2009 Topps AFL Flashback Set – A Study in Frustration

2009 topps jim marshallBack in the summer of 2009, I was quietly anticipating the upcoming football card sets.  I didn’t care about getting the new Peyton Manning, Brett Favre or LaDainian Tomlinson cards.  I was awaiting the plethora of great throwback sets that Topps and the other trading card companies would surely be distributing to recognize the AFL’s 50th anniversary.  Of course there would be an infinite number of cool possibilities.  Maybe a team set for each of the AFL championship teams from 1960-1969.  Or reproductions of the early Fleer sets.  Or cards representing league leaders for each of the seasons.  Or…  Or…  Or…

Fortunately, I didn’t hold my breath waiting for that really cool set, as I would have expired sometime around July of 2009, and we would not have this blog today.  None of my potential sets were produced.  No championship teams, no Fleer reprints, no league leaders.  No…   No…  Nothing.  Well, that is not completely true, but there may as well have been nothing.

Topps, my old standby in the trading card world, did put out a mostly AFL subset in 2009.  Ten cards were produced, in a subset called 2009 Topps Flashback.  The design was simple, yet not unattractive.  Colorized black and white images were used to represent players from the past.  Each card highlighted a particular moment in AFL history.  Decent stuff, but frankly, it was totally uninspired.  The checklist of players was:

Jack Kemp – Chargers

Paul Lowe – Chargers

Larry Grantham – New York Titans

Don Maynard – New York Titans

Abner Haynes – Dallas Texans

George Blanda – Houston Oilers

Billy Cannon – Houston Oilers

Bill Groman – Houston Oilers

Frank Tripucka – Denver Broncos

Jim Marshall – Cleveland Browns

Marshall?  Browns?  Yes, that is what I said as well.  What does Jim Marshall have to do with the AFL?  The answer is absolutely nothing.  The back of his card talks about how in 1960, Jim Marshall began his streak of playing in 282 consecutive games, every single one of which was played in the NFL.  Frankly, I’m not sure what exactly Topps was trying to achieve with this.  Nine of the 10 cards in the set were AFL-related, and then there is Jim Marshall.  Accident?  Done on purpose?  Was this actually not an AFL set?

The truth is that I do not know the answer, and really, I don’t care.  The trading card companies had a golden opportunity to produce and attractive, interesting and historically-significant set of football cards, and they all fell flat on their faces.  It is sad, really, as a whole host of modern card collectors could have been introduced to the American Football League, but instead, this handful of “flashback” cards got sorted to the bottom of the stack, and the AFL was again snubbed by those in power.


Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

9 Responses to 2009 Topps AFL Flashback Set – A Study in Frustration

  1. Joseph Budd says:

    What surprised me on this set, was that they didn’t have any Raiders cards, and they missed the chance to either make a card for Jim Otto, the first Hall of Famer for the Raiders, or Tom Flores, a good QB but a better coach, who led the team to two Super Bowl wins…and was the first Hispanic head coach in the NFL.

  2. Howard says:

    I’m surprised as well. Snub is stupid when you have a large market that would be interested in purchasing full sets.

  3. 1967 says:

    ‘Wrong way’ Topps 10 card set, same as Marshall’s infamous return td for the opposition – a case of ‘go west young man’ when he should have headed east?
    Almost seems someone at Topps used a dart board, this what they managed. Perhaps a tribute to ‘bonehead play’s – Marshall’s as well Haynes ‘kick to the clock’ misspeak, Tripucka’s hideous vertical socks courtesy Denver thriftiness, Gillman’s errancy losing Kemp to BUFF? Would not explain those other guys though, to my knowledge, so chalk it up to Topps most ba$ic intent.

  4. Tom says:

    One link is with the sequence by team and the fact that in 1959 #9 Frank Tripuka Broncos, was head coach and QB of the Saskatchewn Roughriders. In 1959 Tripucka was instrumental in securing # 10 Jim Marshall’s eligibility and a contract with the Roughriders after Marshall’s Junior year at Ohio State. In 1959 Marshall was not NFL eligible and had to wait a year for his class to graduate before being NFL eligible.

    Michel Eisner’s hedge fund owns Topps and he attended Dennison College in Ohio the school that produced Woody Hayes and where Sid Gilman got his coaching start, so who knows it may be a statement of the AFL saved and extended the careers of many players and Frank Tripucka saved Jim’s.

  5. 1967 says:

    Six degrees of separation as ’twere… it’s a small pro football world after all.

    : )

  6. 0tt060-74 says:

    An all time AFL 1st team member set would have been cool.

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