PSA Set Registry® 116,003 Registered Sets

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Welcome to the annual Set Registry Awards - another year of competition and another year of agonizing decisions about selecting the winners. Now, with well in excess of 7,000 registered sets, the PSA Set Registry continues to swell with sets from all eras and of all sizes. The bottom line is, due to your continued enthusiasm and participation, the voting process has become increasingly difficult. Thanks to you, PSA remains the dominant authentication and grading service in the world.

The awards were given to registrants based on, but not limited to the following criteria: set popularity, difficulty, grade average, completion percentage, domination, degree of competition within the set category, etc. As someone who truly appreciates the effort, time and money it takes to assemble these fine sets, I congratulate all of you. You have all set goals and worked hard to enhance each and every one of your outstanding collections - collections of which any collector would be proud.

Since this is our second year of awards, there have been a few modifications. First, we have added new categories in order to expand the number of potential winners such as Most Improved Set and Best Oddball Set. We hope these are welcome additions to the Registry. In addition, in order to further expand the awards, we have decided that the winners from last year cannot repeat in the same categories. Furthermore, since the Hall of Fame designation is truly the highest recognition someone can receive for his set, HOF sets are also precluded from being inducted more than one time.

That being said, if a set is the highest rated set in a particular category and exceeds a certain completion factor, that set will automatically be recognized each and every year for its duration on the Registry. This is part of the PSA Set Registry "Best of the Registry" Certificate Award program, not the additional plaque and HOF awards that are selected by a panel each year. Again, the purpose behind these moves is to recognize more and more sets while, at the same time, making sure that the finest sets in each individual category are still recognized year after year.

One element of our awards program we are trying to enhance is the PSA Set Registry Hall of Fame. As our ultimate award and the highest achievement for any set, we feel that these sets deserve as much recognition as we can give them. In fact, all of the HOF winners from last year will also receive an award this year. This award is a tabletop piece that is clearly distinguishable from our plaque and certificate awards. This new HOF award will be our standard moving forward. We would also like your suggestions. If you have any ideas on how PSA can further improve the Hall of Fame, please let us know.

Perhaps our most surprising new element to this year's awards is the recognition of Marshall Fogel as the inaugural member of the PSA Collector Hall of Fame. Of course, it is not surprising that Marshall earned this award considering his hoard of great sets. While we think it is important to recognize individual sets for their achievement, it is also important to recognize collectors who assemble great overall collections. This way, a person who focuses on one set can still have his set inducted while, at the same time, a collector who may not win several individual categories but has an outstanding overall collection is given the due he deserves. This award will not be automatic, as the inductee must display quality and quantity in this ultimate area of achievement.

Once again, we cannot stress enough how difficult it was to select winners from this incredible group. Each year, PSA will look for new ways to improve the Set Registry program - a program that would be nothing without the support of each and every one of you.

- Joe Orlando, PSA President

Charlie Merkel - Best Collection of the Year
Last year, Marshall Fogel was given this award, but you could have arguably had co-award winners with the other being this man - Charlie Merkel. Pound for pound, we are not sure if anyone matches up with Merkel - his set quality is amazing. He has the top 1952 Topps set (2002 HOF Inductee) and 1933 Goudey set, which are considered two of the big three in the hobby. He also has a 1915 Cracker Jack set (2002 HOF Inductee) that is so nice that you may have a tough time competing with him on grade even if your set was comprised of modern reprints. It is our pleasure to award a great set builder and an even better guy this award for 2003. For those of you who have had the pleasure of meeting or knowing him, Merkel really represents what the Registry is all about. It's not just about the big cards; you need to balance the set with quality. Congratulations Charlie!

Charlie Merkel - 1933 Goudey Baseball - Best Set of the Year
As one of the Big Three, this set enjoys fierce competition from some of the most advanced collectors in the hobby. These beautiful little pieces of artwork feature an assortment of legends from Ruth to Gehrig to Foxx. The set also features some extraordinarily tough commons with virtually non-existent population numbers in the PSA NM-MT 8 grade or higher. Considering the degree of competition and the importance of this set, we felt we had no choice but to honor Mr. Merkel. His 8.22 GPA is stunning, but the fact that he is the very first person on the Registry to reach 100% completion is a huge accomplishment. That fact is what earned Charlie this award.

Wendell W. Smith - 1911 T205 Gold Border Baseball - Best Rookie Set of the Year
If you want to talk about a really, really tough set, this is certainly one them. T205s are tough to find at all let alone in nice shape. Imagine compiling a set that is better than PSA NM 7 across the board. How can you with those pesky gold borders? You almost can't believe it, but that is exactly what Wendell Smith has accomplished except it's better than just PSA NM 7. His overall GPA is currently 7.25 and rising with 100% completion! Why is it rising? Well, Smith is loyal to the T205s and is always striving to upgrade his unreal amassment. Most collectors will not even attempt this set because it's so tough, but Smith has made it his hobby goal.

