The Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown moves into the Top 5 today with a very special game — the 1961 Gotham Pressed Steel NFL G-1500 model.
This groundbreaking game has long been one of the most under appreciated games in all of Electric Football. It was a total “game changer” in 1961, and set the stage for all that came after it, including Tudor’s miniature NFL.
Almost as intriguing as the game itself is the story behind the game, and how Gotham beat Tudor to the NFL license. We cover this tale of intrigue in great detail in Chapter 1 (check out our free PDF download), and also Chapters 10 – 12 of The Unforgettable Buzz.
But the short version of Gotham landing the NFL license for 1961 comes down to this: it was one of the few times when Norman Sas’ business judgement let him down. After Tudor passed on the license, Gotham gladly scooped up the fumble and converted this uncharacteristic Tudor “turnover” into the NFL G-1500.
With the NFL license in hand, Gotham President Eddie Gluck — who just happened to be a former Tudor employee — created not only the most elaborate game in Electric Football history, but also one of the most elaborate toys being sold in 1961.
Here are the Electric Football “Firsts” on the Gotham NFL G-1500:
- First officially licensed NFL Electric Football game.
- First “big” Electric Football game at 36″ long.
- First game with a sideline grandstand and “stadium.”
- First player uniforms.
- First NFL team scoreboard nameplates
- First game with an illustrated color Rule Book
- First Electric Football game to be shown in full color in the Sears Christmas Book (1962)
In addition to all these “firsts,” the G-1500 was simply a beautiful game. From the brilliant white frame with all 14 NFL team logos, to the elaborate metal grandstand that was so obviously modeled after Yankee Stadium…something magic truly happened when all the sideline and end zone pieces were mounted on the oversized Gotham field.
The game also came with a locker room full of accessories, including color pennants for all 14 NFL teams, 7 different colors/teams of self-sticking paper jerseys, 8 different colors/teams of self-sticking paper helmets, a 1961 NFL schedule, a first down marker with a referee attached to it, scoreboard nameplates for each NFL team, diagrams of official NFL team plays…it was an overwhelming combination of detail and color. Especially compared with Tudor’s modest and now bare looking No. 500 model.
Gotham’s only demerit came in the form of the strangely shaped players. To accommodate the paper helmets, Gotham molded the players with oversized heads…which looked strange even in 1961. These are now known as the Gotham “Martian Players.”
The G-1500’s impact was huge, with the best measure of its significance coming in Tudor’s 1962 response: a “big” Tudor Electric Football game (Sports Classic No. 600) with paintable 3-D players.
Thanks to the G-1500, Electric Football went from basic in 1960 — the Tudor No. 500 and Gotham G-880 — to super deluxe in just two short years. And in the Christmas catalogs of Sears and Ward during that same period, Electric Football’s toy status went from “ordinary” to “featured,” being awarded the entire top half of a catalog page to entice Christmas shoppers and Santa list-makers.
The G-1500 set the course for all the games that would come in Electric Football. It showed how powerful the NFL could be on an Electric Football game, and challenged Tudor to create its own deluxe model. (This challenge also unleashed Lee Payne’s artistic vision on Electric Football, which would eventually play a large part in Gotham’s demise.)
Another important thing that the G-1500 did was prove to retailers — Sears, Ward, JC Penney, and everybody else — that there was a market for oversized Electric Football games. They weren’t just white elephant toys that would have to be put on clearance the day after Christmas.
If Gotham had ever been able to master the painted player concept…let’s just say that The Unforgettable Buzz would probably be a different book. But without a doubt, the legacy of the NFL G-1500 is immense.
Eddie Gluck was truly visionary with the NFL G-1500 about what Electric Football could be. The game set a standard that Tudor was forced to quickly match.
Norman Sas was fortunate to have a playmaker like Lee Payne in the Tudor huddle, and the Sas-Payne combo would eventually out-innovate and out-market Gotham. But make no mistake, it was Eddie Gluck and the G-1500 who set Electric Football in motion toward a miniature NFL, an NFL No. 620 game, and eventually that first Sears’ Super Bowl model.
Considering all the G-1500′s that Gotham sold through the 1960′s, it really seems like the game should be an easier find than it is in 2014. Unfortunately, during the 20+ year we’ve spent collecting Electric Football, this game has never been an “easy” find. As we’ve mentioned before, Gotham game construction wasn’t as robust the work Tudor did, so warped fields and popped rivets are common Gotham maladies. It’s likely that many G-1500′s ended up in landfills due to these shortcomings. But it is a game that’s worth tracking down — our G-1500 display model definitely opened some eyes at TudorCON 14.
Although long overlooked, the 1961 Gotham NFL G-1500 sits proudly at No. 5 in our Electric Football game countdown. It defines the phrase “game changer.”
Earl, Roddy, & MK