TOPPS INSERT, TEST AND SUPPLEMENTAL BASEBALL ISSUES 1949-1980
By David Hornish, firstname.lastname@example.org
Everybody knows Topps has produced a most impressive and storied run of baseball cards, which are avidly collected by thousands, if not millions of people. Unfortunately, many collectors of older Topps sets only focus on the regular issue cards and ignore the ones that were inserted or sold on a supplemental basis to these. And it's really too bad, because Topps has produced some truly exquisite cards over the years that remain in the backwaters of the hobby.
Frustrated by the traditional price guides, I realized a few years back that if I wanted a good understanding of these weird little sets, I would have to do it myself. So I did a whole bunch of research for a whole lot of years and finally have worked something up that I feel is not a rehash of dried up and often incorrect information. Some sets were easy, especially the main inserts from the mid-60's on, but some of these Topps sets are so under-publicized and scarce that little is known of them. Certainly I cannot afford to purchase all of them, so my research in many instances is based on magazine articles, furtive glances into dealer cases at major shows and conversations with a whole parade of interesting people, some of whom knew a lot and some of whom still think the earth is flat.
Originally, I planned to send this little exercise in narcissism to Sports Collectors Digest but I did not as they were not running a lot of articles on vintage cards in the late 90's. There's a another fine magazine called Vintage & Classic Baseball Collector that might have been a good fit, but they don't run stuff on Topps cards from the 70's. IT's too long for Beckett's magazines,so here it is on the Web, for the enjoyment or derision of all, at a price I'm sure you will agree is most reasonable. I've tried to pack as much information as possible into the set essays. Some of it is probably trite and a whole bunch of it is surely superfluous but I have tried in every instance to convey accurate information. I thought about a good many things while writing these pieces and I reflect often upon the marketing aspect of issuing little rectangles of bubble gum and cardboard, as you will see. A lot of the theories presented here are my own, so you've been warned.
I chose the 1949-1980 period because from 1981 onward there is so much information available in the conventional hobby literature that I didn't feel I could add anything constructive. Of course, I don't really collect much of anything produced in the 80's and 90's, so the interest level for me simply wasn't there either. The selection of Topps was easy of course. It looms like the spectre of Mickey Mantle across the nation.
Years ago (1938 to be precise) four brothers, Abram, Ira, Joseph and Philip Shorin, erstwhile cigar manufacturers, established a chewing gum company in Brooklyn (where else?). Wanting to select a name that would let the public know how good their gum was and they settled on Topps (the extra "p" was for effect) and unwittingly created what was to become the largest bubble gum card entity in the Western Hemisphere. At some point, most probably toward the end of World War II, or just after, they began marketing their famous Bazooka bubble gum and yet another American institution was born. Looking for ways to increase product exposure, Abram hit upon the idea of packaging their bubble gum with trading cards. This was in 1948 and things have never been the same, as I'm sure you will agree.
Before we embark on what I can only describe as a true American odyssey, a few notes are in order. Set descriptions are shown with the year of issue given first. This is necessarily an exercise in approximation in some instances as the exact year of issue for some sets is not precisely known. Following the year is the name of the set, usually the name from the wrapper the cards were issued in, but sometimes the accepted hobby name of the set in cases where confusion might occur. In parentheses following this is the number of cards known to be in the set. Below this is the American Card Catalog designation for the set, with one or two exceptions.
What's here? Any non-regular issue Topps baseball card or premium known to me from 1949 to 1980 and also a majority of proof sets from that time known in the hobby. Also covered are those sets Topps issued separately in packs or through various means of distribution. I have not included the Burger King cards Topps produced in the late 70's nor the 1975 minis. There are corresponding numerical and alphabetical checklists. Players shown in the checklists as having been issued more than once in a particular set are not typos. They merely reflect the fact that they player in question appeared more than once in the set. I have tried to identify all such double prints in the Notes field with a "DP".Differing poses are identified and a corresponding note will indicate that I have not been able to confirm the existence of that card. If a player appears on a multi-portrait issue, such as the 1969 Team Posters, each player is identified separately.
E-mail the author with any questions, comments, additions, deletions, etc. And above all, have fun!
1949 Magic Photos (19)
This set was issued in 1949, when the second 126 card series of these 7/8" x 1 3/8" inch "photos" featuring mixed subjects were unleashed on an unsuspecting public by Topps. Historically significant--these are the first Topps baseball cards after all--the photos were actually blank until the purchaser applied moisture and sunlight. There are 19 baseball subjects mixed in with photos from all walks of entertainment and Cleveland players are especially prevalent due to the Indians taking the 1948 World Series from the Braves. In fact, the baseball photos include scenes from the World Series. A Hocus Focus photo album was also issued as a premium. Do not confuse this set with the two Hocus Focus sets issued in 1956. While not especially sought after, Magic Photos are not seen with any frequency, leading to inflated prices on the Hall of Fame players. When purchasing these cards, look for examples that are well developed, with sharp contrast between light and dark areas.
1951 Connie Mack All Stars (11)
Issued in 1951, a pack of these cards included one All Star and a two card panel of Red Backs. Measuring 2 1/16" x 5 1/4", each player photo was die cut, which means most examples released in 1951 were probably destroyed by their adolescent owners. That is, if they weren't just throwing them out intact, since most of the players were probably unknown to kids of the day. Other than Babe Ruth and perhaps Lou Gehrig, it is doubtful any of the nine other players would have elicited a spark of recognition in the youth of America and I would hazard a guess that the two Red Backs packaged with the All Stars were much more popular. Of course, the caramel they were packaged with had a tendency to turn rancid, which wouldn't have helped matters too much. If you are looking for intact examples, insist that the dealer remove the card from its holder and make sure the background has not been separated from the photo. It's impossible to be certain otherwise.
1951 Current All Stars (8+3)
Perhaps realizing that All Stars from baseball's past were not going to move candy the way they would like, Topps also released this set in 1951. Apparently issued with a panel of Red or Blue Backs and a piece of potentially toxic caramel, only eight of these die cut cards (dimensions are the same as the Connie Mack All Stars) were available in packs, with Konstanty, Roberts and Stanky being introduced into the collecting hobby after the fact, possibly by Woody Gelman. Notoriously hard to find, these three cards are among the rarest ever produced by Topps. As few examples of any of these cards survive today, let alone in high grade condition, prices are sky high. Again, purchasers of top grade cards should examine them once they are removed from their holders.
1951 Teams (9)
Why only nine of the then 16 major league teams were produced remains a mystery to this day. My own feeling is that Topps was experimenting with different sets, styles and packaging, seeing what the market would support. Since the two All Star sets are in rather short supply, just like the Team cards, I don't think these early experiments paid off. The cards can be found two ways: with or without a 1950 designation in the banner on the front of the card. At one point, I thought it was possible this set was issued first in 1950, but Sy Berger himself says the year was 1951. The 1950 variety probably came first and confused the kids who were diligent enough to find packs of these cards. They were then probably reissued without the year showing in the banner. Sizing is the same as the two All Star sets, and like the Current All Stars, a panel of Red or Blue Backs were included as was the ubiquitous slab of caramel.
1951 Red Backs (52)
Many people consider this to be the first legitimate Topps baseball series. Those people are probably correct, since compared to the larger cards also issued in 1951, Red Backs are much, much easier to find. While a large supply was unearthed in the mid 1980's, they were plentiful before then, although normally in less than pristine condition. Red Backs came two to a pack, in panel form. That is, two cards were joined together, folded over and inserted in the pack. Panels still pop up, especially since the packs from that mid '80's find were generally opened. Topps also sold the entire "deck" of Red Backs in a large blister pack, probably through the variety stores of the era. They measure out at 2" x 2 5/8", making a panel of two essentially the same size as the All Star and Team cards. The Zernial and Holmes cards each come in two versions, the only distinction being slightly differing text.
1951 Blue Backs (52)
Issued after the Red Backs, these are much more expensive than their counterparts, but seemingly easier to find just for that reason since they tend to sit on dealer tables forever. One could say these are the first high number cards ever issued by Topps. They were packaged like the Red Backs, except no blister packs of full decks have been reported. An instruction sheet was apparently included in some Blue Back packs, for those too dull of mind to figure out the rules themselves.
1952 Look 'N See (1)
Topps penchant for experimentation continues. By placing a piece of red cellophane (conveniently included in the pack) over the back of the card, a hidden picture was revealed, hence the name of this set. Babe Ruth is the lone baseball player in this excellent set, which features outstanding portraits of 135 subjects. The Ruth card commands a hefty price (no surprise there) but is seen with a bit more frequency than the Scoop card (see following) featuring the Bambino. Card dimensions are the same are 2 1/16" x 2 15/16". In its own way, this set is to Non-Sports what the 1952 Topps baseball cards are to the baseball collecting hobby. They are that nice.
1954 Scoop (4)
Scoop (not Scoops) was a 156 card set generally thought to have been issued in 1954, although it was issued in two series, possibly during 1953/54. Quite popular with Non Sport collectors, it may be something of a challenge to find the Babe Ruth card at an affordable price. The Feller card, while priced at about one-fourth the level of the Ruth card, is also hard to find. Card fronts feature high quality drawings of historical events, while the backs are facsimiles of newspaper stories. In addition, the fronts had a scratch off feature, which is not often found intact. Intact scratch off bars essentially cover the face of the card, so collecting unscratched specimens is kind of pointless. Should you find one with the black bars, do not attempt to scratch off the coating as you will destroy the card. The cards measure 2 1/16" x 2 15/16".
