happen often.

Update:  Jeff from One Man’s Junk (Wax) commented that Art Howe’s position on the card is different to reflect his moving from first to third for the 1981 season.  Topps & Coke probably decided against having a card that says “3rd Base” and shows a guy clearly at 1st.  Thanks, Jeff!


Quick aside: I did do a bit of research into today’s original post topic, and certain people might find it moderately interesting, so I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version of that research…

The 2015 card of Mets reliever Carlos Torres is not his rookie card because he had a card in 2009 Bowman Sterling. The Carlos Torres in 2006 Bowman Prospects is a different guy.

Torres pitched in Japan in 2011, which lead me to discover that tradingcarddb.com has Japanese baseball checklists… something I am excited about because I’ve been searching for such a thing for some time now.

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