It's a vintage baseball set that seems to have it all.
Hall of Famer rookies? Check.
Desirable cards of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente? Check.
First-rate photography and a clean design? Check.
Notable errors and rare variations? It has these, too.
All of these assets combine to make the 1967 Topps Baseball set one of the most popular issues of the past 50 years.
"There's a very large group of collectors that are totally fanatical about the 1967 set," said veteran PSA Set Registry enthusiast Larry Mayer.
Joel Baskin is one such collector. He has diligently assembled the No. 8 Current Finest Master set on the PSA Set Registry.
"It's just a fun set to collect," he said. "It has so many errors in it. It has the Tom Seaver and Rod Carew rookies, and it's not the hardest set to collect, compared to some of the earlier Topps sets. But it's not the easiest either. It's a good-looking set and you've also got a real serious Mantle card in there."
The 609-card, 1967 set was released in seven series and was Topps' largest baseball offering to that date. Measuring 2-1/2" by 3-1/2" each, the white-bordered player cards present large portrait or posed action photos on their fronts. The player name and position are indicated at the top. A dot separates the player name and position on cards in every series except for the first series. A facsimile autograph runs across the photo of all of the regular player cards with the exception of the Milt Pappas (#254). The team name is displayed in big, bold capital letters along the bottom.
"I would say that the 1967 Topps set is considered to be the first great design since the 1953 Bowman set for people who like pure, clean, straightforward designs," said Mayer. "It has an aesthetic to it that has obviously struck a lot of people."
For the first time in Topps' baseball card history, the backs are aligned vertically. Information is presented in black print on green and white backgrounds. The card number is displayed in a baseball design at the top, alongside the player name, position and team. Vitals (e.g., Height, Weight, Throws, Bats, etc.) ensue, followed by two cartoons that illustrate facts about the player, biographical information, yearly statistics and copyright data.
Several subsets are also part of this issue. World Series cards (#151 to #155) summarize the 1966 Fall Classic that saw the Baltimore Orioles sweep the Los Angeles Dodgers. The World Series cards offer black-and-white action photos inside a wood-grain TV design.
League Leaders cards (#233 to #244) are also included. Three of these singles - NL ERA Leaders (#234), NL Pitching Leaders (#236) and NL Strikeout Leaders (#238) - feature Sandy Koufax, who announced his retirement after the 1966 campaign. The legendary lefty does not have a regular pasteboard in this set. Many of the Leader cards showcase multiple Hall of Famers, including card #236 which boasts four Cooperstowners (Koufax, Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson and Gaylord Perry).
Thirteen "combo" cards that shine the spotlight on notable teammates are also scattered throughout the set. The headlines on the fronts of these cards (e.g., Cards Clubbers (#63), Mets Maulers (#186) and Bengals Belters (#216)) are often alliterations. Among the most coveted combo cards is the set's first card, "The Champs," which fashions a photo of Orioles greats Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson with their manager Hank Bauer.
"I love those combo cards," said Jon Passmore, who has amassed the registry's No. 9 Current Finest, 1967 Topps Master set. "It's like you're getting two players for the price of one."
Also sprinkled throughout the set are manager cards, team cards and Rookie Stars cards. There are also six checklists, which each display a small head shot of a star player. Frank Robinson (#62), Mickey Mantle (#103), Willie Mays (#191), Jim Kaat (#278), Juan Marichal (#454) and Brooks Robinson (#531) are the players highlighted on the checklists.
The 1967 Topps cards were distributed in five-card/five-cent wax packs, 12-card cellos and rack packs (three 12-card cello packs wrapped together). Wax trays, which consisted of six, five-cent wax packs, were also available.
Inside each wax pack was one of 32 Topps Pin-Ups. When unfolded, these measure 5" by 7" and showcase a photo of one of the era's standout players.
The 1967 Topps cards were disseminated in seven series throughout the year. The first series must have been in production in December 1966 because versions of the Bob Priddy (#26) and Mike McCormick (#86) cards were released that don't reflect their trade for each other on December 13, 1966. Judging by the rarity of the cards that do not reflect this transaction, Topps must have added a sentence about the trade to the backs of these cards early in the production process.
Cards from the sixth series (#458 to #533) are slightly more difficult to obtain than singles from the first five series (#1 to #457). But pasteboards from the high-number series (#534 to #609) are generally regarded as the toughest to track down, although there has been some debate as to how rare the high numbers truly are.
"I didn't find the high numbers to be that hard," said Passmore. "I didn't see a big difference [in terms of rarity compared to the other series]."
Over the years, differing information has been shared as to which cards in the high-number series are double prints. But there are now 22 cards that hobby publications seem to agree are double prints (see accompanying list).
