Back in 1981, Topps joined up with Coca-Cola to issue a series of regional team sets. If I had the money and the resources at the time, I would’ve chased down all 11 sets, but all I got at the time was the complete Mets set.
If you weren’t collecting back in 1981, these were pretty exciting. The only other options early in the season were the big three sets plus Kellogg’s. The Coca-Cola sets went to press later than Topps, Donruss and Fleer, so the Coke sets reflected some trades and free agent signings which weren’t in the big sets and wouldn’t be otherwise represented until Topps Traded later in the year.
Each set featured 11 players plus one header card.
On the back of the header was an offer for an uncut sheet of 1981 Topps. I may not have chased down the other Coke sets, but I did take advantage of the uncut sheet offer (something I wrote about 3 years ago).
Many of the cards are identical to the Topps set, although a number have cropping differences.
Had the Mets had any All-Stars, the “N.L. All-Star” banner would’ve been dropped to make way for the Coke logo.
Here’s a comparison of the two backs; the main difference is the Coke logo replacing the Topps logo and card number graphic on the left. The easy-to-overlook Coke card number was moved to the right.
I find the most interesting cards are the ones which have photos which differ from 1981 Topps. For the next three cards, the image on the left is from 1981 Topps Traded.
The Mets reacquired Dave Kingman, trading Steve Henderson to the Cubs in February 1981. (Henderson’s Coca-Cola Cubs card was also updated)
Randy Jones finished out his career with the Mets after a December, 1980 trade.
The guy the Mets got was a shadow of the guy who won the Cy Young in 1976.
Like Kingman, Rusty Staub was also starting his second tour of duty with the Mets. Staub signed as a free agent in December.
Getting back to some of the cropping differences… Some of them are much more noticeable than others.
Alex Trevino’s image was shifted ever so slightly to the left (look at the blue on his batting glove)
Doug Flynn’s image is shifted down slightly (look at his feet with regard to the card border).
Pat Zachry’s cropping difference isn’t all that noticeable until you put the two cards side-by-side (look at his stirrups).
I’ve found the Coca-Cola sets to be a mixed bag; for example, the Cardinals set has at least six players who were updated for the Coke sets. Other sets don’t have any significant differences… For example, I believe the Coke Royals are only different in that two cards have the All-Star banners missing.
Does anybody have any first-hand experience with one of the Coke sets for other teams?