1955 Doubleheaders (66/132)
Make no mistake about it, this is one popular set. Full color spreads in some of the hobby magazines, which show how the cards fit together to form various stadium scenes have no doubt helped, but these cards were always considered collectable. Patterned after the famous Mecca Double Folders issued almost half a century earlier (which smacks of Woody Gelman's involvement), kids of the day must have had a blast folding these colorful cards in two. Opened, the cards measure 2 1/16" x 4 7/8". Unperforated examples have also been found (which also smacks of Woody Gelman's involvement), which have been listed for some unbelievable prices. Buy a few and just see if you can resist the urge to fold 'em over!
1955 Stamps (Unknown)
Another Gelman job, this. WHO IS WOODY GELMAN?, you must be thinking by now. Well, he was one of the giants of early baseball card collecting. In 1951 he opened the Card Collectors' Company in New York, which is today run by his son. Either Topps approached him for help, or he approached Topps, and latched onto a job in their art department, eventually becoming art director. In 1952 he helped design their "big" baseball cards and he was immortalized on a Gum Berries Lid issued in 1971! In my opinion, he did more to foster creativity and quality at Topps than any other individual. Woody was fond of keeping samples from the various sets that Topps produced, some of which never made it into the marketplace. A lot of the really obscure sets you'll encounter here probably found their way into the hobby through the Card Collectors Company and some, like these stamps, probably filtered in when his estate was sold off after his death. The stamps are rare and possibly one of a kind, although new players keep popping up from time to time. They look just like the 1955 regular issue cards, printed on paper with some perforated edges and all samples found to date have at least one imperforate edge. Any additional information on this set would be greatly appreciated.
1956 Hocus Pocus (Large) (18)
Topps reintroduced self-developing black and white cards in 1956, indicating the 1949 Magic Photos must have sold fairly well. The term "large" should not be taken literally, it's just that Topps also released another series of Hocus Focus cards even smaller than the 1" x 1 5/8" cards listed here. The words Hocus Focus actually appear on the backs of these, so there can be no confusion with the earlier Magic Photos set. Cards have two numbers on them, a black circle on the lower right reverse with a white number displays the overall card number, while a line of text at the top indicates "Photo No. X of 18". The set is not well documented and currently there is only speculation as to how many other, non-baseball subjects exist, although the American Card Catalog mentions planes, movies, sports cars, world leaders and world wonders as additional subjects, but does not note baseball players. As with the Magic Photos, look for well-developed cards when collecting these elusive beauties.
1956 Hocus Pocus (Small) (23)
These smaller (7/8" x 1 3/8") Hocus Focus cards are not as well known as their larger brothers and I have been unable to find a complete checklist. Of the 13 known baseball players, 10 appear in the larger sized version. In fact, since the ordering of the known cards somewhat follows that of the large-sized cards, it's entirely possible that the following players may have a "small" photo: Ed Lopat, Hank Sauer, Al Rosen, Mayo Smith, Jackie Robinson, Hal W. Smith and Spook Jacobs and I have listed them. As with the large photos, player selection is somewhat mystifying, as is the fact that there are two different sized cards. The inclusion of Babe Ruth was a nice touch and it's possible card number 2 could be another old-timer. The Ruth card is probably his scarcest Topps issue, but interest is not very strong. Based on the lack of information available about this set, sales must have been poor. As always, well-developed images should be sought out whenever possible. Anyone possessing a complete checklist for this series is cordially invited to contact the author. Anyone possessing actual cards should feel very lucky, as you just don't see too many of these.
1956 Pins (60)
With sales of the Hocus Focus cards most probably lagging, Topps continued its bad luck run in 1956 when it released this set of 1 1/8" diameter pins. The pins are in color and are quite attractive, perhaps the kids spending nickels in the summer of '56 preferred the regular issue baseball cards, which are among the nicest ever produced by Topps. At any rate, a planned 90 pin offering was reduced to 60 subjects, most of which can be found with some careful scouring of the hobby papers and dealers tables. Three of the pins, Diering, Lopez and Stobbs have attained a certain notoriety as they are scarce, although there is plenty of disagreement as to which is the hardest to find. Prices on these three pins can vary greatly, but if you need them for your set be prepared to pay dearly. Complete sets pop up from time to time and a lot of headaches can be avoided by purchasing one, if you are so inclined.
1956 Bazooka Joe Big League Emblems (16)
This was a premium offer available in some packs of Bazooka Gum in 1956 and 1957, indicating Topps may have been aware of the problems they were having selling supplemental issues to the kids. The BF designation is based on my belief these were felt emblems. Information on this set would be appreciated.
1958 Felt Emblems (16)
Topps was not having a lot of success in 1956 with their supplemental and premium sets and in 1957 they elected to offer a lucky penny key chain premium instead of a baseball theme ("Wear me and never go broke" read the words encircling ol' honest Abe!). The premium insert was apparently available in some Topps Non-Sport packs as well. In 1958, perhaps emboldened by the move of the Dodgers and Giants to the left coast, an insert in the baseball packs offered 5" felt emblems. This was possibly a way to dump excess Bazooka Joe Emblems although I have no information in hand indicating if these differ at all from the earlier offering. Until such a time as I am told differently, I will list these as a separate set, since nobody seems to know.
1959 Felt Pennants (16)
The American Card Catalog lists the size of these pennants as 5" x 15", which would make them seem like a pretty irresistible item if you were a typical Topps consumer of the time. Yet another in the continuing string of Topps premium offers, this promotion may have been a little too expensive for the bean counters at Topps, for they reverted to issuing packs with their "irregular" offerings in 1960.
1960 Tattoo (96)
If you purchased a pack of Baseball Tattoo Bubble Gum and didn't immediately throw the wrapper away, you would have noticed a tattoo on the reverse. In addition to 55 rather crude renderings of baseball players, team logos, generic action shots and facsimile autographs are also included in the set. The fact that this is actually a wrapper set means that completing it is a real challenge. In fact, a complete checklist wasn't put together until the 1980's. As with many of Topps supplemental sets from the sixties, obtaining the Mantle presents a serious roadblock to collectors. One solution is to collect lower grade Mantle specimens, which are much less expensive and available in somewhat larger numbers than their near mint or better counterparts, since investors are not overly fond of slightly dog eared or creased Micks. The tattoo wrappers measure out fully at 1 9/16" x 3 1/2", but many are found with some or all of the portion below the actual tattoo cut away.
1961 Dice Game (18)
Perhaps taking a cue from the success of the APBA baseball game, Topps produced this black and white set in 1961. While the Topps name does not appear anywhere on the product, the quality of the cards and the typefaces used clearly mark these as a Topps product. At 2 1/2" x 3 1/2", they also have the same dimensions as regular issue 1961 cards. One player per position from each league is included and while not all are superstars, every player was an All Star at one time or another. These cards are extremely rare and the Mantle card is probably the holy grail of all Topps cards.. Of course, considering that it sells in the mid to high four figures, not too many people could afford one anyway. That is, provided more than one exists: in 1985 only one known set had been reported, along with a handful of singles. It is doubtful this set was ever legitimately released based on the low number of extant copies. In fact, when Topps issues are this scarce I have to think that Woody Gelman was involved in their introduction to the hobby.
1961 Magic Rub Off (36)
Topps entered the baseball insert market with this little set, packaged in first series wax packs in 1961. In what can only be seen as a response to Leaf and Fleer's incursion into the baseball card market, the brain trust at Topps started working overtime to design inserts, premium offers and supplemental issues. This is a typical Topps move and many of the innovations they spawned over the years were the direct result of either real or perceived forays into their markets by other manufacturers. For this set, 18 players with unusual nicknames were caricatured on pieces of waxed paper. An additional 18 rub offs contain team pennants, including the two newest entries into the American League, the Washington Senators and Los Angeles Angels and those erstwhile former Senators, the Minnesota Twins.. The dimensions of 2 1/16" x 3 1/16" are not always uniform, but there doesn't seem to be a really big chance that these inserts have ever been reproduced by other parties. You can find these rub offs at just about any big show and they don't really present any problems in obtaining superstars, since the two big names are Banks and Berra.
1961 Stamps (208)
Topps was a little more ambitious with this initial stamp offering than with Magic Rub Offs. Stamps could be obtained in second series and higher wax packs and possibly in cello packs as well. There was also a premium offer on some wax wrappers advertising a stamp album. The stamps are either dull green (American League) or brown (National League) and came in "blocks" of two. They can still be found intact in this form and many people collect them in this fashion. For some reason Al Kaline appears in both colors, probably having a brown version as a substitute for a player who had been dropped from the set. Therefore, only 207 different players are portrayed. Individual stamps measure 1 3/8" x 1 15/16", while blocks are 3 3/8" x 1 15/16" due to the inclusion of a printers color key. These rather bland stamps can be found with little effort, although big name players get snapped up rather quickly when they are offered for sale. An album also exists.
1962 Baseball Bucks (96)
Topps really hit their stride with the release of this set in 1962. Sold on its own, these 1 3/4" x 4 1/8" pieces of scrip resembled nothing less than legal U.S. tender. Instead of George Washington staring at you, you could have Sandy Koufax or Jerry Lumpe, complete with faux engraver's lines. A rendering of the player's home park also appeared on the front along with a brief write-up. The backs feature league and team logos to boot. Most examples exist with a fold line running from top to bottom that should not be too noticeable. Player selection was fairly good, although as with most of Topps non-regular issues, the usual assortment of stiffs and stumblebums is present. There is some interest in this series, but they are not all that difficult to find. Even the Mantle is priced at levels mere mortals can afford.
