1969 Topps Baseball Set: Hello Rollie and Reggie. Goodbye Mick

Kevin Glew
Mar 24, 2009

It welcomed Rollie and Reggie and bid a cardboard adieu to The Mick.

Loaded with legends, the 1969 Topps Baseball set boasts a huge following on the PSA Set Registry.

"The '69 set has a good mix of rookies and stars, spanning the up-and-coming stars of the '70s to the stars of the '50s and '60s whose careers were winding down," said John Constantino, owner of the No. 7 Current Finest Basic Set on the PSA Set Registry.

Janis Curiskis agrees.

"There are over 40 Hall of Famers in the set," he said.

Comprised of 664 cards, this offering was released in seven series. These singles were available in wax packs, rack packs and cellos. A special 10-card, blue cello pack was issued for this set.

Card fronts boast a photo with the player's name and position indicated in a circle and the team name in block letters across the bottom. The pink backs display biographical information, statistics and cartoons in a horizontal format.

Released in Canada, the 1969 O-Pee-Chee cards share the Topps design. However, differences can be spotted on the card backs, with the O-Pee-Chee logo replacing the Topps logo and a "Ptd. in Canada" notation in place of "Printed in U.S.A."

Subsets in the 1969 Topps offering include League Leaders (#1 to 12), World Series cards (#162 to 169) and Sporting News All-Stars (#416 to 435). Several uncorrected errors are also part of this set. The most famous uncorrected error is the Aurelio Rodriguez card (#653) which showcases a picture of the Angels batboy in place of Rodriguez.

A Master 1969 Topps Set has also been created on the PSA Set Registry. To complete this set, collectors must track down a number of variations. Two of the most prominent variations are the Paul Popovich (#47) and Ron Perranoski (#77) singles that can be found with or without an emblem on their caps. Cards with the emblem command a premium.

There are also two versions of the Clay Dalrymple (#151) and Donn Clendenon (#208) singles. Dalrymple is featured in a portrait pose as an Oriole on one card, while a rarer version reveals him in a catching pose with the Phillies. Similarly, Clendenon is noted as an Astro on one pasteboard and as an Expo on another, more elusive single.

The white letter variations are the most famous variations from this set. To be considered a white letter variation, the player's first and last name on the card front must be showcased in white letters. Twenty-three cards in the fifth series have been identified as such. The most common explanation for these variations is an ink problem that occurred during the printing process.

"The white letters are some of the hardest variations to find in the hobby," said Bob Cacamese, a longtime collector and dealer of 1969 Topps cards.

Curiskis agrees.

"The white letter variations are almost impossible," he said.

"The story I've heard is that the white letter variations were only distributed in rack packs," noted Constantino.

Three Hall of Famers boast white letter variations: Willie McCovey (#440), Gaylord Perry (#485) and Mickey Mantle (#500). The Mick's white letter variation is the Holy Grail of this set. Cacamese says the Mantle single sometimes exhibits a diamond cut. A PSA MINT 9 of this card fetched $17,292.50 in a Memory Lane auction in April 2007.

Ron Hobbs, who owns the registry's No. 4 Current Finest Master Set, says the white letter version of the Red Sox Rookies, featuring Ken Brett and Gerry Moses, (#476) is very difficult to find in top condition.

"It's just really hard to get good centering on that card," he said.

No white letter Red Sox Rookies cards have graded higher than PSA NM-MT 8. A PSA 8 sold for $860 on eBay in January 2007.

Poor centering also plagues the Dave Marshall white letter card (#464), notes Hobbs. Of the 34 Marshalls graded, there have been four PSA 8s (with no cards grading higher). A PSA 8 example sold for $1,751.93 in a Mile High Card Company auction in October 2008.

Rookies in this set include Al Oliver (#82), Graig Nettles (#99), Joe Rudi (#587) and Bobby Bonds (#630). Also featured are the cardboard debuts of managers Bobby Cox (#237), Cito Gaston (#304) and Earl Weaver (#516). The most coveted rookies are, of course, Rollie Fingers (#597) and Reggie Jackson (#260).