Old Man - 1909-11 T206 White Border Baseball - Most Improved Set of the Year
The T206 set is one of the Big Three in the hobby along with the 1933 Goudeys and the 1952 Topps sets. Of the big three, this is the most challenging - so challenging that most collectors don't even bother trying. The Monster, as many collectors call it, is comprised of well over 500 cards, many of which are very low population cards in PSA Near Mint 7 or better. Picking a winner in this category was one of the most biggest challenges that we encountered during the voting process. When you consider the effort, time and money it takes to attack this monster head on, we had to recognize the Old Man for his major effort. The beauty of this award category is that you do not need to have a super high completion factor or even be the best in your individual set category - it's about improvement - it's what the Registry is all about. Collectors set goals and work hard to reach them. At 60.80% completion and climbing with an amazing GPA of 8.01, the Old Man is still reaching and we are all rooting for him in his quest for a complete T206 set. Go for it Old Man!

Baseball

Don Louchios - 1910-11 M116 Sporting Life - Best Vintage Pre-War Baseball Set of the Year
Don Louchios is certainly a veteran of high quality set collecting and his collection is, without question, one of the very best in the world. This set, perhaps more than any other in his collection, is the most dominate. With 100% completion and a 7.93 GPA, there is no one even close on the Registry. In fact, the second ranked set has less than 30% completion! No, this set may not be as popular as the T206 set or as condition sensitive as the T205s, however, we have a hard time believing that anyone will ever surpass Louchios' pre-war set. It features the usual suspects in Cobb and Wagner but also some very tough rarities. Good luck to anyone who dares to challenge it!

Nick Romano - 1957 Topps - Best Vintage Post-War Baseball Set (1948-1959)
Each year, different sets heat up in the market and others soften. Over the past year or so, high quality 1957 Topps cards have sold for huge numbers in the marketplace with centered copies fetching big premiums. This is another set that has very strong competition on the Registry and no wonder since it has always been considered a fan favorite. The simple design with great rookie cards of Don Drysdale, Frank and Brooks Robinson in addition to the cool multi-player cards like Yankee Power Hitters (Mantle and Berra) makes this set a winner. The fact that Romano has an 8.64 GPA with 99.75% completion makes him a winner here. In fact, his GPA is a full .30 higher than the current number two set.

Rob McBride - 1961 Topps - Best Vintage Baseball Set of the Year (1960-1971)
Once again, the degree of competition was a huge factor when it came to this award. There are over a dozen sets registered that have 85% completion or better and most of them are high-grade groupings. To stand out from a host of great sets is a true accomplishment and Mr. McBride did exactly that. With a GPA of 8.77 and 100% completion, the closest competitor has a GPA of 8.33. That difference in GPA may not appear like much on paper, but in reality, it is substantial. The 1961 Topps set, while not as difficult as perhaps a 1962 or 1963 Topps set, is so beloved by collectors that the demand keeps this set surging.

Frank Smith - 1975 Topps - Best Modern Baseball Set of the Year (1972-present)
Judging by the number of participants on the Registry, there are a lot of collectors who place this set among their favorites. This set is popular due to the multi-colored borders and the rookie card selection with George Brett, Robin Yount and Gary Carter to name a few. Hammerin Hank even rounds out the set at #660 as the final card - what a set. The leader, with a GPA of 8.82 and 100% completion, is currently out in front of the second ranked complete set, which has an 8.45 GPA. To complete this tough 1970s issue in virtually all PSA Mint 9s is almost unthinkable, but our winner is almost there.

Basketball

Forgetaboutit!!! - 1969-70 Topps - Best Vintage Basketball Set of the Year (1971 and older)
In the year of the Tall Boy, this set might be the hottest thing going. With prices realized for high-end copies that are sure to make some collectors (and their wives) faint, this set has been a standout with a lot of competition. As certainly one of the true classics in basketball card history, this set is filled with HOF rookie cards led by Lew Alcindor, or as most people know him, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The number one card even features another great big man in Wilt the Stilt. With an 8.73 GPA and 100% completion, we cannot even begin to imagine the investment this collector has made, in terms of time and money in order to fill out this award winning set. We are sure that the battle for supremacy on this set is not over and it will be interesting to see what happens over the next year.

D'Orsay Bryant III, M.D. - 1976-77 Topps - Best Modern Basketball Set of the Year (1972-present)
While not as tough as its 1969 or 1970 cousins, the 1976 Topps Tall Boys are still very collectible. There are a lot of great HOF cards in the set and the set starts with an awesome number one card of Dr. J. With a 9.12 GPA and 100% completion, this is the very first set to be completed with a GPA of PSA Mint 9 or better. There are a few collectors who are close, but at the present time they all fall short of the magic Mint 9 GPA. This is certainly one of the more important basketball sets of the modern era. To have a complete Mint set is an accomplishment we felt needed to be recognized.

