(This is Day 24 of our response to Tony L.’s 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge. See all our posts in this series here.)

When it comes to picking a favorite oddball card from the 1960s, there is plenty of interesting fodder to consider.

From the 1963 Fleer set that probably shouldn’t have existed to the 1964 Topps coins that bring “rust” into the condition conversation to the 1968 Topps posters that make you feel like a teenage girl, you could spend years and fortunes collecting the best out-of-the-norm issues the decade has to offer.

But for me, one oddball set from the 1960s rises above all the rest and always has: 1968 Topps 3-D.

And with1968 Topps 3-D Curt Flood just 12 cards to pick from, each one is probably worthy of its own story. For this piece, though, we’re going with the 1968 Topps 3-D Curt Flood, which was a veritable crystal ball.

At least that’s how it seems looking back.

Here’s what old #21 taught us from the front of his card.

Curt Flood was meant for better things. In 1968, Curt Flood was a multiple time All-Star centerfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals who would finish fourth in the National League MVP voting that year. But look at the gaze in his eyes and the way he pops out from the background noise of his 3-D card. It’s as if he’s positioning for the battle that would come in the next few years as he challenged baseball’s reserve clause and set the stage for modern free agency. It was a move that virtually ended his own career but may have saved the game.

Baseball cards would never be flat and boring again. A couple years after Topps released their 3-D test issue in 1968, Kellogg’s began a decade-long run of issuing 3-D cards in their cereal boxes. The same company produced both the Topps and Kellogg’s cards — Xograph or Visual Panographics, depending on your source. Then, in the 1980s, Sportflics used essentially the same technology to do battle with Topps, Fleer, and Donruss before morphing into Score and Pinnacle.

Super scarce premium cards will always have a market. Rumor has it that the 1968 3-D cards were available only in a few New York shops and for a very limited time that summer. As a consequence, the cards were already mythical and carried astronomical price tags by the time I picked up the hobby in 1983. Today, it’s tough to touch any of the cards for less than a thousand bucks.

There are some things you (or I) will never have. See above. It’s just not realistic for most of us to shell out the kind of cash that it would take to acquire any of the 1968 Topps 3-D cards. That doesn’t mean we can’t treasure-hunt for them, though, right? That’s part of the fun of this hobby, anyway.

Sometimes, you can’t improve on the original. The images on the 1968 Topps 3-D cards are amazingly clear considering the mushiness of the 3-D cards that followed. For this issue, Topps chose to focus on the main player image, blurring out only the background to 3-D effect. The result is dramatic and majestic, and Sportflics would have done well to copy this style.

 

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