Welcome to the 2012 installment of the PSA Set Registry awards! With approximately 75,000 sets registered at the time of the awards deadline, the task of selecting the special award winners was as challenging as ever. As the registry continues to grow each year and more hobbyists assemble unique, high-quality collections, the voting process gets increasingly difficult. PSA would like to thank all the collectors who have made our registry program the most dominant of its kind.
The registry is more diverse than ever and we will continue to expand the program. This year, we enshrined more sets into our Hall of Fame than we ever have before so we could recognize more great sets! PSA would have never achieved our level success without all of the loyal set registrants. We are celebrating our 21st year as the #1 authentication and grading service in the hobby. Our staff looks forward to seeing many of you at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore this summer!
At PSA, we continue to look for ways of improving and expanding the registry. Whether you would like to see new features added to the existing program or entirely new categories listed on the site, any feedback you may have of how PSA can improve your collecting experience is appreciated. If you would like to share your comments or concerns with our team, please feel free to email us direct at [email protected].
Joe Orlando, PSA President
Brian Karl - Best Collection of the Year
As the PSA Set Registry grows, it becomes more and more difficult to select special award winners from such a vast list of qualified contenders. Picking a winner for our top overall award is no exception. Difficult as it may be, we have complete confidence in our 2012 choice. Brian Karl, who had 19,279 PSA-graded cards registered on the site at the time of the awards deadline, helped make our decision for us. Not only does Karl possess an enormous quantity of cards, it is the quality and diversity that really made his collection stand out this year.
He is both a collector of sports and non-sports cards. Karl owns classic mainstream issues and regional sets, from both the vintage and modern era. The following is just a small sampling of what Karl owns. In baseball, Karl owns great mainstream sets like 1934-36 Batter-Up, 1952 Bowman and Topps sets from 1959, 1963, 1964 and 1967. He even owns a perfect PSA Gem Mint 10 set of 1984 Donruss cards. Karl also owns many regional issues like the 1954 Red Heart and 1958 Bell Brand sets. He also collects super tough, obscure sets like the 1959 Home Run Derby issue, which is rarely seen.
What is, arguably, most impressive is his array of non-sports sets. Karl owns complete sets of 1938 Horrors of War, 1940 Gum Inc, Lone Ranger, 1940 Gum Inc, Superman, 1959 Fleer Three Stooges, 1964 Donruss Addams Family, 1965 Topps King Kong, 1966 Topps Lost in Space and the entire 1966 Topps run of Batman cards. Keep in mind that this is just a snapshot of Karl's collection and what is so impressive about it, in addition to its size and diversity, is the consistent quality throughout. Most of Karl's sets are ranked amongst the best, including dozens of them ranked within the top five slots of the specific categories. Join us in congratulating Karl on such an outstanding collection this year.
Donald E. Spence - The Lone Star Collection - Topps 1950s Run Mega Master Set Baseball - Best Set of the Year
When it comes to looking at the hobby, decade by decade, one could argue that there is no more popular trading card era than that of the 1950s. Bowman produced popular baseball sets from 1948-1955 but, from 1951-1959, Topps was king. This remarkable set run requires 3,402 total cards. You need all the power cards from the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle to the 1954 Topps Hank Aaron to the 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente, all the commons and all the variations. Not only is this the only complete set on the registry, the overall GPA is more than a full point higher compared to its closest competitor.
theironpup - 1951 Bowman Baseball Set - Best Rookie Set of the Year
Every year, thousands of new sets are added to the registry but it would be hard to find one more impressive than this registry rookie over the past 12 months. The 1951 Bowman set has always been a key for serious baseball card collectors, anchored by the only true rookie cards of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Whitey Ford. This colorful issue is loaded with great artwork and Hall of Famers like Yogi Berra and Ted Williams. This 324-card set already ranks as the third finest of all-time on the registry with a terrific GPA of 8.90.
