It's a "tall" order to try to rival the popularity of the 1965 Topps Football set.
But that's been the hobby fate of the 1965 Philadelphia Football series. Despite boasting cards of more than twice as many Hall of Famers as its Topps Tall Boy contemporary, this Philadelphia offering is rarely heralded as a "must-have" issue.
"The 1965 Topps set has received most of the attention because it was the first [football] set to come in the Tall Boy size," explained Frank Massaro, who owns the No. 2 Current Finest, 1965 Philadelphia Football set on the PSA Set Registry. "And then, obviously, you have the Joe Namath rookie in the Topps set. Namath was the flamboyant character of that time."
But while the Philadelphia series doesn't feature a rookie the statue of Namath, it does harbor the cardboard debuts of six Hall of Famers: Paul Warfield (#41), Mel Renfro (#53), Dick LeBeau (#64), Carl Eller (#105), Paul Krause (#189) and Charley Taylor (#195). The second of Philadelphia's four, 198-card, mid-sixties football series focused on NFL players, while Topps was once again restricted to producing pasteboards of AFLers.
Measuring 2-1/2" by 3-1/2" each, the fronts of the 1965 Philadelphia player cards showcase large photos with the player's name, team and position in a black rectangular block at the bottom. An NFL logo is in the bottom right corner of the card fronts.
"I like the 1965 Philadelphia set," said Joe Mancino, who owns the registry's No. 7 Current Finest set. "It's not as colorful as the other three Philadelphia sets, but there's a certain simplicity about it that I find attractive. It has good photographs and an uncluttered front. I think the player selection is good. You've got a lot of stars in there."
The card backs showcase red print on gray stock. The player's name, team, position and vitals (e.g. college, age, height, weight, etc.) are presented at the top, followed by the player's 1964 and lifetime stats. In the lower portion of the backs, collectors were encouraged to rub a coin over a blank area to produce a player picture. To find out the identity of that player, the collector was directed to another card.
"It was their way of encouraging you to buy more cards," explained Mancino.
The 1965 Philadelphia singles are in alphabetical order by team city and by the player's last name within each team series. The 14 NFL teams each have 14 cards. The first card in each team section is a team photo card, while the last is a "Play of the Year" pasteboard. The play cards showcase a small black-and-white photo of the team's coach. Among the coaching legends featured are Don Shula (#14), George Halas (#28), Tom Landry (#56) and Vince Lombardi (#84).
These cards were distributed in nickel packs and 10-cent cellos. Mancino and Mike Thomas, owner of http://www.footballcardgallery.com, believe these cards were manufactured in higher quantities than the other Philadelphia sets from that era.
On his website, Thomas indicates that the 1965 Philadelphia cards were printed on two connecting, 132-card sheets (264 cards). With 198 cards in this set, Thomas believes that 66 cards were double-printed, although the double-prints haven't been documented in any price guide.
Thomas hasn't seen the 132-card sheets, but he's been attempting to recreate the sheets by collecting miscut cards and by applying what he has learned about the other Philadelphia Football sheets from the same time frame. (His virtual 1965 Philadelphia Football sheet can be found at this link.)
Among the cards Thomas believes are double-prints are Hall of Famers Doug Atkins (#17), Herb Adderley (#72) and Paul Hornung (#76), as well as the first checklist (#197).
Hobbyists cite Renfro (#53) as the most coveted rookie in this set. On top of being a Dallas Cowboy - a team that has a significant collector following - this card is also relatively difficult to obtain in top condition.
"The Renfro seems to be the toughest rookie to find in high grade," said Thomas. "The other five Hall of Famer rookies seem like they're relatively easy to find."
Of the 225 Renfro rookies submitted, there has yet to be a PSA GEM-MT 10 and there are just 13 PSA MINT 9s. One PSA 9 fetched $1,500 on eBay in February 2013.
Massaro and Mancino say the Warfield rookie (#41) is also highly coveted. However, more copies of this card seem to surface than the Renfro. Of the 453 submitted, there has been one PSA 10 and 21 PSA 9s. The sole PSA 10 sold for $5,101 on eBay in February 2013.
In the past few years, Massaro has also witnessed an increase in demand for the Krause (#189) and Taylor (#195) rookies. The sole PSA 10 Taylor garnered $8,283.75 in a Mile High Card Company auction in October 2009.
Including the aforementioned rookies, 41 Hall of Famers (if you count the coaches on the play cards) are part of this set, including Johnny Unitas (#12), Mike Ditka (#19), Jim Brown (#31), Bob Lilly (#47), Bart Starr (#81) and Fran Tarkenton (#110).
"You don't pay nearly as much for star cards of players in the Philadelphia sets as you do for the star cards in the condition-sensitive sets like the 1962 Topps set," noted Mancino.
Massaro points out that the Ditka is one of the tougher star cards to track down in flawless form.
"There have only been eight Mike Ditka cards that have graded higher than a [PSA NM-MT] 8," said Massaro.
Todd Gould, who owns the registry's top 1965 Philadelphia Football set, has had a similar experience.
"The Ditka was one of the last star cards I was able to obtain in a PSA 9," he said.