1962 Stamps (200)
Topps brightened things up a bit with their second insert stamp issue, packaged in their 5 cent wax and cello packs in 1962. Measuring 1 5/16" x 1 3/4" (the two stamps blocks this time measured 3 3/16 x 1 3/4", with the addition of the advertising laden printer's color key) bright red or yellow backgrounds really perk these babies up. Twenty team logos were also included in the set. Roy Sievers can be found either as an Athletic or Phillie, which means there was more than one printing and, in fact, the whole set is pretty easy to track down. The advertising on the printer's key indicates a stamp album could be had for 10 cents if you asked your retailer. Stacks of these albums can be found at big shows, so hold out for a good price.
1963 Peel Offs (46)
Given that Topps was going head to head with Fleer in the current player market, it's somewhat surprising this was their only insert for the year. Perhaps their protracted legal battle with Fleer drained off some bucks that might have gone into producing another insert set or maybe they just pumped their money into producing the Bazooka All Time Greats, who knows? The 46 stickers each measure 1 3/4" x 2 3/4" and are usually seen with a "white" band running left to right across the mug shot. This band is about 3/16" wide and appears to be lighter than the printing above and below it. It's my theory that this is an aging effect from when the backing strip was slit at the factory Topps wax wrappers did not advertise the set, so maybe the boys in Brooklyn knew Fleer would fizzle from the start. Prices on the Peel Offs have been dropping of late and many can be found at 1987 or '88 levels.
1963 Mickey Mantle Plaque (1)
Topps advertised a Mickey Mantle premium "mask" on some 1963 wrappers. This is it. The Standard Catalog describes it as plastic, 6" x 8" and sporting a simulated wood frame. Good luck finding one.
1963 Famous Americans Stamps (2)
Topps didn't produce a baseball stamp series in 1963, but they did produce stamps featuring 80 well-known Americans. The actual name of the product was Stamp Gum, but Famous Americans stuck in the minds of hobbyists, although they are sometimes known as Great Americans. The stamps are 1 3/8" x 2 9/16" and Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth are the sole baseball players depicted. Finding these today can be a real trick as the whole series had low production, which coupled with collector dis-interest means you will have to search and search for the two Yankees. Prices on the ball players can border on the ridiculous, which is standard when boys of summer are part of otherwise non-sports Topps offerings. No album has been reported, which probably did not help sales much in 1963, since nobody would have had any idea how many stamps were produced. Using orange gum probably wasn't one of Topps shining moments, either.
1964 Photo Tatoo (75)
Topps reintroduced tattoos (with a new spelling - I happen to like the "tt" version of the name) on the back of gum wrappers in 1964. Measuring 1 9/16" x 31/2" 55 players and 20 team logos (which do not resemble the official ones used by the teams) were included in one of Topps worst efforts to date. The tattoos are fairly scarce and prices on the superstars are high, especially on Mantle and Yastrzemski, although prices on the Yaz are probably far higher than demand would dictate, probably because some price guide editor forgot to actually check on the price of his cards once the glow of his hall of fame election wore off. That's a common problem with price guides and one of the many reasons some of the oddball Topps issues don't sell all that well. Other than Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Ryan, Schmidt, Reggie and Seaver, most of the other superstar level players just sit in dealer's display cases, unsold because somebody on the "editorial board" of a price guide says sixty bucks for a crummy tattoo of Carl Yastrzemski is a good price. Ever try to sell a Lou Brock card at a show? A Warren Spahn? A tattoo of Yaz? It ain't easy, I can assure you. And then somebody comes along who needs one last tattoo to complete his set, the dealer checks the guide, jacks the price up 25% and ends up selling his Yaz for seventy five semolians. Some hobby.
1964 Stand Ups (77)
Well, for every 1964 Photo Tattoo set, there is another set that makes Topps seem like marketing wizards. And the 1964 Stand Ups certainly fit the bill. Full length, die cut color shots of the ball players really stand out on a yellow and green background. Twenty two of the cards were short-printed, which means putting together a set can take years. These are gaining in popularity too and complete mint sets have sold recently for amazing sums. Marketed in their own packs, each Stand Up measures 2 1/2" x 3 1/2". As with all die cut cards, remove them from their holders when deciding whether or not to make a purchase.
1964 Giants (60)
The real title of this set should be All Stars, but nobody calls 'em by that name. These large (3 1/8" x 5 1/4") cards feature stunning photography and snappy writeups on the reverse. And hey, they have photos on the backs! I've heard that's all the rage these days. Most probably released in the weeks prior to the 1964 All Star game, the set is very reasonably priced. At one point dealers were giving these cards away with other purchases, indicating way too many were produced by Topps. In fact, the Mantle card is often available for twenty bucks or so, even in nice shape. Complete sets are frequently seen and are definitely the way to go. What are you waiting for?
1964 Push-Pull (3)
Another innovative design from the folks at Topps. These "cards" are actually two photos sliced up like brownies and interleaved. The photos are encased in a shutter, which has slats and by pushing or pulling the card itself up or down as per the attached tab (which says Push-Pull, in case you were wondering) a different photo magically appears (or disappears). At 2 1/4" x 4 11/16" this 36 card oddball issue has an oddball size. The Mantle/Berra card has soared to some lofty heights, but they are pretty hard to come by. Gehrig/Ruth and the Stengel card are better bets, but you'll still pay through the nose. The set is popular with non-sports collectors, so you may have to scramble to get what you need. Non Sports guides generally list this as a 1964 issue, Baseball guides usually go with 1965.
1964 Coins (164)
Topps really shot the moon when they produced these 1 1/2" diameter coins as inserts in 1964. Maybe the end of legal hostilities with Fleer freed up some capital, but whatever the reason, this set is a real beauty. Originally slated to include 120 coins, 44 All Star coins were produced later in the season, which means Topps must have felt these coins were helping sales. The set has always had some popularity with collectors and most coins can be found without too much effort. The Causey and Hinton All Star coins have either A.L. or N. L. on the back (the N.L version is the scarce one) and the Mick is portrayed batting from either side of the plate, which could indicate Topps rushed the All Star coins into production. You know, the All Star theme was very popular with Topps in 1964 and it's entirely possible that the close proximity of the game (it was played at Shea Stadium, which is about 20 minutes from their Brooklyn offices) had something to do with this fact.
1965 Transfers (72)
1965 was the year of the big move for Topps. Operating out of scattered offices flung throughout Brooklyn and contracting out the printing of some cards finally wore thin and production facilities were built in Duryea, Pennsylvania, although corporate offices were still maintained in Brooklyn. I'm not sure what the first set produced in the Keystone state was, but the move was significant as it gave Topps the ability to experiment with different printing materials and formats. The result of all this experimentation would not show up in the sports end of things for a couple of years, but 1965 marked the beginning of increased Non-Sport set production. In 1964 Topps produced seven or eight different Non-Sports sets. In 1965 it was more like 18. As I said, sports issues remained status quo for a while and this set of 72 2" x 3" iron on transfers is not terribly exciting. Issued in the higher series packs, these are hard to find in nice shape. In fact, this may be the toughest Topps insert set to complete in Near Mint or better. Interest is low, but expect to pay more than "guide" even for commons. One of these days I'm going to actually see if they can still be transferred onto a t-shirt!
1965 Embossed (72)
Issued in the lower series' packs, these are easier to find than the transfers, but just as ugly! Gold foil raised-relief portraits bear little resemblance to the player depicted and the result is lack of interest in the hobby. Even the Mantle card is available at a low price, testimony to the apathy this set evokes. The cards measure 2 1/8" x 3 1/2" and scuffing of the portraits is common. Some evidence exists that cards with silver foil were also issued, but I've never seen one. Topps had a fine year in 1964 in terms of supplements and inserts, but 1965 is the pits.
1966 Rub Offs (120)
After the lackluster efforts in 1965, Topps produced a rather attractive insert set in 1966. One hundred players and twenty team pennants make finishing this set a tougher proposition than you might expect, but Rub Offs are seen in dealer ads with some regularity. These 2" x 3" inserts were issued throughout the year, which means examples in nice shape are the norm, not the exception. Care should be taken in storing Rub Offs (or any collectible that was designed to be transferred from its original state) as excessive heat or moisture can cause the transfer process to begin.
