Photograph Recycling: Sign of the Times or Financial Ruin?

From 1954 into 1956, Topps Company inexplicably used the same, exact photo of Yankees infielder, Andy Carey, on his baseball card. In those early days of baseball cards, it is understandable that a company would do something like this. After all, we are talking about 64 years ago. These days, nearly every smart phone on the planet has a powerful, 8-12 megapixel camera on it and with digital destroying film, there is just no reason why a card company of today would recycle the same exact image over and over again from one brand to the other, year after year. RIGHT?!?


For a long time after Jose Canseco’s Steroid tell-all book was released, no company would dare release a baseball card with his image on it. Upper Deck and Topps were producing licensed baseball cards and neither one wanted to upset the big shots in baseball.  Eventually, Topps brought Jose back from the dead in 2014. The only problem was that they were using recycled images of Jose at every turn. This to me was acceptable as Jose had been retired for nearly 15 years by then and been featured on thousands of different baseball cards. Good luck finding images that haven’t been used before.

What about a more recent player, with a much higher profile like Shaquille O’Neal who last played in 2011, a decade after Jose retired? Surely, there are plenty of images of Shaq to continue to produce his cards for the next 50 years, right? WRONG. Check out Panini America’s output from 2011 through 2016. Before I jump to conclusions, let me just ask a simple question. How do you take yourself seriously as a card company if you’re literally recycling one image of a legend over and over again for half a decade? All these cards look fine but why not swap out the photo? Did you just get some kind of deal on a photograph that they can print over and over again? Is this a money-saving technique or do you just not care enough about basketball collectors? I wish I had an answer.

However, it doesn’t end there. Take a look at this output of Cazzie Russell cards released by, guess who? Panini America. The same exact photograph over and over again. Doing some research I was able to find out that the photo in question was purchased at Getty Images and the photographer was a guy named Dick Rafael who took the photo in 1977. In case anyone is wondering, there are PLENTY of other Cazzie Russell images available on the site. So then, what gives?

In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t end there for Panini America. Just look at what card companies have done to Horace Grant. I say companies because included in these cards is Panini America AND Upper Deck releases. While there may only be 10 photos scanned, trust me … there are many, many more on Blowout Cards’ forum. It seems basketball card collectors have been getting the short end of the stick for a long time.

Which brings me to the beginning of this post and Topps Company. It’s not 1954 anymore, why in the world is Topps, the ONLY licensed card company in baseball recycling images of one of the game’s most popular stars? Not only recycling the image but using it in back to back years. The answer supposedly given by Topps is that two different companies designed these sets and used the same images without previous knowledge. IF this is true, does that mean Topps Company has no say or approval on the cards they are releasing? Would one of Topps’ employees not go over the 2018 checklist and not have enough knowledge about his or her industry to say, “HOLD UP, THAT TROUT IS IDENTICAL TO 2017” or does Topps simply not care?

Again, I wish I had an answer for you.



2 thoughts on “Photograph Recycling: Sign of the Times or Financial Ruin?

  1. I hope someone from Topps steps up to the plate and addresses this issue. In the meantime… I’ll be standing over here shaking my head.

  2. Pingback: Am I A Joke To You? | The Baseball Card Blog

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