A PSA 9 Ditka sold for $765.99 on eBay in December 2011.
The Jim Brown (#31) carries the highest weighting of any card from this series on the PSA Set Registry. One of the 19 PSA 9 Brown cards garnered $594 on eBay in April 2012.
Seven Green Bay Packers - Forrest Gregg (#75), Hornung (#76), Henry Jordan (#77), Ray Nitschke (#79), Starr (#81), Jim Taylor (#82) and Willie Wood (#83) - featured in this set are Hall of Famers and their cards are highly sought-after.
"The Packers cards always command a premium," said Gould. "There are just a lot of Packers collectors out there, so any time those come up, you're going to pay a fair amount for any of them."
Gould notes that there are only four PSA 9s of the Deacon Jones card (#89). One of those fetched $200 on eBay in December 2012.
As is usually the case with vintage sets, the first (Colts team card) and last cards (second checklist) are difficult to uncover in top condition.
"That Colts team card is the only card I'm missing in PSA 9," said Gould.
If the sheet sequence of the 1965 cards follows the same sequence as the other Philadelphia sets from the same era, which Thomas expects to be the case, then the Colts team card is located on the left edge of the print sheet. This is a position that generally makes cards susceptible to flaws during the production process. Gould says he has seen centering issues with this card. Just one PSA 9 of the Colts team card exists, while there are two PSA 9s and one PSA 10 of the second checklist (#198).
"That checklist suffers from the same issues that every other set checklist suffers from," explained Massaro. "When you collected the checklists as kids, you didn't really look at them as part of the sets; it was almost a tool that you used to make sure that you got all of your star cards. Probably the primary factor [for its flaws] is that the checklist is the last card in the set - though it suffers from the same issues that the first card suffers from. As kids, we wrapped our sets in rubber bands, and the last card and the first card are always the two cards that have problems."
The second checklist is much tougher to track down than the first checklist. There have been 273 copies of the first checklist (#197) submitted for grading, with 147 of those receiving a grade of PSA 8 or better. In contrast, just 106 of the second checklist (#198) have been sent into PSA and only 35 have been deemed PSA 8 or better. As mentioned earlier, Thomas believes the first checklist was a double print and it appears on his virtual sheet twice.
"I see that first checklist (#197) all the time," said Thomas. "It only sells for $10 or $15 in a PSA 8."
Outside of the Colts team card (#1), the Jim Houston (#35) and Sam Baker (#128) singles, with two examples each, have the fewest number of PSA 9s.
Mancino and Gould both say that the Erich Barnes (#114) is also elusive in high grade. There are four PSA 9 examples of this card, one of which sold for $79.21 on eBay in January 2012.
There are also a few uncorrected errors in this issue. The back of the Dallas Cowboys team card (#43), for example, showcases their team name as "Cowboys Dallas" at the top and Philadelphia once again misspelled Herb Adderley's last name (Adderly) on his card (#72). Charlie Johnson's first name is also mistakenly spelled "Charley" on his card (#163) and on the second checklist (#198).
Several players are also photographed in their previous teams' jerseys. Many of these players had not been with their former squad for two seasons at that point, so Philadelphia had time to update the photo, but for some reason they chose not to. Among the players highlighted in their old team's jerseys are Lou Michaels (#7), Dick Modzelewski (#36), Clarence Peaks (#151), Pervis Atkins (#184), Preston Carpenter (#185) and Jim Martin (#190).
Massaro and Mancino say poor centering is the most common condition flaw on these cards, but some raw cards can also be found with the rub-off area scratched off on the back, which decreases their value significantly.
But cards from the 1965 Philadelphia series are much easier to track down in high grade than their Topps Tall Boy counterparts. Just 2.4% of the 1965 Topps submissions have received grades of PSA 9 or better, while 11.7% of the Philadelphia cards sent in were deemed PSA 9s or higher.
Yet even though it might be easier to uncover cards from this series in top condition, the 1965 Philadelphia Football set unquestionably boasts a stronger player selection than its Topps rival. More than double as many Hall of Famers are featured in the Philadelphia set than the Topps issue.
Massaro believes the 1965 Philadelphia set is undervalued.
"It's a great set to build. It's a doable set," he said. "You can build a nice near-mint to mint set, and [PSA] 8s aren't that expensive. So if anyone is looking for a set to build, this has all the qualities you want in a vintage football set. There are lots of Hall of Famers and rookie cards. There are less than 200 cards in the set and there's a readily available supply of PSA [NM] 7s and 8s."
Gould expresses similar thoughts.
"I think this set will always hold a pretty solid position in the hobby," he said. "It's got a fair number of Hall of Fame rookie cards. It has players from those Packers teams of the 1960s. And it's a clean design. It's not a design that's going to wow you, but it's not an offensive design either. I think it will always remain popular because it's attainable in PSA 8 or better, and it's not going to break the bank to complete it."
View the set in the PSA Set Registry.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. A special thanks to Mike Thomas for sharing information from his website: http://www.footballcardgallery.com. Mike Thomas and the Mile High Card Company provided photos for this article. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of July 2013.
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