Football

707 Sportscards LTD - Levi Bleam - 1965 Topps - Best Vintage Football Set of the Year (1971 and older)
The Tall Boy theme continues with one of football's most treasured sets, the 1965 Topps Tall Boys. This set, which features a lot of tough Short Prints and the legendary Joe Namath rookie card (a card that might be the most recognizable football card on the planet), is a set that is easily considered one of the most important football issues ever released. As the first set to reach 100% completion, with a GPA of 7.96, and nearly PSA NM-MT 8 across the board, this set deserved recognition in 2003. By the way, the award couldn't go to a nicer group of guys over at 707 Sportscards. Some dealers are collectors too and it's nice to see some of them put their own money into the product they represent. This showing of support is appreciated not only by PSA, but also by the thousands of PSA collectors out there. Great job guys!

Carlos D. Aponte - 1972 Topps - Best Modern Football Set of the Year (1972-present)
We couldn't be more pleased to honor Carlos Aponte with this award. Some of the other set registrants know Carlos and the courage he has displayed during the past year. They also know what a great person he is. Last year, another collector won this award for this exact set, but there has been a changing of the guard. That's what the registry is all about; it's never over. As the first collector to reach 100% completion with a GPA of 8.81, Carlos was a clear winner in our eyes. With the Roger Staubach rookie and a tough high-number series, this set is a favorite amongst modern football card collectors. Carlos can stand proud as the owner of the best in 2003.

Hockey

Theodore Kotsiakos - 1964-65 Topps - Best Vintage Hockey Set of the Year (1971 and older)
As the last member of the award winning Tall Boy club in 2003, this set rose to the top of the Vintage Hockey Set category. Of all the Topps Tall Boys, this set is arguably the most difficult to obtain in high-grade. All the big names of the era are here such as Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and Jacques Plante and the high-number series is tough and filled with Short Prints. This particular set, while not 100% complete (at 97.27%), has a GPA that is head and shoulders above the rest at 7.89. The second best GPA with a completion above 90% is at 7.23 and that is a fairly large gap all things considered. There are currently four registrants that are seemingly within striking distance of one another, but this award winning set has a GPA that is tremendous for this issue. This set will be hard to beat.

Gunner Clemens (pondofc)- 1990-91 OPC Premier - Best Modern Hockey Set of the Year (1972-present)
This is one of our new awards this year as part of the Registry expansion. Several years ago, this issue was simply on fire. Unopened material was selling like hotcakes and collectors were hoarding huge quantities of it. Today, the set might not be as hot as it once was, but this is still one of the most important modern hockey issues in the market. There are a lot of important rookie cards in this 132-card set like Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Federov, Rob Blake and Curtis Joseph. This set was the first in its category to be 100% complete in the PSA Gem Mint 10 grade - that's right, the entire set rates a "10." For that, we are happy to recognize this modern hockey set as our winner in 2003.

Miscellaneous Sports

Charlie Merkel - 1932 U.S. Caramel - Best Vintage Miscellaneous Sports Set of the Year (1971 and older)
Last year, this award went to a tremendous 1933 Goudey Sport Kings set - a set that is being inducted into our Hall of Fame this year. Charlie Merkel, who is being recognized in a host of areas, including Best Overall Collection in 2003, is the owner of the finest 1932 U.S. Caramel set on the Registry. This set symbolizes difficulty and, despite such a narrow lead on super collector Marshall Fogel (a GPA of 8.15 versus Fogel's 8.10 - both 100% complete), we simply couldn't ignore the accomplishment. Terribly difficult and important cards of Ruth, Gehrig and golfer Bobby Jones reside here with a ton of other low population HOF rarities. With such a slim margin, can Merkel fend off Fogel in a Clash of the Titans in 2004? For now, Merkel is the champ.

Albert R. DeSalvatore - 1981 Donruss Golf- Best Modern Miscellaneous Sports Set of the Year (1972-present)
The 1981 Donruss Golf set was once considered a "throw away" until golf entered mainstream popularity in the 1990s led, of course, by Tiger Woods. The entire set is comprised of virtually all rookie cards, 60 of them in all. The names include Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson and a host of others. golf rule's award winning set is 100% complete with a GPA of 9.65, outgunning last year's winner in the same set category. With the increasing interest in golf, this modern set has taken on a whole new importance and it is deceptively tough for a modern issue.