Levi Bleam (707sportscards LTD Finally) - 1935 Goudey Master Set - Best Vintage Pre-War Baseball Set of the Year
Of all the great Goudey issues produced between 1933-1941, this one is clearly the toughest to build in high-grade. The colored borders will reveal even the slightest amount of wear. Containing a great selection of Hall of Famers, including some cards that feature more than one like the card featuring Babe Ruth and Rabbit Maranville, the basic set of 36 cards packs plenty of power. What makes this year's winner even more special is that we are talking about the Master set, which means you have to own every possible combination of 4-player fronts with the corresponding puzzle backs, resulting in 114 cards! The backs help complete 9 different puzzles, including those of Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Cochrane. With a GPA of 6.63, this is the finest complete 1935 Goudey Master set on the registry.
Charles M. Merkel - 1949 Bowman Master Set - Best Post-War Vintage Baseball Set of the Year (1948-1959)
This 252-card set is simply the finest of its kind. A year after Bowman released its inaugural black and white baseball issue, the manufacturer decided to inject color into the design. The result was terrific and the new addition helped take their card product to the next level. Packed with key cards like those of Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, Roy Campanella and Duke Snider, this Master set also requires all the variations like the NNOF (No Name on Front) cards of Hall of Famers Phil Rizzuto and Johnny Mize. With a GPA of 8.92, the quality of this classic set stands alone.
Richard F. Weigle (Vintage Corvette) - 1967 Topps Basic Set - Best Vintage Baseball Set of the Year
There are a lot of popular sets to collect from the 1960s but the 1967 Topps baseball issue is one that many collectors feel is amongst the most visually-appealing sets released during that period. This 609-card production features two very important rookies in Rod Carew and Tom Seaver, a nice selection of combo cards and tough high-number run, which adds to the challenge of completing this set in high-grade. This year's winner, which carries a GPA of 9.23, is the finest set ever assembled in the 1967 Topps category.
My son Mark's (2003) - 1983 Topps - Best Modern Baseball Set of the Year
The 1983 Topps set was born during a decade which saw the hobby evolve into a powerful industry. There were new competitors like Donruss and Fleer, but Topps continued to reign supreme in terms of overall popularity. This set, which requires a monstrous 792 cards, is certainly one of the decade's best productions. Rookies of Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg can be found here along with a host of special cards like Record Breakers and Super Veteran cards, which picture each player in a "then and now" format. This great set carries a GPA of 9.95, making it the finest of all-time on the registry.
St. Bea - 1957-58 Topps - Best Vintage Basketball Set of the Year
If you are familiar with this staple basketball issue then you know just how hard it is to find specimens in PSA NM-MT 8 or better condition. Consider this, in the history of the registry, there have been only three people to complete the set with a GPA of PSA 8 or higher. The cards are subject to all sorts of condition obstacles including poor centering and terrible print defects. The 80-card set, which is absolutely packed with Hall of Fame rookie cards and short prints, contains several keys. The Bob Cousy and Bill Russell rookie lead the way, along with extremely tough first and last cards in the set (#1 Nat Clifton and #80 Dick Schnittker). This wonderful set ranks #2 all-time with an excellent GPA of 8.07.
D'Orsay Bryant, III, M.D. - 1973-74 Topps - Best Modern Basketball Set of the Year
The 1973 Topps basketball set doesn't receive a great deal of fanfare but that is largely true of most basketball sets of the 1970s, which seems to be one of the more underappreciated decades in the sport's history. That said, sometimes a collector's dominance versus the competition is so clear that it's hard not to acknowledge the set. That is the case here. Icons like Wilt Chamberlain, Pete Maravich and Julius Erving are all here, from the worlds of the ABA and NBA alike. With a GPA of 9.46, this 264-card set is the only current set with an average grade of PSA Mint 9 or better.
Connor J - 1959 Topps - Best Vintage Football Set of the Year (pre-1960)
As many collectors know, vintage football cards are often tougher than their more popular baseball counterparts. So, when collectors assemble spectacular, high-grade sets, it's hard not to notice. The colorful 1959 Topps football set contains a large number of Hall of Famers but the two keys to the set are Johnny Unitas (#1) and a tough second-year card of Jim Brown (#10). Similar to the 1959 Topps baseball set, this 176-card set is plagued by poor centering and print defects but, somehow, this year's winner has reached the unthinkable GPA of 9.25 in 2012.
