Topps 1969 Baseball Magic Rub-Offs

Letraset transfers were used as 'inserts' in Topps Baseball Bubble Gum packs for 1969, along with the statutory stick of bubble gum & handful of picture cards.


Despite claiming on the pack shown that there was an "EXTRA Magic Baseball Rub-Off in every pack!", in fact the Letraset transfers only appeared from series four onwards of the seven series of Topps Baseball Picture Cards to appear in 1969. There were 48 different transfers to be collected.


Obviously I had to buy one of these Magic Rub-Offs in order to show it to you properly! The vagaries of baseball card collecting mean that some items are hugely more expensive than others, but luckily this one was quite reasonable — & just as good as any of the others in aesthetic terms.

The size of this transfer is 43.8mm x 54.2mm = 1.7" x 2.1". That's close enough to the 1¾" x 2¼" which I've seen stated, & which is the exact same size as the A&BC Footballer Bubble Gum transfers Letraset produced later.


The above image, courtesy of eBay Seller truckeemeadows, shows an unusual uncut strip of ten transfers, with above it some of the cards from the same series — showing the relative sizes of the cards to the transfers.

I've seen (on eBay) that someone had rubbed down the transfer on top of its respective card! Which, since the transfers are so much smaller than the cards, looks like one of those recursive comic book covers…

The two images along the left-hand edge of this photo are both of Felipe Alou (Braves), so you can see that although some of the photos used for the transfers are the same as for the cards, not all of them are.

The strip of ten is 17½" wide, which neatly fits the 20" width of a Crown sheet, so we can deduce that the transfers were printed landscape rather than portrait — and that they were cut into strips before being individually separated, of course! Six of these strips would fill 13½" of the available 15", so that's a potential sixty transfers per sheet — allowing twelve spare slots. If there was more than one sheet of artwork, that would mean some transfers could be duplicated, triplicated or worse, while others would remain less common — a well-known trick to play on collectors to keep them busy buying packs in search of the elusive items missing from their collections.

Now, this little image may not strike you as particularly impressive, but I can assure you it took me two solid days of hard work (based on months of research) to put it together, with the images provided by several enthusiastically helpful baseball card collectors.

It shows the full set, arranged alphabetically by the surnames of the players:


For those of you who are keen on such things, I hope it will prove useful to provide the full list…

  1. Hank Aaron (Atlanta Braves) — Richie Allen (Philadelphia Phillies) — Felipe Alou (Atlanta Braves) — Matty Alou (Pittsburgh Pirates) — Luis Aparicio (Chicago White Sox) — Bob Clemente (Pittsburgh Pirates) — Donn Clendenon (Montreal Expos) — Tommy Davis (Seattle Pilots)
  2. Don Drysdale (Los Angeles Dodgers) — Joe Foy (Kansas City Royals) — Jim Fregosi (California Angels) — Bob Gibson (St Louis Cardinals) — Tony Gonzalez (San Diego Padres) — Tom Haller (Los Angeles Dodgers) — Ken Harrelson (Boston Red Sox) — Tommy Helms (Cincinnati Reds)
  3. Willie Horton (Detroit Tigers) — Frank Howard (Washington Senators) — Reggie Jackson (Oakland Athletics) — Fergie Jenkins (Chicago Cubs) — Harmon Killebrew (Minnesota Twins) — Jerry Koosman (New York Mets) — Mickey Mantle (New York Yankees) — Willie Mays (San Francisco Giants)
  4. Tim McCarver (St Louis Cardinals) — Willie McCovey (San Francisco Giants) — Sam McDowell (Cleveland Indians) — Denny McLain (Detroit Tigers) — Dave McNally (Baltimore Orioles) — Don Mincher (Seattle Pilots) — Rick Monday (Oakland Athletics) — Tony Oliva (Minnesota Twins)
  5. Camilo Pascual (Washington Senators) — Rick Reichardt (California Angels) — Frank Robinson (Baltimore Orioles) — Pete Rose (Cincinnati Reds) — Ron Santo (Chicago Cubs) — Tom Seaver (New York Mets) — Dick Selma (San Diego Padres) — Chris Short (Philadelphia Phillies)
  6. Rusty Staub (Houston Astros) — Mel Stottlemyre (New York Yankees) — Luis Tiant (Cleveland Indians) — Pete Ward (Chicago White Sox) — Hoyt Wilhelm (California Angels) — Maury Wills (Montreal Expos) — Jim Wynn (Houston Astros) — Carl Yastrzemski (Boston Red Sox)

Although collectors refer to these transfers as 'decals', Topps called them "Magic Rub-Offs" (in line with their previous, non-Letraset transfers), & they are of course dry rub-down transfers. I got into an argument with one collector who insisted that decals OUGHT to mean "stickers"! Even though decals (short for décalcomanies) were originally waterslide transfers — & they still are.

Decals are not stickers! — Stickers are not decals!

Another baseball collecting term that causes confusion to outsiders is their use of "cello". This is short for "cellophane-wrapped", & doesn't refer to the stringed instrument. And once Letraset had produced a very similar set for A&BC Footballer Bubble Gum, a couple of years later, football collectors in the UK insisted on calling them "transparencies". There's just no end to the mischief!

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Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives — truckeemeadows