New Additions To My 1970’s English “Footballers” Collection

Since the web is truly “World Wide”, I want to start this by pointing out to anyone who’s not a regular reader that I am an American, and that means that, for me, any sports collectibles from outside of the US or Canada are 1) waaay exotic, 2) often seem like something from an alternate universe and 3) something I never saw until well after I became a baseball card fanatic.  OK, with that out of the way…

In recent years I’ve become mildly obsessed with Topps and Topps-related soccer (or “Footballer”) cards from the UK. It started off with a bunch of 1975/76 Topps Scottish Footballer cards I got at a show about 10 years ago.

There is also a similar English set from the same year, and I have since gotten some of those… but the Scottish version is the ones I’d initially run across at a show.

These are, of course, the same design as 1975 Topps Baseball (with obvious differences)

My interest got a jump start when I acquired a number of 1960/61 A&BC cards from Shoebox Legends… A&BC was a British company which licensed the designs from Topps.

In this case, the design was originally used in for 1959 Topps Baseball.

Cards like these fascinate me, even though I’m not the biggest soccer fan around.
Over the past couple of years I’ve been keeping an eye out for affordable examples of commons from some of the other English and/or Scottish sets, and in my last two COMC shipments I added examples from four different 1970’s set to my collection.

I’m going to run through the four cards from oldest to newest.

The first card, an English Footballer card made by Topps UK in 1976 (for the 1976/77 season), is notable for two reasons… First, the design isn’t one that was adapted from an American set and it’s an original, VERY 1970’s design.  (I’m using the original COMC image for this because they did a better job of imaging the card + slab than I’ve been able to do.)

Second, and this is a more personal distinction, it is THE ONE AND ONLY GRADED CARD I HAVE EVER OWNED.

Since the dawn of grading I have looked past graded cards under the assumption that anything that’s slabbed would be outside of my budget…  And I’ve also found that flipping through graded slabs at a card show isn’t as much fun (like the difference between flipping through vinyl albums and flipping through CD’s…. Klak klak klak klak klak…)

But I have recently come to realize that I probably have unnecessarily skipped by some bargains just because the cards had been graded. This is a fine example, it cost me less than $3 and I would’ve gladly paid the same sum for an ungraded card.

Getting back to the card itself… I had assumed that this was a common, but Billy Bremner, a Scottish footballer who played for Leeds United (in Yorkshire), is in the English Football Hall of Fame and the Scottish Football Hall of Fame, has been voted the greatest player in Leeds United history and there is a statue of him outside of Leeds United’s home stadium…….. So, he’s good, yeah?

Since it’s a 1970’s Topps card, I guess I should’ve been tipped off by the fact that his card is #200 in the set.

Speaking of card numbers, here’s the back… Had this been a Scottish Footballers card, the back would’ve been red instead of blue (just in case any of you are trying to identify a card you already have or find for sale).

Moving forward two years – I don’t yet have a card from 1977/78 – We have a 1978/79 Topps card which will look familiar to any collectors of American Football…

If you were wondering, “Q.P.R.” stands for Queens Park Rangers, a team which, like Leeds United, is currently in the Championship League, the second tier of English soccer.

For those of you who aren’t quite as familiar with 1970’s football cards, here’s a 1977 Topps Football card for comparison purposes

Gerry Francis isn’t quite at the same level as Billy Bremner, but he did put in a 20 year career and represented England in a number of international competitions.

The back of the Footballer cards are not the same as the Football cards, but they are quite nice backs (and very easy to read).  The Scottish cards have a light green back.

The third example today is a 1979 Topps Footballer card; Gerry Sweeney played from 1966 to 1984, mostly for Bristol City.

Bristol City is yet another team currently in the Championship.

The design comes from 1978 Topps Football.  For some odd reason, this past Summer when Topps did a “Throwback Thursday” baseball card using this design, they referred to it as a “1977/78 Topps Footballer design”… even though most of the people who bought it would know the design as “1978 Topps Football” (and they didn’t even get the ‘Footballer” year right).

