Those Towering Tall Boys: Collecting 1965 Topps Football Cards

If you had to pick one football set to collect, based on pure eye appeal, which one would it be? Some would pick from the early Bowman issues like the 1952 Bowman Large and others might pick the 1955 Topps All-American set -- it would be a very tough choice to make. Many collectors, however, would select a set from the 1960s. This set features great rookie cards, tough short prints and it presents a great challenge to those who seek the finest grades. Most of all, the eye appeal is phenomenal! We are, of course, speaking of the 1965 Topps Football set.

These huge cards, measuring in the neighborhood of 2 ½ by 5 inches, are arguably the nicest looking productions of the decade. Bright, bold colors fill the monstrous frames. The 176-card set is filled with short printed cards that are considerably more difficult than the rest. Looking for an explanation for these short prints? No one seems to have the answer for sure. The one very peculiar aspect to these short printed cards is the fact that they don't merely appear in one continuous series of cards. The short prints can be found throughout the set.

The star showing is strong here, but limited to AFL players only. Key rookies include Willie Brown, Fred Biletnikoff, Ben Davidson and the one and only Joe Namath. The Namath rookie is a classic and short printed, but a bit controversial in the sense that some consider the "Butterfly Variation" as a card with a mere print flaw while others actually look at it as a variation with the print mark not being a detractor at all. The mark can be found on Joe's hand (on some examples) and, as the nickname states, it appears to look like a butterfly. At this point in the market, the "Butterfly" version seems to sell for a slight premium and, in fact, a PSA Mint 9 copy sold for $20,000 several months ago. That seems to be proof positive that the variation is desirable by most collector standards.

The checklists in this set, which are actually numbered cards (87 and 176) are very, very tough with the #176 being the tougher of the two and the second most valuable card in the set (behind the Namath rookie) in Near Mint or better condition. Like most other checklists, many of them were either used (written on) or discarded along the way. With that in mind, high-end copies are trading at solid levels with set builders in full competition.

The condition problems associated with the issue come down to three main defects. Centering, print defects and general wear. First, the centering is very tough and the fact that the cards are large with narrow borders merely helps to expose the defect further. In other words, the centering has no place to hide. Print defects are also somewhat common. Again, because of the nature of the bright colors used in the design, the defects are fully exposed and they may cause a severe downgrade in the eye-appeal department. Last but not least, due to the size of the cards, general wear is a problem. The awkward size made the cards more difficult to preserve over the years so corner and edge wear is commonplace.

This set, according to vintage football card dealers, continues to sell well in the hobby for all of the above-mentioned reasons. Any time you can combine beauty with a challenge, the PSA Set Registrants are not about to pass it up.