110 Yard Line: Vintage Topps Canadian Football League Cards

I was at this show a few weeks ago, and one dealer blew me away by having Canadian Football League cards from the 1960’s. Although I don’t follow the CFL, I’ve had a soft spot for the league since the NFL strike of 1982, when American TV networks showed CFL games to fill the time slots. With the 110-yard field and only 3 downs, the league sucked me in after a short time. I’m still kind of disappointed that the mid-1990’s CFL expansion into the US didn’t work out…. and by the way, the Baltimore Stallions got a raw deal.

We’ll start with this 1960 Topps CFL card of the Montreal Allouettes’ Ed Learn.  According to Wikipedia, Learn was a defensive back/punt returner who played 12 years in the CFL.

When I was going through the cards at the show, I picked out these cards based solely on visual appeal, since I didn’t know any of the players and have no real team loyalty.  This is a nice design, and the halftone action shot is like a precursor to 1968-69 Topps Hockey.  I love the old school helmet that Ed is wearing.

Here’s the back, with a drawing added by some long-forgotten artist. I’ve seen some interesting things added to cards with a ballpoint pen, but this is one of the more intriguing additions.

Next up, 1961 Topps CFL; I really like this look, it reminds me of the Beatles cards which would come a couple of years later. If you can’t read the script at the bottom, it says “Tobin Rote, Argonauts”.  Tobin Rote, cousin of Kyle Rote, was a quarterback for the Packers and Lions in the 1950’s, with the Toronto Argonauts for 3 seasons, and then would move to the AFL with the Chargers and Broncos.

The card back is pretty basic and has one of those “rub a coin over the blank space” magic photo thingies.

Jumping ahead to 1963, here’s John Barrow of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.  John Barrow was an offensive and defensive lineman, played in nine Grey Cup games (the CFL championship) and won four of those.  He’s in the CFL Hall Of Fame and in 2006 was named one of the 50 top CFL players of all time.

Man, I just love that staged running shot.  “We can rebuild him… make him better, faster, stronger…”

This card back has one of those things where you hold red cellophane over the image to get your answer to the question “Who is the new coach of the Tiger-Cats?”… the question on everybody’s lips.

Finally, here’s a card from 1964 Topps CFL.  Joe Poirier won three Grey Cups and was a regular all-star in his twelve seasons in the CFL.

My eye was drawn to that Ottawa Rough Riders logo, although it frankly looks more like it could be the logo for a brand a regional bakery.  I imagine that “OFC” stands for Ottawa Football Club, but I wasn’t able to verify.

Another secret message back, only I have no idea how this one works.

Since I’m sharing CFL cards, I may as well reflect back on some of the ones I’d featured here before.

First off, there’s the 1965 Topps CFL set; this was the first CFL card that swept me off my feet, I really like this design; it’s so colorful and 1960’s without being a riff on anything else from that time.

I liked the set so much that four years ago I used the design for some customs

This 1972 O-Pee-Chee set is just another version of the 1972 Topps NFL set, but 1972 Topps didn’t have a player named Basil who looks like he could be playing with the Moody Blues when he wasn’t playing with the Calgary Stampeders.

Last up is this 1963 Post Cereal CFL card, which I just wanted to get because it’s an oddball card from our neighbors to the North, and what’s not to like about that?

Canadian Football League cards are never going to be a major part of my collection, but at some point I would like to fill in some of the gaps in my type collection.

17 thoughts on “110 Yard Line: Vintage Topps Canadian Football League Cards

  1. After just recently reading about his 1957 season with the Lions, and then watching film of him with the Chargers in ’63, I decided to add Tobin Rote to my list of player collections. I hadn’t looked through all of his cards yet, so it’s neat to see that he’s got at least one CFL card. Those CFL Post cards sure are nice too, I’m gonna have to check and see if I recognize anyone in the set. Cool post today!

  2. Seems odd that with the exception maybe of the 1964 card, none of the cards show the team logo, either in the photos or on the card design. I wonder if Topps had the same issue with licensing with the CFL that they had with the NFL.

    • I hadn’t really thought about that, but since the players are largely helmetless, I suppose there’s nothing in the photo which would normally show a logo. These also seem to be pretty low-budget affairs, I think most, if not all, of the “color” photos are colorized B&W.

  3. On that 1964 card, some Googling shows that Frank Clair was the head coach of Ottawa at the time, and one of his two assistants (imagine a pro football team today with only two assistant coaches!) was named Bill Smyth. https://www.profootballarchives.com/1964cflott.html cover up the top row of letters, the J, K, and D in the second row, and the Q and X in the last row, and you get “Bill Smyth”.

    The decoder had boxes that blocked those 6 spaces. https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https://i.ebayimg.com/thumbs/images/g/QLYAAOSwi~FeObsZ/s-l225.jpg&imgrefurl=https://www.ebay.ca/sch/i.html?_sacat%3D0%26_nkw%3D1964%2Bcfl%26_frs%3D1&tbnid=RPzyD-91ypmSHM&vet=1&docid=81doAw4hBP6QiM&w=225&h=217&itg=1&q=topps+cfl+decoder&source=sh/x/im Quite a neat item!

  4. Just fantastic! My only exposure to CFL football cards has been the ’70s releases, so it was awesome to see a lot of these designs. I would have absolutely snapped these up myself, great pick-ups!

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