By Mike Baker

The 1969 White Letters are some of the toughest variations in the hobby and a real challenge for collectors. Some of the baseball players of the 1960s are a part of this unique group. There is Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, slugging legend and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey and the extremely popular Mickey Mantle. The Mickey Mantle White Letter variation is one of Mantle's most challenging cards and some high-grade examples have brought tremendous prices at auction.

In general, the 1969 Topps baseball cards are tough to find in high grade because of the horrible centering, tilt, reverse chipping and print defects associated with the issue. Since these cards have very narrow borders, many of the 1969 Topps cards are found with bad centering. Another problem, which relates to the centering, is the commonly found picture tilts found on the 1969 cards. The tilts compound the centering problems by increasing the chance that the picture will be closer to a border. As you might imagine, this is the reason why many of these cards are designated "OC."

The reverse chipping problem is not as significant as the centering, but it does affect some of the cards. The backs of the cards are pink in color and the edges will reveal any wear whatsoever. Add to that the final hurdle of print defects. The fronts of the 1969 Topps cards have white borders and light-colored, bright backgrounds. Any black print defect will be very obvious to anyone examining the card because the light backgrounds. This makes for an eye appeal dilemma; some print defects can really range in severity.

You may be wondering why the White Letter variations are rare or why some cards were printed with this lettering. Rumor has it that these cards were simply and unintentionally misprinted in limited quantities. Somehow, very few of these escaped from the factory and collectors took notice. Sorry, no logical explanation here. Topps simply goofed and the limited quantities of white letter variations created a rarity for hobbyists around the globe.


Joe Orlando has been an advanced collector of sportscards and memorabilia for over 25 years. Orlando attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California where he studied communications and was the starting catcher for the baseball team. After a brief stint in the minor leagues, Orlando obtained a Juris Doctor from Whittier Law School in Southern California in the spring of 1999. During the last fourteen years, Orlando has authored several collecting guides and dozens of articles for Collectors Universe, Inc. Orlando has also authored two books for Collectors Universe. Orlando's first book, The Top 200 Sportscards in the Hobby, was released in the summer of 2002. His second book, Collecting Sports Legends, was released in the summer of 2008. Orlando has appeared on several radio and television programs as a hobby expert including ESPN's award-winning program Outside the Lines and HBO's Real Sports, as the featured guest. Currently, Orlando is the President of PSA and PSA/DNA, the largest trading card and sports memorabilia authentication services in the hobby. He is also Editor of the company's nationally distributed Sports Market Report, which under Orlando's direction has developed into a leading resource in the market. Orlando also contributed the foreword and last chapter to The T206 Collection: The Players and Their Stories, a 2010 release, and to The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players, a 2013 release.