Over the years, the 1962 Post Cereal Football set has proven to be almost impossible to assemble in high-grade.
But through patience and determination, collector Joe Mancino is on the verge of completing a registry set with an impressive 7.24 GPA.
"In my quest to put one killer set together, I've owned four different sets," he explained.
This 200-card, hand-cut offering is Post's only American gridiron issue. Measuring 2-1/2" by 3-1/2" each when cut properly, these cards are sequenced by team according to their 1961 finish. The cards are then in alphabetical order within each squad by the player's last name (with the exception of the Cowboys' Frank Clarke (#135)).
Card fronts feature a photo and biographical information, while the backs are blank. These singles could be found on cereal box panels that ranged from one to seven cards.
Terry Faulk, who owns the registry's No. 4 Current Finest set and worked for Post's parent company for 39 years, has done extensive research on these panels. The savvy collector can specify which cereal a panel came from simply by looking at it.
Panels of these cards have become relatively rare, but full boxes are even harder to track down and tend to sell for a premium. Thirty-one cards are commonly designated as short prints in this issue. Most hobby publications indicate that these cards were located on boxes of less popular cereals, but Faulk refutes this. He says that some cereals were produced in different box sizes and that some boxes were manufactured in smaller quantities.
"It's not that people didn't like the cereal, it was just that not that many would buy it in that particular form (of box)," he said.
Gevert Meyer, who has compiled the registry's No. 3 Current Finest set, says the Dave Baker (#93) card is the most difficult to find in this issue. He points out that the Baker single only appeared on two different brands of cereal - a Grape-Nuts 11-ounce box and an Oat Flakes 10-ounce box.
"All cards off of 11-ounce Grape-Nuts and 10-ounce Oat Flakes (boxes) are very difficult to find and are very scarce," said Meyer.
Of the 13 Baker cards submitted, there has been just one PSA MINT 9 and one PSA NM-MT 8. A PSA EX 5 fetched $450 on eBay in October 2010.
Faulk adds that another Baker - Sam Baker (#74) - is also elusive. There are two versions of the Sam Baker card: one showcases a red asterisk next to his team name, while another flaunts a black asterisk. Faulk notes the red asterisk version was found on Post-Tens packages (described below), while the black asterisk single was located on 11-ounce Grape-Nuts. Most hobby publications assign a premium to the red asterisk version, but Meyer believes the black asterisk version is actually more difficult to uncover.
"The black asterisk (Sam Baker) card is on the Grape-Nuts 11-ounce box and it will be a tougher one to find," said Meyer. "The prices (in most hobby publications) should probably be reversed."
Of the 22 Sam Bakers evaluated, there have been four PSA 8s (with nothing grading higher). A PSA NM 7 sold for $300.01 on eBay in April 2008.
Y.A. Tittle (#29) and Mike Ditka (#111) are among the other notable short prints. Tittle is the only player in the set photographed with his helmet on. A PSA 9 Tittle sold for $272.89 on eBay in November 2008.
On top of the short prints, this set also boasts a number of Hall of Famers, including Paul Hornung (#6), Bart Starr (#12), Jim Brown (#61) and Johnny Unitas (#90).
In his research, Faulk established that the Unitas card could be found on at least five different cereal boxes - the most of any player. The PSA Population Report indicates that the Unitas card (68 submissions) is the most frequently submitted card from this series. The sole PSA GEM-MT 10 Unitas sold for $2,550.03 on eBay in May 2009.
Released in the same year as his Topps rookie, the Fran Tarkenton single (#184) is also highly coveted. Mancino says this card is often found with glue residue on its back because of its position on the cereal box. Of the 59 evaluated by PSA, there have been two PSA 9s and six PSA 8s. One of the PSA 9s fetched $610 on eBay in October 2007.
Hall of Famers Gene Hickerson (#66), Jim Johnson (#97), Bob Lilly (#141) and Larry Wilson (#154) all have cards in this set that were printed prior to their first mainstream issues. And like the Sam Baker card, the Joe Ninowski (#57) also has red and black asterisked variations.
Faulk has also discovered variations on some of the photos. For example, one version of the Glynn Gregory card (#134) showcases a full antenna in the background, while another exhibits half of the antenna.
Because these cards had to be hand-cut off of a box, most cards are found miscut. Kids often trimmed the cards inside the solid black border. PSA will not assign a number grade to the cards unless virtually all of the black border is visible. Cards devoid of the border (provided that they meet PSA's minimum size requirements) are labeled as "Authentic".
"If you do find these cards still on the box, you clearly need a paper cutter - a good one - to properly cut the cards," said Faulk.
But because cards on certain boxes share the same borders, cutting them can be problematic.
"On most panels, all cards have their own unique border," explained Meyer. "Cards off of these panels will be easier to find in the proper form for grading. In contrast, cards that appeared on Sugar Crisp (9 oz.), Bran Flakes (11 oz.), Alpha-Bits (8 oz.), and Crispy Critters (8 oz.) have a common border. Since these cards have a common border, it was more difficult to cut them out with the complete black border and are more difficult to find with complete black borders on all sides.
"With this in mind, any card that could only be found on these four brands of cereal will be more difficult to obtain in raw form for grading. Cards that only could be found on panels with the common border are John Morrow (#68), Dee Mackey (#80), Bill Pellington (#87), Jerry Mertens (#99), Zeke Bratkowski (#162) and John Paluck (#195)."
With just five submissions, Pellington (#87) is the lowest population card in the set.
These cards were also subjected to general wear and tear on store shelves.
"The cards could get scuffed in the store," said Faulk. "They could have minor creases from when they were being picked up off the shelf."
Mancino adds that other cards, outside of the Tarkenton, are often found with glue residue on their backs. This occurred because Post glued the cereal bag to the edges of the inside of the box to ensure that it stayed in place.
"Some of the cards always have glue on the same spot because they were right on the seam of the box," noted Mancino. "You'll always see a big long strip of glue behind Galen Fiss (#62) for example."
Meyer says the position of the card on the panel dictates whether or not it will have glue residue.
"All cards that appeared at the top of seven-card panels should be found with the (glue) stain on the back because that is the location where the adhesive was applied," he noted.
Meyer also notes that cards found on the back of the Alpha-Bits mini-cereal boxes that were included in Post-Tens variety packs (which included 10 mini cereal boxes) also tend to showcase glue residue on their backs. Meyer says that only six players - Hornung (#6), Alex Webster (#30), Sonny Jurgensen (#37), Milt Plum (#70), Unitas (#90) and Billy Kilmer (#98) - appeared on these Alpha-Bits mini boxes. A three-card panel could also be found along the bottom of Post-Tens variety packs.
In Canada, CFL cards were issued on Post Cereal boxes. This 137-card set isn't as widely collected as its American counterpart, but the cards are just as tough to uncover in high grade.
Over the years, the 1962 American Post Cereal football series has established a devoted following.
"It definitely has increased in popularity based on the number of cards that you will see are graded and the prices of all cards that are graded," said Faulk.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any additional information or comments. Joe Mancino and Gevert Meyer provided pictures for this article. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of August 2011.