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Mets Cardboard Memories: The Intriguing Tale of the 1969 and 1970 Transogram Baseball Figures and Cards

Collectors of unusual sports memorabilia often find themselves captivated by the Transogram baseball issues of 1969 and 1970. These items are particularly intriguing due to their unique distribution methods and the brevity of their production run. Despite their fleeting presence on store shelves over 45 years ago, the Transogram baseball figures and cards have become a rare and enigmatic part of sports collecting history. These baseball items were a final effort from a company that once held a significant place in American pop culture as one of the leading board game companies of the era.

In the spring of 1969, Transogram surprised baseball card collectors by releasing their baseball figures in toy aisles. The figures, which came with accompanying baseball cards, were sold individually in boxes featuring 60 different players from both the National League and the American League. The packaging was simple yet striking: white cardboard boxes with red and blue writing, and a transparent front displaying the player figurine inside. The figurines were set against a backdrop of a baseball stadium interior, creating the illusion of an action shot captured during a game.

Each box's side panel featured a small headshot of the player, making it easy for collectors to identify the figures even when they were stacked on a shelf. Many collectors cut these side-panel “cards” and preserved them separately, and they occasionally surface in the market today.

The figurines themselves were detailed, showing players in full team uniforms complete with logos, caps, stirrup socks, belts, and fielder’s mitts. There were some variations in skin tone, presumably to represent different races, but the figures bore little resemblance to the actual players. Unlike more artistically ambitious statues like Hartland's or Kenner's Starting Lineups, Transogram figures were simple toys with no grand design intentions.

Familiar Faces and Design

Although the figurines were not particularly detailed, for example Cleon Jones appears to be white and his glove is on the wrong hand and he bears a strinking resemblance to Donald Trump, so the full-color player cards on the back of the boxes helped children and collectors identify the players. The cards measured the standard 2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ and featured a player photo within a thick white border with rounded corners. Below the photo was the player’s name in red ink, followed by his vital statistics, position, and team name in black ink. The bright yellow background made these cards easily recognizable, though the design choices and blank backs have somewhat limited their popularity.

Veteran collectors quickly noticed that many of the photos on the Transogram cards were identical to those on the 1968 Topps cards. This overlap suggested a potential connection between Transogram and Topps, possibly indicating that Topps either licensed the photos to Transogram or produced the cards for them. The fonts used on the Transogram cards also closely matched those used by Topps in 1968, reinforcing this theory.

An Amazin’ Encore with the New York Mets

Transogram wasn’t finished after their 1969 release. In 1970, they issued two new sets. The first set included National League and American League All-Stars, featuring 30 players, most of whom were holdovers from 1969. New additions included Boog Powell, Sam McDowell, and Reggie Jackson. The photos on the cards remained the same, continuing the Topps flashbacks, except for the new additions and a different photo for Joe Torre. These 1970 cards were slightly larger at 2-9/16″ x 3-1/2″.

The second set in 1970 capitalized on the phenomenal rise of the New York Mets, who had won the 1969 World Series. This set featured 15 members of the “Amazin’ Mets,” packaged three to a box with the same yellow cards on the back. The Mets boxes were branded in team colors — blue and orange — and proudly proclaimed their World Champion status. Three players, Tom Seaver, Cleon Jones, and Jerry Koosman, were included in both the All-Star and Mets sets. Seaver and Koosman being the hold overs from the 1969 Set and Jones replaced Ron Swoboda who was in the 1969 set.

1970 Mets Checklist

The 1970 Transogram Mets set included the following players:

- Tommie Agee

- Ken Boswell

- Donn Clendenon

- Gary Gentry

- Jerry Grote

- Bud Harrelson

- Cleon Jones

- Jerry Koosman

- Ed Kranepool

- Tug McGraw

- Nolan Ryan

- Art Shamsky

- Tom Seaver

- Ron Swoboda

- Al Weis

Collecting the Transogram Cards

Transogram cards often change hands without either party fully realizing what they have. While earlier hobbyists had some awareness of the Transogram sets, the influx of various cards over the past few decades has overshadowed them. This obscurity, combined with genuine scarcity, has led to low population reports for these cards in grading services like PSA.

Complete sets occasionally come to market and can be a cost-effective way to build a collection, depending on the condition. For example, a complete 1970 Mets set recently sold for $600, and a full 1970 set including all Mets and All-Star boxes went for $2600.

A Lasting Mystery

Even after decades of collecting and trading, Transogram’s baseball issues remain mysterious. Collectors still puzzle over how to collect them and what to make of them, adding to the allure and legacy of Charles Raizen’s final offerings from his toy company. In the end, the enduring mystery of Transogram’s baseball figures and cards is a fitting tribute to a company that left collectors scratching their heads and reminiscing over its quirky and intriguing products.

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