1966 Punchout (Unknown)
This is one of the all time rarest Topps issues and without a doubt is another Gelman job. At least one of the known examples is from Woody's personal album, taped in no less (!) and then removed for sale years later.. These are often confused with the officially issued 1967 Punchboard set, but the two are decidedly different. This test issue features two players on the front, arranged like a playing card. That is, one of the players is upside down with respect to the other. The punch out pieces resemble baseballs, unlike the 1967 issue, which has square pieces. There is much confusion regarding Topps Punchboards, but the inclusion of Bobby Richardson, who retired in 1966, makes it virtually certain the year of issue is 1966. This set marks the beginning of a Topps corporate philosophy that kids would like to play games with some cards, which lasted through 1971, when it apparently fell into disfavor. If you can even find one of these very elusive cards consider yourself blessed. If you can afford it, you are more blessed still. I have never seen a checklist for this set and none of the annual price guides even hint at it, at least the ones I have don't and I have a bunch. It's possible this set was never released to the public, or was only marketed at a few select locations. Topps liked to test cards near their headquarters in Brooklyn among other places like Scranton, Pennsylvania and sometimes only a box or two made it out of the factory and into the hands of the public. I like to think that Gelman managed to latch onto a box of everything Topps produced, which is plausible, but no wrappers have been reported for these cards, which probably either means 1) no official release or 2) release in Fun Packs. Fun Packs came out every Halloween and contained a variety of Topps offerings. Designed to move product that had outlived its shelf life or was not deemed worthy of regular packaging and distribution, Fun Packs probably a source of many a mysterious Topps issue over the years. Some Non-Sports sets that have no documented wrappers were issued in Fun Packs so that could be the case here. The checklist is arranged by individual player and additions to the are welcomed.
1966 Comic Book Foldees (Small) (1)
Foldees were cards with perforated panels that could be folded over in various combinations that produced supposedly humorous results. Babe Ruth the Slugger was featured along with Wendy the Witch and Wonder Woman the Amazon, and the mind reels at the possible combinations. Babe Ruth the Witch? Babe Ruth the Amazon?. These strange and malleable cards measure 2 1/2" x 4 11/16" and if you are considering the purchase of Mr. Ruth in one of his many guises, take the card out of the holder and see if the perforations have been broken. If they haven't, resist the temptation to start folding the panels over unless your local dealer knows how to take a joke. A larger version of these cards was issued the following year, so be warned.
1967 Pin Ups (32)
The first of what would become an annual staple, these fragile 5" x 7" posters were inserts in the regularly issued packs. Since they were folded to fit the packs, it is practically impossible to find a mint example. Posters are usually inexpensive and these are no exception. I know posters were popular, because when I was buying baseball cards as a kid in the early Seventies, my walls were papered with them. Many times you will find posters with staple holes in them, or with torn corners. I wonder if any of them are mine.
1967 Pirates Stickers (33)
1967 Red Sox Stickers (33)
1967 marks the beginning of what I feel was the greatest and most innovative period in the history of Topps. For nine years, right through 1975, Topps creative people must have been working overtime to come up with new and unusual cards (and non-cards too). Almost 300 different sets in both product lines (Sports and Non-Sports) were produced, which works out to about one new set every ten days or so. The move to Duryea in 1965 started the ball rolling, but it took them a couple of years to hit their stride. Most of the pre-1967 experimenting involved Non-Sports cards, but they were mostly cards. In 1967 a lot of the experimenting concerned the medium of the product itself, a trend that would continue through about 1972 and sporadically thereafter. Test issues were numerous and various attempts were made by Topps to expand their market beyond the candy counters of America. Topps stickers were nothing new, but to me they mark the start of a change in corporate thinking at Topps. Released together and apparently marketed only in the subject cities (i.e. Pittsburgh and Boston) Topps was obviously seeing if issuing products on a regional basis would work. Since there were no other team-oriented baseball sets released (released being the key word here -- an aborted attempt was also made this year concerning the San Francisco Giants) after these two, the experiment was probably not an overwhelming success. These two issues came in regular wax wrappers, not the usual test wrapper (test wrappers of the era were usually white, with a card-sized sticker slapped on the front) and they can be found without too much trouble, which may mean there were probably some leftovers at the Topps warehouse when sales fizzled. Size is the same as a baseball card 2 1/2 x 3 1/2".
1967 Giant Stand Ups (24)
Sometimes referred to as Heads Up this is another mega-rare test issue from our friends at Topps and these 3 1/8" x 5 1/4" cards may never have seen official release. A color head shot with scant descriptive text was to have been popped out from the surrounding black background, but I can't ever recall seeing any un-popped cards advertised, which certainly points to Mr. Gelman as the source of these. Some examples are found without perforated lines around the heads, which does not have any real bearing on price since these puppies are expensive! Advanced collectors (don't you love that term? It used to mean anyone who collected poorly-researched, expensive cards, but everybody seems to be doing that these days. My own definition has changed to reflect this and I now consider an advanced collector as anyone who is rich and collects baseball cards.) will salivate like dogs when one of the big names is offered at auction and bid the prices into the stratosphere. A type card or two is really the only way to go here, but that might not happen either. Dream on, dream on...
1967 Punchboard (Unknown)
I love a good hobby mystery and this set, along with its related, but dissimilar test issue ancestor, certainly gave me fits. Once I figured out the test issue was from 1966, I had to determine why Sandy Koufax was in this set, when he retired in 1966. Different publications and advertisements showed the year of issue as 1967, 1968 or 1969, which was no help. Rack style packs have been known in the hobby for some time as being issued in '67, but wax packs (featuring Mickey Mantle, by the way) were thought to have been issued in 1968 or 69. Since these cards are unaccountably scarce, I had to work off an ad which fortunately listed players by team. Then the 1995 Standard Catalog was published and my job was made easier. A check of the Baseball Encyclopedia revealed all players shown in the ad were with their listed teams at the end of 1966. A few of these retired following season's end, including Koufax. So 1967 it was. Or was it? Sandy retired on November 18, 1966 and I believe the set was already in pre-production at that time. He was a big name player who had just walked away from the game in his prime. He was known to kids throughout the country; in fact, when I first started seriously collecting as a kid in 1970, a 1966 Sandy Koufax card I had brought a Hank Aaron in trade, a card which I had been trying to obtain for weeks and for which I had previously offered up everything short of my entire collection. So I think Topps just decided to go with the name recognition factor to sell some cards in 1967. Plus, since other players in the set are listed in the "lineup" section of the Punchboard, just below the small photo of the team captain on each one, it may have been more trouble than it was worth to make so many changes. But what of the 1968 wax packs? Well, since this issue is so hard to find for a set that was seemingly released as a legitimate item I think Topps sold leftovers from 1967 in 1968, which could mean poor sales have made this set the toughie it is today. These cards can easily be differentiated from the 1966 test issue as they have only one black and white photo on the upper left corner and square punch out pieces. The size of the set is probably complete at 90 cards, although card backs indicate almost 200 exist, but some, if not all players appear in more than one lineup, so it's possible 180 different versions exist, assuming two different lineups per player.
1967 Discs (24)
1967 San Francisco Giants Discs (24)
Here we have another of those hobby mysteries I love so much. There is a related set of 1968 Discs and checklists over the years have been co-mingled, resulting in much confusion. These are circular photos on a silver background, with the player's name and team fashioned in a loop around the face of the card. These were apparently proofs and some come with a "waste area" still intact. The whole schmear is silver and sometimes people will call these Topps Silver Paper, but don't be misled. The first set is made up of All Stars while the San Francisco version is all Giants obviously, with some descriptions matching the type used in the Pirates and Red Sox Stickers. The Giants are more common, but these are pretty rare items either way. The All Stars display the players name and sometimes his team. The speculation is that these 2 1/8" diameter mug shots were produced for a pin set that was never issued, but I wonder if it was in fact the prototype for a coin set since there is a lot of room outside the descriptive circle around the player's head, which would allow for the disc to be cut and its edges rolled. The silver waste area means the cards were printed on semi-reflective paper stock, which somewhat fits the description of the two coin sets Topps produced in 1964 and 1971. The Giants discs are interesting, since it may indicate Topps was going to market teams in their home cities. Topps may have killed production due to negotiations with the player's union at this time, or simply because of economic forces; they issued a lot of sets in 1967.
1967 Who Am I ? (4)
Topps was really putting 'em out in 1967. This set of general subjects is standard sized (2 1/2" x 3 1/2"), but comes two ways. The most prevalent flavor of card has a scratch off disguise obscuring a famous face on the front of the card. The pink and white reverse poses a series of questions about said personality and the idea was to guess the name before scratching off the disguise. The other version has the same questions on back, which are pink and tan, but the fronts are sans disguise (uncoated). The latter possibly came with a Milton Bradley game in 1968, but all 44 cards in the complete set have not been confirmed for the uncoated cards. In all probability they exist, which means the suspected Milton Bradley cards are really a different printing and, hence, a different set. Now, many cards that came with a disguise have been scratched off, so be careful if you want a true uncoated specimen. The appearance of Sandy Koufax reinforces both my theory on the date of issue of the regular Punchboard set and Sandy's stature in his day.
1967 Action All Star Stickers (Unknown)
More mystery and I'm afraid the information on this set is even scanter than on the Stand Ups. I lost my only reference to this set some time ago, but I recall it had only two panels, not three like the 1968 regular issue. No players are known at present.
1967 Comic Book Foldees (Large) (1)
You know the drill on this one. Similar to the smaller 1966 issue, this Babe measures 3 1/4" x 6". 1967 was the Summer of Love and maybe some of those goofy vibes made their way into the Topps offices. Something was in the air that year, that's for sure.
1968 Card Game (33)
To my way of thinking, this is the quintessential Topps insert set. Clean, bold design; a checklist of mostly decent players; issued in quantity; just the right number of cards to encourage going after a whole set. And at 2 1/4" x 3 1/4" they are slightly smaller than the regular issue cards, indicating they were inserts. I'm not sure they were issued with all the different series, but there sure are a bunch of these around, maybe because they were sold as a set in a little box for fifteen cents (sometimes ten cents) after their first appearance in regular packs. Topps would sometimes have stacks of inserts lying around once they ran their course and sometimes they would get packaged up and sold as sets, or even in their own packs.
