In 1983, Walter Hill had a big idea. The 1984 Summer Olympics was set to take place in Los Angeles and baseball cards were experiencing a sharp rise in popularity. Hill and his company, Finder Image International, wanted to capitalize on the interest in both.
“I was pursuing an Olympic license for various products,” Hill said. “My friend at the Coca-Cola Company and I talked about trading cards, and I thought it was a good product, so we worked together to get a license from the Los Angeles Olympics Organizing Committee. Once the proposal was approved, we contracted Topps to manufacture the cards.”
With production help from Topps, Finder Image International issued a set of cards called “History’s Greatest Olympians” in 1983 and 1984. Actually, make that three sets.
One set, consisting of 99 cards, was sold in packs and as a boxed set. A variation of the set, using a different logo, was sold at 7-Eleven convenience stores. A third set, smaller in size at only 48 cards, was printed on packages of Coca-Cola products.
“History’s Greatest Olympians” reads like a who’s who of the quad-annual games from the 20th century: Cassius Clay, Jerry West, Jessie Owens, Jim Thorpe, George Foreman, Dorothy Hamill, Mike Eruzione and more. The back of each card gives a short story about that athlete’s feat of Olympic heroism. With the 2018 Winter Olympics taking place in February, collectors might want to give “History’s Greatest Olympians” another look. The set has enough legends, variations and oddities to make for a challenging – but not impossible-to-complete – series to collect.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.