It's a set about "Speedy" and the Summer of Love.
At least that's what you might conclude after speaking with PSA Set Registry enthusiasts about the 1967 Topps Football set. For all of the stars and legends featured in this psychedelic offering, it's the Leslie "Speedy" Duncan card that inspires the most conversation.
"You just don't see a lot of raw or graded examples of that card," said Jason Levering, who still needs the Duncan for his No. 7 Current Finest registry set. "For some reason, that card is hard to find in any condition."
Duncan, who toiled for 11 seasons with the San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins, is highlighted on the second-last pasteboard in the set.
"That's the toughest PSA [MINT] 9 in the set. It's even tough to find that card in an [PSA NM-MT] 8," said Larry Pliss, owner of the registry's No. 2 Current Finest, 1967 Topps Football set. "I've seen several raw examples and I think a lot of them are beat up because they were right near the bottom of [collector] piles. If you go to shows and try to find really nice raw examples, they just don't exist. They've all got corner bends or fraying."
The Duncan card is also frequently off-center.
"I've seen it off-center both left-to-right and top-to-bottom," noted Todd Gould, whose No. 1, 1967 Topps Football registry set boasts an impressive 9.37 GPA.
Mike Thomas, who's renowned for piecing together virtual sheets of vintage football sets on his website (footballcardgallery.com), hasn't been able to pinpoint where the Duncan is on the sheet.
"I would guess that it's on the corner [edge] of one of the sheets," said Thomas.
With just 52 submissions, the Duncan is the lowest population card in the set. There's just one PSA 9 example. A PSA 8 fetched $231.38 on eBay in June 2011.
But while the "Speedy" Duncan is the key single in this 132-card offering, hobbyists also praise this set for its design, which has a distinctly Summer of Love vibe. Team nicknames are presented in almost hallucinogenic lettering in the upper corners of the frames which surround the player photos on the card fronts, and the psychedelic lettering on the packs and checklists embrace the hippie counterculture that peaked that summer in San Francisco.
"I think that it captures the spirit of the AFL and the country better than any of the other 1960s sets," said Thomas. "The cards look like those old concert posters you see."
"To me, the design of this set is the best part of it," he said. "This set has lots of beautiful colors on the card fronts, and even the packs had a great colorful design. They had that sort of psychedelic pink that reflected the 1960s. The checklists are really cool with the pink background and the psychedelic letters. When I look at these cards, it really brings back that whole era."
The card fronts house posed player photos inside an oval. In many cases, quarterbacks are featured clutching a football - a notable exception is the Joe Namath single (#98), which showcases a head and shoulders shot of the legendary signal caller.
One of the disappointing aspects of the set is that Topps made little effort to update their photos. For example, card #1 presents John Huarte as a member of the Boston Patriots, but in his old New York Jets uniform. This is the first of several cards in this issue to depict players in their previous team's uniforms.
Levering also points out that Topps recycled player photos from previous years.
Card #106, for example, features the same photo of Fred Biletnikoff for the third year in a row, he said. "His 1965, 1966 and 1967 cards all have the same photo of him. I wish they were a little bit more creative on that end."
The white-bordered card fronts also flaunt the player's name and position along the bottom.
The vertical card backs boast black and gold printing on white card stock. The card number is indicated in a black circle in the upper left, with the player's name, position and team to its right. Vitals (e.g., height, weight, age, college, years in AFL, etc.) are listed below that, followed by a line advertising AFL broadcasts on NBC. "Year" and "Life" statistics also grace some of the cards above a short paragraph of biographical information in the middle of the back. A "Pro Football Quiz," which incorporates a cartoon as well as a trivia question and answer, adorns the bottom.
This is the last Topps Football set to highlight solely AFL players, and the cards are sequenced in alphabetical order by team city. The frames surrounding the photos are the same color for each team member with the exception of New York Jets linebacker Larry Grantham (#93). Gould points out that in contrast to the light blue frame that surrounds the photos of other Jets players, Grantham's photo is enclosed by a green frame.
Distributed in five-cent wax packs, the 1967 Topps Football cards were also available in cellos. Each wax pack included one of 31 Krazy Pennant inserts. Nine of these inserts feature AFL teams with humorous comments woven around their nicknames. The Oakland Raiders sticker, for example, boasts the wording (Fat People in) Oakland (Are Usually Icebox) Raiders. Other inserts feature U.S. colleges and made up institutions like "Psychedelic State" and "School of Hard Knocks."
"The Krazy Pennants came as stickers and as cards," said Levering. "I've got some that are cards and some that are stickers."
It's believed that these inserts were also available outside of packs. Some inserts were deemed offensive and production was reportedly halted on them before the end of the season, which may explain why these are relatively hard to track down today.
Compared to the 1967 Philadelphia set - which boasts five Hall of Famer rookies - the 1967 Topps issue offers little star power. The most coveted rookie in the Topps set is Wahoo McDaniel (#82), who was more renowned for his professional wrestling career than his skills on the gridiron.
"The Wahoo McDaniel card seems to generate a lot of interest from non set collectors," said Gould. "There may be wrestling collectors that are scooping up his cards."
One of the two PSA GEM-MT 10s garnered $768.74 in a Mile High Card Company auction in March 2013.
This set also harbors a highly sought-after Namath card (#98).
"The Namath card is his third-year card, and a lot of collectors that aren't necessarily set collectors want that card," said Gould.
There are four PSA 10s and 32 PSA 9s. One PSA 10 Namath commanded $4,500 on eBay in August 2013.
Other pigskin legends in this set include Jack Kemp (#24), Len Dawson (#61), Don Maynard (#97), Jim Otto (#105) and Lance Alworth (#123).
As is the case with many vintage sets, the first (John Huarte) and last cards (Checklist) were subjected to additional wear and tear being on the top and bottom of collector piles. There has yet to be a PSA 10 Huarte and there are just five PSA 9s. On the partial virtual sheet that Thomas has created for this set, the second checklist is located on the left edge of the sheet, a position that generally makes cards susceptible to flaws.
"Some of the raw [checklist] cards have been marked up," said Pliss. "That's a very difficult card to find in mint condition."
So far, just three PSA 9s have been uncovered, one of which sold for $676 on eBay in February 2008.
The second least submitted card from this issue (next to the Duncan) is the Jim Tyrer (#68). Just 54 have been sent into PSA and only three have been deemed PSA 9s. According to Thomas's partial virtual sheet, this card is situated in a vulnerable right-edge position. Gould says poor centering hampers this card.
Thirty-three cards from this issue were also produced for a 1969 Milton Bradley game called "Win-A-Card." Thomas says these can be distinguished from the regular 1967 Topps Football cards by a brown strip along the top or bottom of the card. This strip is part of a 1968 baseball card that was printed for the same game.
Hobbyists say the regular 1967 Topps Football cards are relatively easy to track down in higher grade.
"It's a pretty clean set condition-wise," said Levering. "The white borders are pretty easy to find pristine and the backs are really nice. Sometimes they're just off-center and that's about it. I haven't really seen any bad printing flaws or anything like that."
"I think the centering is probably the biggest thing. It has pretty good card stock," he added. "It's got white borders, so it's more forgiving than some other sets."
So aside from tracking down the elusive "Speedy" Duncan card and finding the funds for high grade examples of legends like Namath, this set remains an affordable reminder of the Summer of Love.
"It's pretty easy to put together - except for the Duncan - in [PSA] 8s or 9s," said Levering. "And it won't break the bank, except for the Namath. I thought the 1966 and 1967 [Topps Football] sets were fun sets for their times."
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of November 2013.