1968 3-D (12)
Easel Insert (1)
Predating the better known Kellogg's sets by a couple of years, Topps first and apparently last attempt at "true" 3-D was absolutely spectacular. Too bad these weren't snapped up at the time they were issued, because if you want one now, it's gonna cost you. Commons go in the mid to high three figures and the stars, well forget it. Roberto Clemente will run you a mere four grand or so. These 2 1/4" x 3 1/2" cards came two to a pack and there is an insert as well: a small easel to display one 3-D card. Getting back to the 3-D's, a proof card is also known to exist, as well as a salesman's sample, which features part of a card cut into a circle and slapped in a plastic pin. Topps must have had high hopes for this set, which were probably dashed when production costs soared. The insert was a little stand designed to display the 3-D card of your choice.
1968 Large Player Posters (24)
Measuring 9 3/4" x 18 3/8" these are the second biggest things ever produced by Topps. Sold individually for a nickel, these were probably ignored by kids in the summer of 1968. After all, the posters in 1967 were free with a pack of baseball cards! In fact, they were also ignored by kids in the summer of 1970 since Topps repackaged them and sold old posters two years later! These were folded a number of times to fit their package, so I doubt if any mint copies exist. In fact, hardly any copies exist, which is too bad considering how nice they look. They are so large, however that storage or presentation presents a major problem, which translates into a more reasonable pricing structure than would normally be expected for something this rare. It's funny how some of the weird Topps issues are so hard to find, considering the extent of their distribution network. And it's scary when you look at these posters and realize over a quarter century has passed since they were issued. Topps is one of America's biggest cultural institutions whether you realize it or not, which may account for the poignancy I feel when I look at some of these things. Topps baseball cards were such a big part of growing up for millions of baby boomers (and post boomers) it's impossible to remember your childhood and not think about them. That's the blessing and also the curse of nostalgia: it makes you long for the days when you were young and had no responsibilities beyond taking out the garbage twice a week, yet it also lets you reflect on past times as if they all were golden. Was there ever anything better than bicycling down to the local candy store on a hot summer day, picking up a few packs of cards with the loose change in your pocket, then sitting in the shade tearing the wrappers off , all the while marveling at the pictures and stats, while stick after stick of dusty, pungent bubble gum was crammed into your mouth? No, I don't think there was. Think it's the same today when some kid plops four bucks down for a pack of uv coated junk, then leaves the whole mess on the counter because he didn't pull a decent insert? I don't think so and it's a shame. Fleer broke down the barriers in 1981, but they also set in motion the means that permanently changed one of the great rites of youth.
1968 Plaks (24)
1968 Plaks Checklist (2)
This is one of the strangest Topps issues of all time, bar none. It was also a great deal if you were a kid in 1968 and all you had was one thin dime to spend. For ten cents you got three small player plaks on a sprue--just like a real plastic model-- which had to be inserted into their individual bases, which were also attached to the sprue. Plus you got a real nifty checklist card, featuring actual photos of twelve players in the set, which was a good thing since the plaks all resembled your Uncle Fred. Finally, you got two pieces of bubble gum. The whole kit and kaboodle was wrapped nicely in an oversized wax pack, which had instructions on how to assemble the plaks, in case you were a real lame-o and also featured an artists's rendition of the plaks that resembled Mount Rushmore. The reality is that the checklist is said to measure 2 1/8" x 4", which means each plak is about 1 1/2" x 2" fully assembled. Big deal, right? As a grownup now in your thirties, you try to find a few of these at the local card show and wonder aloud at the lack of plaks. A kindly dealer informs you that they can't be found these days because everybody back in 1968 used to assemble them and they weren't issued in great quantity at any rate. Any plaks that come on the market are sold for a pile of cash, he says, two piles of cash if they're still on the sprues. What about the checklists?, you ask. Mr. Dealer goes on to state that anytime a checklist comes on the market it's immediately placed in an auction and ultimately sold for a mid three figure price to the advanced collectors of the world who bid on such things. You shake your head in wonder and slowly walk away, fondly remembering a day long ago when you had that lonely dime in your pocket and happened across a pack of these cheesy little statues.
1968 Action All Star Stickers (16)
Here's an item that also retailed for a dime back in 1968. A strip of three vertical panels, each of which measures 3 1/4" x 5 1/4" and contains seven stickers of ball players. The top and bottom panel have three smaller player stickers, plus a facsimile autograph or two. The middle panel contains a larger sticker with autograph. Numbers 13-16 repeat poses found on numbers 1-4, but not in the same sequence. You'll pay big bucks for these babies, so make sure the panels are intact before you buy. While these stickers are somewhat scarce, they are not as rare as some dealers would have you believe.
1968 Deckle Edge Proofs (9)
R-414-UNCNo idea what's happening here. Topps seemingly did an in-house test of the following year's deckle insert, which is probably normal. Done up in a 9 card undeckled (i.e. straight edge) sheet, player selection differs dramatically from the 1969 inserts as you can see. They are also blank backed. Autographs can be found in black, blue & red. Black autographs may indicate an OPC test printing, while the red ones are probably true proofs. Found as sheets or cut up individually, a steady supply of these seems to be working its way into the hobby, holding prices down.
1968 Topps Discs (28)
These are circular photos on a solid color background, with the player's name and team fashioned in a circle around the face of the card. These were apparently proofs and come with the waste area still intact. You'll note four more players were produced than in 1967, which is pretty odd since the 67's never made it into production either. Rare stuff, this.
1968 Tipps from the Topps Booklet (1)
This is simply a legitimate reprinting by Topps of the series found on the backs of Bazooka boxes in 1968. Major League Stars give pointers on how to play ball the big league way in this neat little booklet. This was apparently issued as a premium by Topps, although I would not be surprised if it was inserted in some boxes of Bazooka gum as well.
1968 Milton Bradley (Unknown)
Topps and Milton Bradley joined forces to produce something called the Win A Card Game using baseball cards as part of the game. Football and Non Sports cards were also used and it is said that the key to identifying the Milton Bradley version of the baseball cards is in the copyright line on the back of the cards. I've never been able to figure out what the difference is, but there are reports that one of the baseball cards is the Nolan Ryan rookie. Either 22 or 44 baseball cards were issued in the game, but nobody can say conclusively which figure is correct.
1969 Super Baseball (66)
About twenty years before they issued the Stadium Club cards, Topps put out their first "premium quality" set. These 2 1/4" x 3 1/4" cards feature rounded corners, beautiful full bleed fronts and a facsimile autograph. Backs somewhat resemble the 1969 Deckles. Issued in three card cello packs, these are in high demand and command correspondingly high prices. A fire reportedly destroyed a large cache of these in the 1970's, further tightening the supply of what was already a limited production issue.
1969 Deckle Edge (35)
One of the more well known Topps insert sets, these 2 3/16" x 3 3/16" black and white photos came packaged with Topps third series (and possibly higher) cards in 1969 and a checklist for the set is found on the regular third series checklist. Two substitutions were made: Wilhelm was pulled and replaced by Wynn and Le Grande Orange was yanked in favor of Joe Foy. Wilhelm had been traded by the Pale Hose to California prior to the season and Staub was sent packing from Houston to the Expos as part of the ill-fated Donn Clendenon trade. Why they were pulled I have no idea. Airbrushed logos appear on the Wilhelm and Staub cards, but other players in the set have suffered a similar fate as well. The deckle edge refers to the borders, which look like they were cut with pinking shears. A blue facsimile autograph rounds out the front. Cards with red autographs are proofs and cards with black autographs were issued by O-Pee-Chee in Canada. The backs contain a small descriptive box and not much else. This is a popular set that went through at least two printings, so finding these cards is fairly easy.
1969 Decals (48)
These were miniature recreations of the regular 1969 cards inserted in early series packs with a mysterious reappearance in the fifth series. While not actual facsimiles of the photos used in the regular issue, they are similar. Designed to be rubbed off, they are easily damaged and quite fragile. The decal itself measures 1" x 1 3/8" but the larger paper containing the transfer is 1 3/4" x 2" and features a copyright line and black printer's bar. While probably printed in equal or greater quantity than the deckles, fewer copies have survived so prices are double or triple when compared to the photo inserts. Still, like all the Topps inserts they are not too difficult to find and are usually seen in pristine shape. Another quality insert from our friends at Topps.
1969 4 On 1 Mini Stickers (25)
Topps must have really liked the design they used in 1969, since they reproduced it twice in miniature. Sold in wax packs at three for a nickel, these 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" stickers featured four little 1969 Topps cards, each of which could be peeled off individually, resulting in 100 different stickers. Culled from the third series, the boys in Brooklyn were not too discriminating in player selection since World Series and Rookie Cards show up here. Perhaps this test issue was to have been expanded if it caught on. It didn't and today these can go for a pretty hefty price. Topps seemed intent on coming up with new marketing ideas in the late Sixties, some of which worked and some of which resurfaced in the Eighties and Nineties such as Topps Micro (based on the mini stickers), 1981 Scratch Offs (based on the 70/71 version) and 1984 Rub Offs (based on a few previous efforts). There was some serious long range planning going on at Topps in the late Sixties, which goes a long way toward explaining why they are still atop the heap as we head off into the sunset of the Twentieth Century. All these test issues and inserts were designed to thwart off upstart competition, although not always in the baseball line. Philadelphia Gum's attempts to crash the football party resulted in across the board gimmicks designed to keep kids loyal to Topps and there was even some cross-marketing going on between baseball, football and non-sports. And I'll bet dollars to dropos that Topps' getting into the basketball and hockey markets in the middle Sixties was more about cutting off the competition at the knees than from any desire they might have had to get wrapped up in two minor (at the time) sports.