Poor centering (left to right) and print defects often hamper Mr. October's rookie. Of the 2,960 Reggies submitted, just one has been deemed a PSA GEM MT 10 and there are 28 PSA MINT 9s. A PSA 9 copy fetched $5,415.35 in a Memory Lane auction in August 2005.

This set also boasts the second-year cards of Johnny Bench (#430) and Nolan Ryan (#533).

"Nolan Ryan had to share his first card with someone else. So this would be Nolan Ryan's first card by himself. It's his solo 'rookie card' so to speak," said Curiskis.

Another Hall of Famer whose card is difficult to uncover in flawless form is Lou Brock (#85). Cacamese says this is largely because Brock's card is "an upper-left corner card" on the sheet it was printed on.

"Any card that's in the corner of a sheet seems to always be miscut," he said, adding there's usually less border on the right or on the top of the Brock card.

Constantino has noticed similar condition woes.

"It's definitely a tough card. Almost all of the examples you see are badly miscut. Even if the corners are in good shape and there are no creases, it's still typically 80/20 or worse centering," he said.

Curiskis agrees.

"Brock cards a lot of times have that (print) snow on them or they're off-center. To find a card that's decently centered and without snow is very, very difficult," he said.

Of the 328 Brocks submitted, there has been just one PSA 9 (nothing has graded higher). Cacamese purchased this PSA 9 example for $4,850 in 2006. He has since sold the card.

"I think that card in five or 10 years might be worth $10,000," he said.

Another Cooperstowner whose card commands a premium is Tom Seaver (#480).

"It's not really that difficult to find PSA 8 Seaver cards, but they almost all have a slight tilt (diamond cut). Trying to find a PSA 8, that's not cut at an angle with the picture tilted, is pretty challenging," explained Constantino.

No PSA 10s have been uncovered of Tom Terrific, and there are only 11 PSA 9s. A PSA 9 sold for $725.85 on eBay in October 2008.

A number of common cards are also evasive in flawless form. One such single is Mike Andrews (#52).

"That's another card that has some centering issues, but it also has a print dot issue on his sleeves," noted Constantino.

Of the 100 Andrews cards graded, there has yet to be a PSA 10 and there are just four PSA 9s. A PSA 9 sold for $282.06 on eBay in February 2008.

The Tom Satriano (#78) pasteboard is also elusive in pristine shape. Like the Brock, this card is also a "corner card" on the sheet, notes Cacamese.

"They're usually off-center. The cut isn't very good on them," said Constantino.

The sole PSA 9 Satriano fetched $1,175 on eBay in August 2008.

The only card in the set not to have an example grade above a PSA 8 is Mike Kekich (#262). Cacamese says this card is always miscut.

"I think it's the toughest card in the set," said Cacamese.

A PSA 8 Kekich sold for $270 on eBay in October 2008.

Hobbs says that the Mike Shannon card (#110) is also tough to track down in top condition. Due to its corner sheet location, the Shannon card is often found miscut, noted Cacamese. There are no PSA 10s and five PSA 9s. A PSA 9 sold for $222.50 on eBay in October 2008.

Another elusive single in high-grade is Cleon Jones (#512).

"That's tough-to-find because of a combination of centering issues and print dots. And it's a 1969 Met on top of that, so there's a high demand for the card," said Constantino.

Just six PSA 9s of Jones exist (no PSA 10s). A PSA 9 Jones sold for $458.08 on eBay in February 2008.

Diamonds cuts and poor centering are the most common condition issues with 1969 Topps cards. The pink backs are also troublesome.

"The reverse is a pink color and it chips easily," said Constantino.

These condition issues, coupled with the rare variations, make this set very challenging to assemble, but hobbyists have embraced the challenge and made the 1969 set one of the registry's most popular issues. And with the set's 40th anniversary approaching, it's a good time to reminisce about when Rollie and Reggie were rookies and The Mick was saying goodbye.