Over a four-year span more than 35 years ago, one of Burger King’s summertime promotions involved baseball cards. Distributed only in certain areas and produced by the Topps Company, they were similar to same year’s major Topps card sets but these were either focused on specific teams (1977-1979) or one large All-Star type set that served as sort of a farewell. So far, we’ve reviewed the 1977 and 1978 releases in prior articles. Today, we’ll study the 1979 Burger King sets.
1979 Topps Burger King Sets Overview
After expanding to four regional issues in 1978, Burger King scaled back a bit in its third year of producing baseball cards. In 1979, the company distributed only two sets – one in its traditional market of New York, as they developed a Yankees set for the third straight year. The other was the introduction of the Philadelphia Phillies for the southeastern Pennsylvania market.
As was standard in the previous two years, Burger King distributed the issues via packs of three cards plus a checklist with a purchase at their respective area restaurants. Children 14 and under received an unopened pack with the purchase of an order of french fries at participating Burger King locations. Each 23-card set contained a nice selection of stars and Hall of Famers.
The 1979 Topps Burger King set once again kept things simple, retaining the same exact design from the regular Topps cards that were produced in 1979. The cards were also the same standard 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ size with little to distinguish the different releases since the Burger King logo didn’t appear on the individual cards. As with their prior releases, outside of different card numbers and some photos that were cropped slightly differently, many collectors would have a hard time telling the two versions apart.
1979 Burger King Yankees
Leading the way again in terms of star power were Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson (the last card from his playing career before he died), Catfish Hunter, and Goose Gossage.
In addition to those big names, several players also had pose variations that are worth a mention, including Ron Guidry, Luis Tiant, Tommy John, and Juan Beniquez. The latter three were easy candidates for replacement cards since their regular 1979 Topps cards featured them on different teams. Guidry’s change, however, was a curiosity at first glance as his standard Topps card from that year has him in the correct uniform. But a closer look reveals that the image used on his Burger King card was the same one Topps utilized for a record breaker card in their regular set, so it wasn’t entirely a new picture. Likely, Burger King simply preferred that photo of him, which was more of a close-up shot than the in-action picture on his base card.
One interesting note here is that Manager Bob Lemon made the cut on the team card. He replaced Billy Martin, who previously appeared in both of Burger King’s 1977 and 1978 releases. Martin was fired and then re-hired later in 1979 once the Yankees got off to a slow start. His return, however, came too late as he wasn’t squeezed into the issue in time.
Fans in Philadelphia were no doubt happy to have their city in the mix for the first time with a set of 23 Phillies cards. Philadelphia’s loaded squad featuring several stars, such as Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, and Steve Carlton were displayed in this team set. As was the case with the Yankees issue, Burger King added several pose variations for a variety of reasons – none bigger than Rose, who changed teams before this release. Other variant subjects included Nino Espinosa, Doug Bird, Manny Trillo, Pete Mackanin, Greg Gross, and Danny Ozark. Espinosa, Bird, Trillo, and Gross all changed clubs and their Burger King releases displayed them with their proper team. Mackanin was left out of the 1979 Topps set altogether but made Burger King’s release as a new card.
One of the most unique variations throughout all of the Burger King sets was that of manager Danny Ozark. All managers in Topps’ standard sets were included only in a small circle on a team card. Burger King bucked that trend and gave Ozark a full picture card in their issue. If you look closely, it appears to be the same picture used on the Phillies’ team card in Topps’ regular set, so it didn’t require them to take another shot of him. Ozark getting a full card before Topps made that a standard practice again in 1983 was a nice touch to shake things up a bit.
It would have been fun to see a San Diego Padres set that year so we’d have a unique variation for Ozzie Smith’s rookie card but Topps and BK never did go to the left coast for their late 1970s promotion.
Of the two that were issued, neither is likely to hamper the average collector’s budget too seriously. Either team set can usually be purchased for under $10 with individual stars such as Rose, Jackson, Schmidt, or Carlton, checking in under $5.
Unopened product is also regularly available if that’s more your speed. Packs usually sell for $1 – $3 if a star player isn’t showing and several boxes have even sold with a per pack price under $1.