John Branca - Ted Williams Player Set - Best Player Set of the Year
Ted Williams is arguably the greatest hitter in baseball history and this is the best player run of the Splendid Splinter on the Registry. This set has yet to be broken up into a Master and Basic set, however, even with the complete checklist required, Branca has 87.50% completion with a GPA of 8.87. To properly place this accomplishment into perspective, you have to fully understand the magnitude of Ted's cards. There are only 24 cards listed in the set but most of those cards are considered major keys. In other words, virtually all of Ted's cards are of the power variety. Think about it. 1939 and 1941 Play Ball, 1948 Leaf, 1950 and 1951 Bowman, 1954-1958 Topps, 1959 Fleer, so on and so on. Oh, by the way, Branca also has the 1954 Bowman and 1954 Wilson Franks cards. Oops, almost forgot - all of the above cards, and more, are PSA Mint 9s!

Robert L. Earhart - 1969 Topps Supers Baseball - Best Topps Specialty Set of the Year
Is this issue really super tough in high-grade? Well, it's not as tough as some others but the key is finding them at all. This 66-card set is not only difficult to find, due to it being a Topps test issue, but it is one of the most attractive sets ever produced. Filled with major stars like Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and even a rookie card of Reggie Jackson, this set does not disappoint. Competition is heavy on this issue for all of the above reasons, with eight collectors having 100% completion. However, one man has surged to the top with an unthinkable 9.81 GPA - virtually all PSA Gem Mint 10's - Robert Earhart. Charlie Merkel, who received our top honor this year, is in second place at 9.40 - a meaningful gap. Who will complete the first all PSA Gem Mint 10 set? Stay tuned.

John Branca - Top 200 Sportscards in the Hobby by Joe Orlando - Best Overall Specialty Set of the Year
What a set! When Joe Orlando put together the Top 200 book, he never really thought anyone would come close to completing a set based on the entire list. Boy, was he wrong! Usually, collectors are focused on one sport, set or era, but in order to fill this list, you have to cover it all. Vintage and modern, baseball, basketball, football, hockey, boxing and golf - even multi-sport stars like Babe Didrickson. John Branca has the highest completion percentage with the highest GPA (8.66) in the category. While some of the cards on the Top 200 list may change over time, the vast majority of them are classics with clear staying power. As Mr. Branca marches on towards total completion, we can only wish him luck. This set might just be the "Willie Mays" of the Registry, best all-around and a huge challenge at that.

John Branca - 1954 Wilson Franks Baseball - Best Regional Set of the Year
This just might be the toughest regional set in the hobby but it is also perhaps the most visually attractive. With 20 cards in the set, it appears to be very feasible, but do not be fooled - this one is so, so tough. The Ted Williams card alone, in PSA Mint 9, fetched over $100,000 at auction in recent times. It is still the only copy to reach Mint 9 status. Other stars like Roy Campanella and Bob Feller also inhabit the set and ALL of the cards are extremely tough as most of them are off center due to the extremely narrow borders and, even when they are centered nicely, the cards are usually in horrible shape. Branca has a complete set with a GPA of 7.65. The closest ranking complete set on the Registry has a 5.67 GPA. Branca's set is almost two full grades higher! Those who have attempted this set or looked at the population numbers can fully appreciate the difficulty. As with Don Louchios and his 1910-11 M116 Sporting Life set, we simply cannot see anyone coming close.

Mick Cornett - 1971 Kelloggs Baseball (Basic)- Best Oddball Set of the Year
This is another new category for the 2003 PSA Set Registry Awards. Some of you may be wondering what "Oddball" really means. It's not a Topps specialty set like the 1969 Supers or a Regional issue like the 1954 Wilson Franks. It has to be not only non-mainstream but also, truly odd. That being said, let's take a baseball card set, distributed in cereal boxes and sprinkle in some Jimmy Hendrix flavor - now you have a 1971 Kelloggs set. As the toughest of the Kelloggs series, this 1971 set has some stiff competition for an oddball set. There are three collectors with 100% completion but only one to reach and exceed a GPA of 9.00 with 9.02 - Mick Cornett. This is an entire set of Kelloggs cards that average better than Mint 9. That sounds really cool to look at but don't look too long or you might be hypnotized by that funky design.

Non-Sports

Frank Evanov - 1962 Topps Civil War News - Best Non-Sports Set of the Year
In the non-sports category, a category that is gaining in popularity each and every month, we had a few contenders that made it to the final round. This category was, arguably, one of the toughest to judge for a variety of reasons. In the end, we had to focus on set importance and domination as the two leading factors. The 1962 Topps Civil War News set is certainly one of the more recognizable sets in the non-sports sector of the card world. Last year, it's Mars Attacks cousin was recognized but this year, with 100% completion and a tremendous 8.36 GPA, we felt the awards had to go to Frank Evanov. There are two collectors with 100% completion in this category, but Mr. Evanov has a 1.33 GPA lead over number two! That is substantial when it comes to quality as the other set is better than PSA Near Mint 7 across the board.

Best of the Registry Certificate Winners of 2003