1969 Team Posters (24)
Measuring 11 1/4" x 19 3/4", these are the largest things Topps ever produced so far as I know. High hopes for lofty sales must have led Topps to including seven different ad panels on the Wax Packs these came in, which means this was a legitimate, rather than test, issue. The problem was, you only got one poster for ten cents which must not have been too appealing. Today these are almost impossible to find, especially in any kind of decent shape what with multiple fold lines for packaging and kids hanging 'em up on their walls since they were so attractive. In fact, this is probably the nicest looking item produced by Topps in the Sixties. Colorful, large and with decent player selection (each team had eleven of its top stars shown in head-and-shoulder shots, six of which were in brightly colored circles) these are well worth tracking down. Unfortunately, you will need some bucks to do it, especially if you want the Mets poster, which has taken on near-mythic status among their fans since it displays the team that stunned the world in '69. You might actually be better off purchasing unopened packs of these, which surface two or three times a year in the ads of three prominent unopened pack dealers. If you want a full set, take your chances on buying a full box of twenty four packs. You could in theory pull a full set and even if you don't, you could trade your dupes off for the ones you need. Of course, if you don't pull the Mets poster out of a full box you're screwed. So, do ya feel lucky?
1969 Stamps (240)
1969 Stamp Albums (24)
Somebody at Topps loves stamps. I am as convinced of this as I am of the sun rising every day. The third stamp issue in eight years however, beats the others by a mile. For a nickel you got a sheet of twelve stamps plus a mini album (one for each team). Quite a deal, especially when compared to the team posters. While the 1" x 1 7/16" stamps are fairly colorful and look OK, the real winner here is the album. Each album measures 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" and comes in vivid orange. The cover states "Stamp Album of the Seattle Pilots" (or whoever, you get the idea) and on page two there is actually a table of contents! Pages 3 through 7 each contain two black and white photos and pertinent stats for the two players pictured. You were supposed to paste the stamps over the pictures, so it's hard to find albums without stamps pasted in, although certainly not impossible. The back cover has facsimile autographs of the ten players shown in the album and the whole package is just fantastic. Forget about the stamps and buy the albums instead. They can be found with some frequency at big shows, although the Pilots and Mets are in somewhat short supply. A truly great item these albums, take my word for it.
1970 Supers (42)
Topps reintroduced the Super concept in 1970 and this time they wanted you to know they meant it so they beefed up the card size to 3 1/8" x 5 1/4", put a full bleed photo on mega-thick cardboard (you could surf on these babies!) and rounded the corners. Card backs were lifted from the player's regular issue card and the whole thing is rather impressive. They were test marketed first and must have caught on since they were done up in real packs later on in the year. At three cards for a dime, it must have been some hefty pack! Hobby wisdom dictates three cards (36, 37 and 38) were apparently shortprinted, with no. 38 (Powell) said to be the most difficult. I did some quick calculations and I'm not convinced of this however. I know that the football supers (same size) were printed 63 to a sheet. Two sheets of 63 equals 126. Three sets printed on two sheets equals 126 cards (42 x 3). That means there should not be any short prints. Maybe some cards were damaged or something on one of the production sheets, but I doubt it. While the subject of Topps double prints would take up a whole 'nother book, I'll try to give you the dirt here as best I can. For years uncut sheets of Topps cards have surfaced with some players being double printed. The most common type of double printing on an eleven by twelve card sheet (132 cards) consists of two strips of eleven cards repeating two identical strips higher up on the sheet. Which means 110 single prints (well, 109 in most cases-Topps almost always printed the following series checklist for inclusion in the current series packs, which means that all checklists from 1961 through 1973 were truly double printed, except for the first series) and 22 double prints. However, there have been sheets found that have differing strips of double prints. I am convinced that for your average series of 1960's cards (it changed in the 70's when the series size grew thanks to expansion) five separate sheets were printed, resulting in six runs of cards from that series being produced on five sheets. Still, even if I'm wrong the Powell is not as hard to find as most dealers would have you believe and since interest is low, try to get a decent price reduction before you buy.
1970 Scratch Offs (24)
Here we have another classic insert from Topps. A piece of cardboard was scored and folded over, with the front "cover" containing a photo of the team "captain" in a circle beneath the words "Play Baseball SCRATCH OFF". Inside were 44 little black rectangles that when scratched revealed a baseball play. The back cover has a "scoreboard" and instructions on how to play. These came in early series wax packs and have a white background inside (they were reissued in 1971 with red interior backgrounds). The fronts are quite colorful and come in blue yellow and red, although each player can only be found in one color. They measure 2 1/2" x 3 5/16" when folded and can be found with great frequency at any decent show. Like previous inserts, they were also sold separately in wax packs to get rid of overstock at the end of their run.
1970 Story Booklets (24)
The second of three inserts sets issued in 1970, these miniature (2 1/2" x 3 1/2") eight page comic booklets are quite amusing. Issued after the Scratch Offs, but apparently before the posters, or possibly at the same time, these are delicate and can be pulled apart rather easily. Again, Topps sold off remaining overstock by retailing wax packs. Another great Topps insert issued in response to those pesky Fleer World Series cards everybody was buying this summer.
1970 Player Posters (24)
Yet another insert from Topps in 1970 (an all-time high three were issued) these 8 11/16" x 9 5/8" posters are as delicate as gossamer. They tear easily on the fold lines and many surviving copies have thumbtack holes. Quite inexpensive, it still takes some searching to put together a complete set. They may only have been issued with fourth series cards which explains things somewhat, but I vividly remember tacking these up on my walls in 1970, as did all of my friends, which explains moreso the lack of surviving examples. These may be the least popular Topps insert of all time in today's world, but back in 1970 they were treasured. Don't be confused by packs of 1970 posters you might encounter; they actually contain recycled 1968 posters. Why? Who knows. Topps has done many strange things over the years, including the use of older wrappers to sell new cards in. This was especially prevalent with early Sixties football packs. You get the feeling that even the paper clips in the Topps offices were used over and over again, until many years of handling finally resulted in their breaking in two, much to the eternal sorrow of seniormanagement. Frugality reigns supreme!
1970 Candy Lids (24)
We're getting into some rarefied air here. This is not to be confused with the more common (relatively speaking) 1973 Candy Lid Issue. These 1 7/8" diameter lids contain a rather large tab and extol Baseball Stars Candy on the reverse. As an added bonus, the backs feature mug shots of Yaz, Seaver and Frank Howard, making these highly attractive and sought after collectables. Full bleed photos on the front help distinguish these from the 1973 issue, which had borders. Other distinguishing differences, 1970 lids have team logos on the players caps, the 73's are airbrushed; only Seaver and Yaz are on the reverse of the 1973 lids; the 73's have smaller tabs and the 70's were candy lids, not gum lids like the 73's.. This was a test issue and today examples are very difficult to find.
1970 Cloth Stickers (Unknown)
Along with the 1961 Dice Game, this is the rarest Topps issue from the Sixties (1970 is the last year of the decade of the Sixties-honest). Very little is known about these replicas of 1970 regular issue cards, although they do have blank backs. My guess is that Topps stripped off a two or three rows (three if the 1972 Cloth Stickers are any indication) of eleven cards from an uncut sheet and turned them into stickers. There may be only one of each sticker, making this among the last of the possible Gelman jobs, although he may have pulled off one or two others before his death. Details follow in the 1973 listings.
1971 Scratch Offs (24)
Back for an encore appearance, the 1971 Scratch Offs most probably were available as inserts late in the year, after the metal coins ran out. Identical to the previous years' issue, except these have red backgrounds on the interior and are much harder to find than their 1970 counterparts. Nobody cares, though and there is no price differential. Once again these were packaged up individually, probably as "Pocket Sized Baseball Game" and sold at retail. It is unclear if both varieties were marketed together, or if each was sold separately.
1971 Supers (63)
Remember the bit earlier about an uncut sheet of Supers having 63 cards? Check out the set size on these cards. These are the same size as the 1970 Supers and the only difference is that the backs are the 1971 variety, 'natch. The absence of short prints helps confirm my earlier theory. The 1970 version had to have sold well enough for this reappearance to occur and the 71's are certainly easy enough to find. Topps apparently had a hit on their hands with these, but the changing economics of the card industry apparently killed any chance for a third set in 1972. There weren't even any insert cards in 1972, or for that matter ever again, at least not in the manner to which we all became accustomed. 1971 was the last great gasp of the Topps inserts and true supplemental sets, but not yet the end of the test issue. It's too bad, because I would really like to know what Topps would have done with the Supers in 1972. My bet is they would have had day-glo colors.
