2001 Fleer Tradition #263 - Frank Thomas
The simple truth is that card companies "borrow" elements of other companies past designs. Some are quite obvious, like this Fleer Tradition card, while others are very subtle. The best ideas usually have their genesis with something that already exists. The old adage of "it's new because I attached a clock to it" might be outdated, but the core still holds true.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. There are only so many things you can do with a traditional card before it no longer is a card. Two competing companies are trying to make the first video card that doesn't require a PC to access. At what point does a trading card lose its ability to be a defined as a trading card?
Design can be approached in the same way. How much of a previous card's design can be taken before it can be considered laziness and not inspiration? This card's obvious design has been taken from Topps' 1956 set, yet I cannot find any lawsuit against the 2001 Fleer Tradition release. Yet, eight years later, Topps filed suit against Upper Deck for using variations of designs from the seventies.
The Frank Thomas card looks similar to the 1956 Topps release, but it oddly doesn't have the same feel to it. Are the subtle changes enough to trick the brain into thinking that this is a totally new design? It's possible, but not likely. Perhaps Fleer got away with something. Whatever the reason, I do like the fact that this Fleer Tradition set exists. It shows that you can't keep a good design down, even with small variations.