List of 22 High Numbers that Are Widely Accepted as Double Prints
#534 Hank Bauer
#537 Chuck Estrada
#539 Dick Egan
#542 Rookie Stars - Rick Monday, Tony Pierce
#547 Rookie Stars - Russ Gibson, Bill Rohr
#548 Tony Gonzalez
#550 Vada Pinson
#551 Doug Camilli
#554 Andre Rodgers
#556 Al Weis
#559 Dick Tracewski
#562 Steve Blass
#564 Rookie Stars - Alonzo Harris, Aaron Pointer
#566 Gary Geiger
#569 Rookie Stars - Rod Carew, Hank Allen
#582 Jim Owens
#588 Johnny Klippstein
#589 Dave Ricketts
#596 Galen Cisco
#599 Bob Duliba
#601 Bill Bryan
#608 Rookie Stars - Rich Nye, John Upham
The most famous double-printed high number card is the Rod Carew rookie (#569). This card is difficult to uncover in top condition.
"The Carew has more centering issues than the Seaver," shared Mayer.
This card is also often hampered by print imperfections within the black background of Carew's nameplate on the front.
Of the 2,014 Carew rookies submitted, there has been just one PSA GEM-MT 10 and 39 PSA MINT 9s. The sole PSA 10 fetched $95,293.67 in a Mile High Card Company auction in December 2014.
Even so, the Seaver card is still the more heralded Hall of Famer rookie (#581). Mayer notes that the Seaver also suffers from print spot issues (often in the black nameplate below his photo), but it's generally easier to find centered than the Carew. Of the 2,260 graded, there have been three PSA 10s and 75 PSA 9s. One PSA 10 sold for $24,450 in an SCP Auctions sale in May 2012.
Three other players - Joe Niekro (#536), Rick Monday (#542) and Mark Belanger (#558) - who enjoyed long and successful big league careers also debuted in the high-number series. And for many years, the Brooks Robinson single (#600) was considered the Holy Grail of 1960s cards. While still relatively tough to find - especially without poor centering - this card can no longer be considered rare. Over 1,000 have been submitted to PSA and there is one PSA 10 and 29 PSA 9s. The PSA 10 garnered $2,550 on eBay in May 2010.
Among the key non high-number cards is the Mantle (#150). The sole PSA 10 fetched a whopping $68,676.10 in a Mile High Card Company auction in October 2013. There has yet to be a PSA 10 of either the Mays (#200) or Aaron (#250) singles, and the only PSA 10 Clemente card (#400) commanded $20,315 in a Heritage Auctions sale in May 2014.
Among the other Hall of Famers in this set are Whitey Ford (#5), Al Kaline (#30), Frank Robinson (#100), Willie Stargell (#140), Steve Carlton (#146), Eddie Mathews (#166), Ernie Banks (#215), Carl Yastrzemski (#355), Willie McCovey (#450), Harmon Killebrew (#460) and Tony Perez (#476). This issue also boasts the second-year singles of Fergie Jenkins (#333), Don Sutton (#445) and Jim Palmer (#475).
Baskin adds that the Pete Rose card (#430) is also highly sought after. Of the 2,044 sent into PSA, there has been one PSA 10 and 35 PSA 9s.
The most difficult card to track down in PSA 9 or better has been the Duke Sims single (#3). This card is generally found with poor left-to-right centering. One of the eight PSA 9s garnered $375 on eBay in February 2014.
With just 10 PSA 9s and nothing higher, the Johnny Romano (#196) single is the second-most evasive in mint condition.
"It's interesting to note that all of the cards that are the toughest to find in high grade are not in the high-number series," said Mayer.
The veteran hobbyist adds that poor centering is the most common condition flaw with 1967 Topps cards.
"I think Topps did a very good job in printing these cards because there are not a huge number of print spots on most of them," said Mayer. "There aren't a lot of focus issues. Most of the cards that are straight out of the packs look nicely printed, but the borders are fairly narrow. And if they're off by a 1/16th of an inch, then they're off-center."
Mayer also notes that the green borders on the backs are also susceptible to chipping.
If you plan to pursue the 1967 Topps Master set on the PSA Set Registry, you'll have to track down 14 variations, ranging from trade notations to white streaks on the card fronts to incomplete statistics lines on the backs (see sidebar for more details).
There are also several errors in this issue. For example, the Tigers "Rookie Stars" card (#72) mistakenly showcases a photo of James Murray Brown in place of George Korince. Topps later acknowledged this error on another Tigers "Rookie Stars" single (#526) which presents the correct photo of Korince.