1971 Greatest Moments (55)
Now here's a set that hasn't aged well, at least not in the marketplace.. At one point in the Eighties, these 4 5/8" x 2 1/2" horizontally oriented cards were arguably the most sought after Topps supplemental set going. Interest has steadily fallen to the point where they are almost less expensive today than they were ten years ago. There are two reasons I can think of. Firstly, everybody who wanted a set got one, which I doubt or, secondly, they are not as scarce as first believed. These are by no means common and the hype was being flung pretty freely a decade ago, so I opt for theory number two. Still, they are very nice looking, with black borders, the Topps color mug shot in a circle on the left, below which is the player's name and the phrase "One of Baseball's Greatest Moments". To the right is a black and white photo of a famous event the player was involved in, with a deckled border and small caption below. This is a very striking format. The back contains a cropped down piece of the photo from the front and a newspaper style story. To me this set is the perfect challenge: manageable size, optimum level of scarcity vs. price and visually pleasing. You won't complete it in a week, but you can do it in a year.
1971 Tattoos (16)
The set size refers to the number of sheets in the set, not the actual number of tattoos. Each sheet has six perforated panels and unfurled the sheets measure 3 1/2" x 14 1/4". The uppermost panel is a descriptive header with a generic batter and the five panels below feature a variety of head shots, autographs, team pennants and cartoon baseball scenes. Since nobody wants these if separated, check out any sheets you wish to purchase and make sure they are intact. These tattoos are sturdier than other issues of this ilk, but not indestructible, so be careful. Issued in wax packs, one sheet per, these are popular in some circles and there seems to be a decent supply, so pricing isn't too bad. Tell you what though; this older Topps oddball stuff is drying up, so I would suggest that when purchasing Topps products with removable media you do so sooner rather than later. For some reason the decals and tattoos are a little more popular than the more normal type of insert or secondary issue. Don't get me wrong, this stuff is still out there, but in ten years you're gonna wish you had bought more of it way back when.
1971 Coins (153)
Making a return appearance after seven years, these 1 1/2" diameter Topps coins came in the first three or four series of Topps cards, so the supply is plentiful. When I was a kid everybody had these and they took on the air of legitimate currency for a couple of months in the summer of 1971. You could even buy regular cards from other kids with the coins. An Aaron or Rose would get you about twenty five cards, while your average Bobby Tolan was only good for one or two cards at best. All around my neighborhood you could hear these clanking away in the other kid's pockets. Having a checklist in the second series certainly helped matters. Kids actually tried to complete sets of these and as a result, these are as hard to find in Near Mint as the more ancient 64's. Want a hint? Try looking for these at coin and toy shows.
1972 Player Posters (24)
Hard to say if these are tougher to find than the 1968 Posters. They are slightly smaller (9 7/16" x 18") and much more colorful, thanks to the full bleed photos and sensibly designed nameplate. But harder to find? Well, price wise they are a little more expensive than the 68's, but I think they are a little bit more popular, probably because they look so much better. Sold in wax packs, which are cheaper today by far than the 1968 variety, you once again got one poster for your money, which means this is one of those rare times when Topps did not heed the lessons of the past. Flimsy paper means beware the dreaded fold line syndrome as well.
1972 Cloth Stickers (33)
This is a strange one. The first mention I have of it is from 1982 when a very reputable dealer (who wasn't selling them) wrote in a Trader Speaks article that a 33 card uncut sheet had been acquired by him and it appeared to be rather scarce. He called them silk, which is really more accurate than calling them a sticker since they have no glue and in fact, don't even come with backing paper. There were thirty three random cards from the regular series two and three which is odd, but Topps did print 264 card sheets that year, so maybe they mixed up consecutive series on the sheets for the Rak Paks. Fast forward a few years and there are a lot of these cards floating around. I mean a lot. Prices continue to drop as well. For something that was never actually issued, these sure are easy to find. All the cards are hand cut (or machine cut, but not by Topps) so be careful when purchasing. Either somebody has a hoard of these sheets (probably), or somebody's reprinting them (doubtful, but possible). No matter how you slice it though, it doesn't bode well for investors, which is just fine with me. Want to invest in something? Go buy 100 shares of Microsoft, OK?
1973 Candy Lids (55)
Three years after they were test-marketed, little tubs of Baseball Stars bubble gum hit the candy counters of America. There sure were differences though. For one thing, candy was replaced by gum, Frank Howard was gone from the reverse of the lid and where oh where were the logos on the caps (more on that in a minute)? At 1 7/8" in diameter these colorful lids are somewhat hard to find, but not overly scarce, which means they must have sold fairly well. But the logos, oi vey! What happened? Well, Topps designed two other sets for actual release in 1973, neither of which saw the light of the candy counter. Both sets had the logos airbrushed off them, just like the candy lids. Even the Yaz and Seaver photos on the lid backs had the logos removed; they were there in 1970. The lone Topps insert for the year were team checklist cards which featured no logos or photos. If you guessed licensing dispute, you guessed right. I would think Topps got into it with Major League Baseball Properties (the Owners) over the rights to use the team logos. They probably also got into it with the player's union over fees (this had happened previously in 1969). The result of all this is that Topps started shutting down production of supplemental and insert sets, putting and end to the most glorious run in the history of bubble gum cards. After 1974 there was the odd set here and there, plus the 1975 minis (Topps reportedly cut production back on the regular set to produce the minis, so the players and Owners probably got nothing extra that year), but nothing of real significance until the Cloth Stickers of 1977. Notice a trend there? 1969, 1973, 1977...1981 also fits the picture. Every four years the players and Owners re-negotiated the Basic Agreement. Topps started turning its attention to producing sets for other distributors like Burger King in the late Seventies, and I would think they had the distributors cut the licensing deals, thereby saving much aggravation. Collectors generally disdain unlicensed sets, which is what Topps was doing in 1973, but when it comes to Topps, almost everything is collectable.
1973 Pin Ups (24)
1973 Comics (24)
The dreaded licensing woes continued with these companion sets (they have the same checklist). Both types are 4 5/8" x 3 7/16", although the comics are oriented horizontally and both appear to have been halted before production really began. Meant to wrap a large slab of Bazooka Gum, all the copies extant today have no fold lines. They are also quite gorgeous, especially the comics. The first panel of each comic is actually a photo, while the Pin Ups are very close in appearance to the 72 Posters, just smaller and with borders. In fact, the Comics look too large and the Pin Ups too small. Very, very hard to come by; commons are currently selling for $200 each, despite what the Standard Catalog says. Ouch!
1973 1953 Reprint (8)
Something of misnomer, these are not true reproductions of the 1953 cards. The red or black name block on the front is gone, replaced by just a plain name, but the paintings look to be direct lifts from 1953. Possibly issued in 1972, although '73 makes more sense, most dealers describe these as a test issue, but I was once told they were giveaways from Topps, kind of like those little calendars you get every year from your insurance company. Believe me, you would rather have the cards, they're quite scarce, although they surface in auctions a couple of times a year.
1973 Action Emblems (48)
Baseball Coin Rub Game (1)
Not quite sure what's up here so let me try to explain this mess. Standard Catalog says 1974, I believe the year of issue to be 1973 for reasons stated in the Candy Lids essay. Each emblem has two parts, a larger upper area, with a team logo (not the real logo, ones made up by Topps!) with an drawn action shot of a ballplayer superimposed. The artwork is pretty basic and I can't tell if the players are actual stars or just representations. The smaller bottom portion has a city name, though not matching the logo above. There's also a game card a little like the 70/71 inserts, but with no player photos. My gut feeling is Topps put this set out to tweak the Owners. I mean, why else would they go and create 24 new team logos? Whatever it was though, it worked-briefly; in 1974 the logos were back on the supplemental issues, but after that they laid off the special sets for a while.
1973 Team Checklists (24)
The licensing problems continue. After issuing no inserts in 1972, Topps came back with these lackluster cards in 1973. Issued with the high series cards and possibly only in Rak Paks, these blue bordered checklists (one for each team) are the same size as a regular Topps card. A jumble of facsimile autographs on front and a team checklist on back are essentially it. It's also possible these were issued in the packs containing all 660 cards instead of individual series (Topps issued them both ways this year in a radical departure from past practice, testing the waters for the grand spectacle of 1974). Reportedly, you could write to Topps for these as well, but not too many people must have done that since they are pretty difficult to find today. Really.
1974 Deckle Edge (72)
Measuring 2 7/8" x 5", these are larger than their illustrious ancestors, but lack the charm of the earlier issue. Full bleed photos, scalloped edges and a facsimile autograph are nice, but give me those 69 inserts. The backs have a "handwritten" notation from the player pictured on the obverse above a newspaper type clipping and are printed on either gray or white stock, one of which was the test issue version. A truly scarce test issue, these are seen every once in a while, but prices are sky high. And hey, are those logos I see?
1974 Puzzle (12)
Apparently test marketed twice, once at twenty five cents and once at twenty nine, these forty piece puzzles came in a paper wrapper, die cut of course. All twelve players were big names in 1974, but Topps just priced themselves out of the market on these. Scarce, yes but display problems have prevented prices from really zooming, which is good.
1974 Stamps (240)
1974 Stamp Albums (24)
Rehashing earlier successes (and sometimes failures) is a Topps hallmark. These were sold in wax packs, just like in 1969, but only six to a sheet, as opposed to twelve a sheet in 1969. Haven't seen an album, but I'll bet they aren't as nice as the ones from 1969. They cost more than the 69's though, while the stamps go for less. Hmmmmmmm................Yet another price guide problem, I would think.
1974 Team Checklists (24)
Back for a second time, these red bordered checklists were issued all year long with the regular cards and are significantly easier to find just for that reason. Same design, just a red border instead of blue. Ho hum.