Once again, the backs are not the same as the American doppelganger, and the Scottish backs are red.

One last card, and this is probably the least appealing of the three. This is a 1981 Topps card which uses a lame gimmick of perforating a standard 2.5″ x 3.5″ card to make three “mini” cards.  As I found out, two of these players would also play in the North American Soccer League.

The same lame concept is was used in 1980-81 Topps Basketball, although the design is different.

I wonder if British kids were more receptive to these than I was. I hated the one pack I bought, but I also didn’t collect basketball.

Here’s the back… From my sources it doesn’t appear that there was a Scottish version.

Steve Hunt played in the NASL for Cosmos and right there that would’ve made him a target for me… although I don’t really remember the name from back in the day.

I thought that Phil Parkes, the goalie in the center, would also serve as a Monty Python reference (“Yangtze Kiang” on Monty Python’s Previous Record), but I found out that there are two former English goaltenders named Phil Parkes and born three years apart. The Python-referenced Parkes played for Wolverhamton Wanderers… This Parkes is, unfortunately, the other one.

Dutch footballer Frans Thijssen played in his native country as well as the UK and for the NASL’s Vancouver Whitecaps.

That covers all the English and Scottish Footballer cards that I own, as well as what I know about them. Like with Japanese baseball cards, I’m always keeping an eye out for these.

If you have any similar cards, or know more about these sets, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

12 thoughts on “New Additions To My 1970’s English “Footballers” Collection

  1. I discovered recently that soccer cards in the UK have also been continuously released in the tobacco-size format plus there’s the whole Panini sticker thing and it kind of amazes me that unlike in the US there are so many different “standard” sizes now.

    Because of the continued existence of tobacco cards I suspect that those perforated cards often got torn and put in tobacco-sized sheets (in the UK these are 10-pocket sheets for two-ring binders).

    I do like how you’re flagging the design reuse here from Topps. That’s very cool to see and intrigues me in how much a design works across different sports and what kind of changes get made to adapt things.

    • The differing approaches to collectibles is part of what intrigues me about it all, and the differing card sizes are part of that. On the other hand, I’ve got standard sized cards from The UK, Japan, Korea and Australia (so far), so there is a recognition that it’s “a” standard if not “the” standard.

      • Oh for sure. We can’t agree on standard business card sizes or printer paper sizes but trading cards are increasingly universal (also the quarter-20 tripod socket on cameras worldwide).

        It’d be interesting to see when those standards got settled on. Like 1970s Japan cards are not the 1957 Topps standard (yes I’ve looked for an ISO standard but there is none) but something clearly changed in the 1980s.

  2. Great post. I’ve stumbled across a few of those vintage soccer cards before. I’m gonna bookmark it to use as a resource in the future.

    P.S. Welcome to the slabbed card collecting club!

  3. A few years ago, at a card show, I picked up a sealed box of the perforated cards. I thought I would open it with one of my friends who is a big British soccer fan. He told me it would be a shame to break open a box that old and told me to keep it sealed for now. It is the only sealed box in my collection.

  4. Don’t know if this site is still active but I discovered the English soccer cards the same way but I went right for the big guys dalglish and best which are hard to find but surprisingly undervalued. George Best cards are well known in UK as they made birthday cards picturing them but I guess over there they don’t command much value.

  5. Howdy I discovered these by accident too and am not a soccer fan. I went the other route and searched out who might be the montanas or namaths of the uk sport then. I came up with george best and kenny dalglish. These cards don’t show up on eBay often topps and a+bc anyhow but there is an ebay uk it turns out. Seems the brits don’t value individual cards like we do so I did get some for what I figured was cheap but still hard to find. I also looked up the utube videos of them playing and they were amazing. Scottie

    • George Best played in the NASL towards the end of his career, so I’ve known about him since I was a kid. I wouldn’t mind a card of his, but it’s not a priority for me, right now I’m just looking for cards from as many different UK sets as I can get.

      Interesting about the individual cards on eBay UK, I guess you never know how some of these things play out overseas

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