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A dyed-in-the-wool Flexichrome fan ...


As I am sure most readers know, I’ve tried very hard over the last 20 years to promote sports art in the pages of Sports Collectors Digest, maybe longer if you count the years from the early 1980’s when I would routinely submit my own illustrations to the magazine’s editors for consideration.

It has always been a thrill to be able to provide exposure to so many of the amazing artists who ply their trade within the confines of the sports arena, and I certainly hope that the exposure provided has translated into sales or other tangible benefits to all those great talents.

My suitably broad definition of “artwork” includes those quirky Topps Flexichromes (Tony Kubek is shown here) that were such a part and parcel of the vintage Topps issues from the 1950’s and 1960’s.

As the 1958 Kubek card shows, having the “original” Flexichrome alongside the Topps card that it gave birth to is a fantastic collectible, and one of my all-time favorite collectors, the estimable Mike Gidwitz of Chicago, has a number of them in his penthouse overlooking Lake Michigan.

I have customarily referred to them as hand-painted black-and-white photographs, but I guess it would be more precise to refer to them as hand-colorized, since the resulting color comes from dyes adhered to the black-and-white image rather than conventional painting.

For readers of the baby boom generation, the process is also familiar from more conventional photography areas, as it was pretty extensively used after World War II to create elegant color portraits of everybody from high school graduates to corporate CEO’s and tycoons.

And as advanced collectors also know, the process was widely used in a boatload of non-sport and entertainment issues produced during that time, including many of the most recognizable Topps non-sport issues and some spectacular non-mainstream Hollywood sets.

Surprisingly, with all the enthusiasm for creating retro-style card sets of modern players in any number of old-fashioned vintage card designs or photographic processes, I don’t recall of one that effectively re-creates the look and feel of those charming Flexichromes.


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