Saturday, November 11, 2023

Come Sail Your Ships Around Me

We're off to the high seas todays matey's, as we take a look at the waterborne portion of the 1955 Topps Rails and Sails set. As we all know, the style of paintings is a bit more in the tradition and style of nautical art and these more resemble pieces you might see in a museum or gallery, with full bleed borders aiding and abetting that look. As with the Rails, some Sails art has popped up over the years, here's one of the most famous subjects in the set, the SANTA MARIA:

As with the Rails, the level of details can be stunning.  Is that Cristopher Columbus near the bow?  Here's the finished card:

It's a little darker than the original as Topps essentially muted the brightness of the artwork in production.  The card back, to me at least, shows just how invested Topps was in the set, which was the last of their three great Giant Size transportation themed sets, namely Wings in 1952, World on Wheels in 1953-54 and then Rails and Sails in 1955. I can't prove it but suspect the latter two were designed as hopeful "Bowman killers" in a way.  Check it out:

There is a lot going on there! You get some useful information on flags used by vessels to communicate with each other at sea in the time before radio, a look at a lighthouse (the lighthouse tour was part of many of the Sails cards), some excellent text and a nice nautically-themed card number icon with an anchor and stock. Can you imagine taking on the open Atlantic in that tiny vessel during hurricane season?!

Here's another original illustration, it's subject is a bit more modern than the SANTA MARIA and that may reflect the fact it details a Submarine:

The muted color palette has been tossed out for the original illustration and it's kind of James Bond-like in a way, but almost ten years earlier that the movies. Hold on though, the printed version has had the color tamped down:

This one has some Dutch Navy details that don't follow the modern theme of the card (none of the illustrations in either Rails or Sails really matched the fronts) and a neat Sea Myth offers some weirdness:

There's even more to the set and I hope to get into that pretty soon sailors!

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