There are also numerous uncorrected miscues, including some on Hall of Famer cards. The Ford card (#5), for example, presents his "1953" statistics as "1933" statistics, and if you examine the back of the Mays card (#200), you'll see that it says "Sna Fran" in the line for his 1963 stats. Also, the second 1961 in the yearly stats section on the Aaron card (#250) should be 1962.
But these errors and idiosyncrasies, combined with its Hall of Fame rookies, first-rate photography and scarce variations, are what make this set one of the most revered issues of the last half-century.
Passmore has been assembling his registry set for five years, and he has seen a significant increase in interest in the 1967 set over that time. Baskin has noticed the same trend.
"I think this set will maintain its popularity because it's seen as a vintage set, but it's not so old that it's inaccessible," said Baskin. "That's going to be its drawing point."
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Hardcore 1967 Topps collectors will tell you that tracking down the variations associated with the set are part of its appeal. They'll also tell you that there are several more obscure variations that are not yet widely recognized. Here's a summary of the 14 variations that you must hunt down to complete the 1967 Topps Master set on the PSA Set Registry:
Bob Priddy (#26), Mike McCormick (#86). Priddy (#26) was traded by the San Francisco Giants to the Washington Senators for Mike McCormick (#86) on December 13, 1966, but the initial versions of their 1967 cards were printed without mention of the transaction. However, shortly into the production process, a sentence was added to the card backs outlining the deal. The cards that do not mention the trade are much harder to find and command a premium.
#58 Paul Schaal. One incarnation of this card showcases Schaal's entire bat in its normal light brown color, while a second, more elusive version features the top portion of his bat in green. One of the two PSA 10 green bat singles fetched $399.99 on eBay in October 2012.
#128 Ed Spiezio. Spiezio's bat falls behind the lettering in his name in the most common rendition of this card; however, a small number of examples have surfaced where most of the "SPIE" in his last name is obstructed by the bat. Just 17 of the obstructed version cards have been uncovered and one of the three PSA NM-MT 8s sold for $1,292 on eBay in March 2012.
"I think the Spiezio is by far the toughest variation now," said Passmore.
#252 Bob Bolin. A scarce edition of this card has a short, white streak between Bolin's first and last name, while the more common version doesn't have this streak. Of the 39 white streak examples submitted, there have been five PSA 9s. One of them commanded $2,263 in a Memory Lane, Inc. auction in December 2011.
The white streak version was once regarded as the set's toughest variation, but hobbyists say the Spiezio variation is more elusive.
"With the Bolin, I think that it was common enough that people knew about it, but it was still kind of difficult," explained Baskin. "Whereas the Spiezio is so uncommon that most people have never heard of it."
#417 Bob Bruce. Eagle-eyed hobbyists will notice that Bruce's team is misspelled "RBRAVES" on the top-back of one version of his card. This was later corrected. The "RBRAVES" version is a little more difficult to uncover, but only brings a slight premium.
Four checklist variations are recognized in the Master Set:
#62 Checklist - #1-#109 - Frank Robinson. There are two versions of this checklist: one has the copyright symbol beneath the "r" in "Tribe Thumpers" (the last card listed on the back) and another has it under the "T." The "R" version is rarer and one of the six PSA 9 examples secured $285.99 on eBay in February 2014.
#103 Checklist - #110-196 - Mickey Mantle. One incarnation has card #170 listed as D. McAuliffe (period after the D.), while the period is missing after the "D" in another less common version. Neither version seems to sell for a premium.
#191 Checklist - #197-283 Willie Mays. On one edition of this card, Mays' head and neck are visible in the photo and card #214 is listed as Tom Kelley. Only Mays' head (no neck) is seen on a second version and card #214 is listed as Dick Kelley. Both versions have been submitted to PSA in approximately the same quantities, but the second version (#214 Dick Kelley) has proven to be more elusive in mint condition.
#454 Checklist - #458-533 Juan Marichal. One version presents a photo of Marichal with his left ear showing, while his left ear is missing on another. With just three and four PSA 9s respectively, both have proven evasive in mint condition, but neither version is significantly rarer than the other.
Incomplete Statistics Line Variations
There are also four cards - Mel Queen (#374), Phillies Rookie Stars (#402), Ruben Gomez (#427) and Bo Belinsky (#447) - that have variations with incomplete lines in the statistics sections. The incomplete statistics line cards sell for more than those with the proper statistics lines. Baskin says the Queen variation (#374) is generally the hardest to track down.
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For more information on the 1967 Topps Baseball set, please visit http://www.psacard.com/CardFacts/Set/180/1967-topps-baseball-cards.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. A special thanks to Jon Passmore and Joel Baskin for their extra assistance on this article. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of August 2015.