This has generally been a good thing, since a hobby that revolves around the idea of nostalgia surely has much to celebrate in the classic card designs of yesteryear. The enthusiasm for creating retro-style cards has even surged to the point of companies reviving some designs that probably didn’t deserve to live in the first place, much less to have themselves reincarnated 30, 40 or 50 years later.
For that one, I won’t pick on anybody in particular, but you know who you are. Still, the winners have probably outnumbered the losers, and our hobby has thus seen modern entries that have celebrated most of the turn-of-the-century tobacco issues, the Goudeys, Play Balls, and early Topps and Bowmans, to name the most obvious ones.
A case can be made that the well is running dry, an argument that probably has some legs when you consider some of the candidates offered up in the last decade or so. But one incredibly attractive vintage issue has avoided the craze, presumably for fairly obvious reasons: 1952-55 Red Man Tobacco.
It says here that the four-year run of Red Man issues is easily the most vibrant and evocative card design that hasn’t yet been tapped for a modern set, but the link to the stigmatized tobacco has likely prevented such an undertaking.
The Red Man Tobacco brand is still being sold these days, presumably making pilfering of their card design problematic, though the set was reprinted many years ago without official sanction or licensing as far as I know.
Given all the recent issues worked around original art, it’s not hard to see that a set in that style could be a winner, if only there were a way to avoid the, uh, linkage with a product not exactly in public favor these days. Even if a company wanted to wing it and create a set “close” to the design from the original series, it would run the risk of being at least informally connected to killer tobacco and thus not viable.
Too bad. Those were spectacular cards, an observation based almost entirely on the power of the unusual design and the colorful artwork.