1974 True Fact Mini Comics (1)
This is a bit of an oddity. An outside vendor was possibly involved, but word has it these were given as bonuses to retailers. The Story of Baseball and Football is just one of about six in the whole series and I've listed it here just for the sake of completeness. Plus it's a really strange item, which you may have noticed I like by now.
1976 Cloth Stickers (Unknown)
It's very possible this was a two card set, but I'm not positive. I've only seen the Dyer, but know the Apodaca exists. They were battery mates for the Mets in 1974, which might explain things, it's just too much of a coincidence. These are somewhat like the 1972 "Stickers" in that they have no backing, and no glue and some are also diaphanous (that's the opposite of opaque). In fact, four varieties of each exist: silk-like and three types of felt, each of varying thickness. One day long a go, in a card shop whose current lack of existence is still lamented by yours truly, I encountered three strips of the Dyer, three to a strip, one above the other. Had to cut one of the danged things off myself, which was nerve-wracking, believe me. Centering is skewed extremely right on all copies I saw. Should measure the same as a regular card, but hand cutting ain't exactly like using a laser you know. Duffy's an exact dupe of his regular issue card, I assume Apodaca is the same. Rarest Topps baseball issue from the Seventies, I would think. A possible test for the 77's, but these were never released. Probably just a test printing, which was a good idea, as the colors on my Dyer are murky. The silk-like 77's are much more striking.
1977 Cloth Stickers (55+18)
Once common and cheap, these are now common and expensive. Very attractive visually, the backs actually have career highlights on them. The eighteen puzzle cards form pictures of the AL and NL All Star Squads, meaning a late season release. The puzzle cards are usually found with gum stains. Both cards and Stickers are the same size as the regular issue.
1978 Topps Zest Soap (5)
Complete sets of these Spanish language cards were packaged with Zest soap in Hispanic communities, probably in San Diego and Los Angeles. Five Latinos in the set makes the connection obvious. They resemble the regular 78's except for the Spanish on back. Not rare, but hard to find.
1979 Comics (33)
The first set to spawn speculation on a mass scale, these are now very easy to come by. People really got burned on these, which serves them right. It also paved the way for the various feeding frenzies of 1981. Anybody got a Joe Charboneau rookie they want to part with? They measure 3" x 3 3/4" and feature crude drawings of major league stars. Wrapped around a small piece of gum, fold lines are common. Beware of unopened boxes. These were actually issued in three series of eleven, so a box only has eleven different comics. Uncut rolls have also been seen, with the outer wrapper still alongside the comic.
1980 Superstar (60)
Gray back, white back. 5" x 7", you know the drill. A rather inglorious end to the Seventies for Topps. Mild speculatory action sparked interest early on, lotsa people use the unopened boxes as paperweights now.
1959 Bazooka (23)
Yes, these are Topps cards, only nobody seems to think they are, which is the fault of the price guides. Thirteen years of issuing something completely different began in 1959, when nine of these 2 13/16 x 4 15/16" cards were issued on the back of Bazooka boxes sold in supermarkets. This initial test proved successful and the remaining 14 cards were added. Hank Aaron comes with his name in either white or yellow, which is seemingly the only variation, although I wonder if the other eight "low numbers" can also be found with subtle differences. This initial Bazooka issue is stunning, both in size and color. Prices are prohibitive, even on commons, of which there are few. Backs are blank, as with all regular-issue Bazookas.
1960 Bazooka (36)
Beginning a tradition that would continue until 1967, the 1960 Bazooka cards were issued in three card panels divided by black dotted lines on back of the supermarket sized box. Smaller in size at 1 13/16" x 2 3/4" these are easier to find than the first issue, but not at all common today. As with most Bazooka issues, intact panels are prized by collectors and command a premium over the price of the individual cards. Either way, a complete set will set you back some serious bucks.
It's a little easier to find these than the 60's, but not by much. Three card panels and similar sizing when compared to the previous year indicate some indifference on the part of Topps, which would become more apparent in future issues. The extreme bottom of the card indicates "NO. X OF36 CARDS, unless it's been excised, as is common with these cards. Seems the youth of America was less than diligent about cutting on the dotted line than Topps would have liked. Go figure.
1962 Bazooka (45)
Okay, pay attention now. These resemble the 1961 issue, but they look slightly different, thankfully. Twelve of the panels were issued in similar quantity, but three are extremely tough, making this the hardest Bazooka set to complete except for the 1959's. These are the same size as in the previous two years and save for the three tough panels, prices are comparable, as is format. No tag line revealing the size of the set must have confused collectors way back when, which just goes to show you CAN have too much of a good thing.
1963 Bazooka (36)
A return to 36 cards also saw an slight downward change in the dimensions of the cards. The tag line indicating set size makes a triumphant return here and the design of the cards was overhauled, probably due to the increased visibility of the Frank H. Fleer Corp. A production increase makes commons easier to find, although the increased magnitude of stars makes a complete set somewhat difficult. Topps started recycling designs after this year, so you really need to know your source when purchasing these.
1963 Bazooka All Time Greats (41)
Competitive pressures seemingly compelled Topps to add a bonus to it's 1963 Bazooka boxes: five cards of 41 Hall of Famers decked out in gold plaques, although sometimes these are found in silver due to a snafu in the printing process. Cards with pink tones have also been noted, indicating Topps was having quality control problems with this set. A biography appears on the back, a first (and last) for Bazooka. Size is 1 9/16" x 2 1/2" and availability is good, meaning the Ruth and Gehrig aren't too expensive. These also are not the most popular cards, so that helps as well. They are, however, among the nicest sets ever issued by Topps so try and find some at your next show.
1964 Bazooka (36)
Eerily similar in design to the regular issue 63's, the smaller size makes it possible to distinguish these from their older brothers, although not from the 1965's. The tag line remains (all future sets, unless indicated, have tag lines) and some players have the same number as in 1963 and 1965. Again, this is only a problem when comparing 64's and 65's, so knowing your poses is a must here. From here on out, it gets easier to find examples, although not so easy as to make it akin to finding the regular issued Topps cards from corresponding years.
1964 Bazooka Stamps (100)
Often thought of as Wheaties Stamps for reasons that are unknown to me but nonetheless fraught with possibility, these were found, one ten stamp sheet per, in boxes of Bazooka gum at the supermarket in the summer of 1964. The stamps are 1" x 1 1/2" each and are usually encountered in sheet form. Harder to find than the 1961 and 62 Topps Stamps, low interest keeps prices from climbing too high. I believe an album exists, possibly as a mail-in premium, but I'm just not too sure about that. Anybody know if Wheaties had a mail-in offer in 1964 for a stamp album?
1965 Bazooka (36)
Identical in design and size to the 1964 Bazooka's, these are a little easier to find. Topps was hitting the doldrums here in Bazookaland as they commenced experimenting with their Duryea printing facilities, but sadly none of the innovation that would mark this period as unique would impact the Bazooka sets.
1966 Bazooka (48)
1966 ushered in the largest Bazooka set yet at 48 cards. The tag line makes it possible to only confuse these with the 1967 issue and it seems like production was cranked up in comparison to years past as the Topps marketing machine hit full stride.
1967 Bazooka (45)
Know your dealer. Know him well, since this set has similar designs and poses to the '66 set, with the exception of ten players who were new additions. If you really want to make sure you are buying 67's (or 66's for that matter) I would suggest going the complete set/complete panel route, since a majority of panels have one differing player when compared to the 66's. Topps was really becoming inattentive to these sets in the mid-sixties and sure enough, they dramatically changed the format in 1968, probably realizing they had taken these cards about as far as they could.
1968 Bazooka Tipps From the Topps (15)
1968 Bazooka (56)
A dual issue, this. Topps decided it was time for an overhaul and radically altered the format and set size as a result. The main part of the box, namely the back, features a tip or two from the top players of the day (Maury Wills appears twice, perhaps as an apology of sorts for his snubbing in the early 60's). These 3" x 6 1/4" "tipps" were issued in conjunction with a 56 card "regular" set (Agee, Drysdale, Rose and Santo were double printed with the Cepeda and Brock tipps) that is displayed on the side panels of the box. The Tipps feature a photo of the instructor with line drawings illustrating the various proffered lessons. At 1 1/4" x 3 1/8" the actual cards are distinctive. This set can be found on intact boxes more readily than most other Bazooka issues, but due to the size of the set cost is a factor.
1969/70 Bazooka Baseball Extra (12)
1969/70 Bazooka Greats (48)
Another doubleheader here and fittingly the mighty Bambino dominates. Issued over a two year period (hopefully with fresh gum in 1970) this duo consists of a 3" x 6 1/4" Baseball Extra back panel featuring great moments from baseball's past and 48 All Time Greats cards on the side panels, each measuring 3 1/8". I've never been able to check, but I'll bet the head shots on these cards match up with the 1963 All Time Greats cards, with obvious exceptions (players not in the first set) Topps would give it one more try, but it was pretty obvious the Bazooka cards had run their course by this time.
1971 Bazooka (Unnumbered) (36)
1971 Bazooka (Numbered) (48)
Strange doings abound with this last gasp Bazooka effort. The unnumbered set is the "official set" and the numbered set is often referred to as a "proof" set, which is ridiculous considering how plentiful it is. Again issued in panel form and measuring 2" x 2 5/8", twelve players are the only difference between these sets, apart from the numbering of course. The numbered cards were evidently issued later and are scarcer. These are perhaps the nicest looking Bazooka cards, but Topps decided to throw its dollars elsewhere