Gould Collection - 1966 Topps - Best Vintage Football Set of the Year
The 1966 Topps football set is one of the tougher vintage football sets to collect, primarily due to the fact that each card is surrounded by fragile, brown-colored borders. The 132-card set immediately followed the classic 1965 Topps "Tall Boy" issue. As a result, it contains a key second-year card of Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath. This set also contains other keys such as the last card in the set (#132 checklist) and a #15 Funny Ring Checklist card, which is the most valuable card in the set. This year's winner ranks #1 on the Current Finest list and #2 on the All-Time Finest list, carrying a standout GPA of 8.52.
Kevin Roberson (Elitecards) - 1971 Topps - Best Modern Football Set of the Year
The 1971 Topps football set has received a lot of attention in recent years as more and more collectors have become interested in the colorful, yet challenging, issue. This 263-card set includes several Hall of Fame rookie cards, including those of Joe Greene and Terry Bradshaw but many of them are tough in PSA Mint 9 or better condition due to those fragile, colored borders. The set also starts off with an extra condition-sensitive #1 card of Johnny Unitas. This year's winner carries a GPA of 8.80, making this particular set the finest of its kind on the All-Time Finest list.
Simon Bourque (Simgin) - 1912-13 C57 - Best Pre-War Vintage Hockey Set of the Year
When it comes to sportscards, it is hard to argue that there is a tougher group to find in high-grade than those that reside in the pre-war hockey segment. The classic tobacco sets from the early part of the 20th century are some of the toughest sets to put together in the entire hobby. The 1912 C57 set is one of those ultra-challenging issues. This 50-card set is chock full of Hall of Famers like Art Ross and Georges Vezina and it even has a few key rookies like Punch Broadbent and Eddie Gerard. This year's winner, which exhibits a 5.70 GPA, is the finest C57 set ever registered on the site.
Paul Sacco (Paul's 1952 Parkies) – 1952-53 Parkhurst - Best Vintage Hockey Set of the Year
Parkhurst hockey sets from the 1950s all seem to be on fire as of late. These sets are what Topps was, and is, to baseball during the same period. This 105-card issue, which closely resembles the 1951 Parkhurst design, is colorful and difficult just like its predecessor. The three keys to the set are the #1 Maurice Richard, #58 Tim Horton rookie and the 2nd-year Gordie Howe card. With a GPA of 7.74, this year's winner is the finest complete set in registry history and, shockingly, the only complete set in any grade on the Current Finest list.
Hockey For Life-Life For Hockey – 1980-81 O-Pee-Chee - Best Modern Hockey Set of the Year
The 1980s was a great decade for the sport of hockey as fans witnessed the emergence of some of the greatest players who ever laced up the skates, including the man who is considered the greatest of all-time in Wayne Gretzky. This 396-card set, which was released just one year after Gretzky made his trading card debut in the 1979 O-Pee-Chee and Topps sets, contains three very important Hall of Fame rookie cards in Ray Bourque, Mike Gartner and Mark Messier. This year's winner carries a GPA of 9.21, making it one of only two complete sets to reach an average of PSA Mint 9 or better and it remains the finest of all-time in the category.
Ronald A. Sparschu (RAS) - 1910 Mecca Champions Boxing (T220) - Best Vintage Miscellaneous Sports Set of the Year
Vintage boxing card sets, including many of the tobacco issues from the early part of the 20th century, are extremely collectible and tough. This 50-card set is modest in size but the classic pugilist issue contains several Hall of Famers and a very attractive design. Some of those names include Jim Corbett, James Jeffries and - of course - the key to the set in John Sullivan. There are even several combo cards that showcase two boxers during noteworthy fights including one of Sullivan, along with Jake Kilrain. This year's winner carries a GPA of 7.04, which makes it the finest complete T220 set ever assembled on the PSA Set Registry.
Logan R. Ward (The Stock Car Museum) - 1993 Action Packed Racing - Best Modern Miscellaneous Sports Set of the Year
Most trading cards sets from sports outside of baseball, football, basketball and hockey, are often very small in size. That is not the case with this modern-era racing set. With 207 total cards required to complete the set, this racing issue actually stands out from many of the other sportscard sets within the category. The set is filled with cards that picture many of the top drivers and others that capture images of their cars. Many of the biggest names in the sport's history are here including Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon and several cards of Dale Earnhardt, with one of those cards finishing off the set at #207. This year's winner has an outstanding GPA of 9.58.
Minyoung Sohn (The Rocky Mountain Collection) - Babe Ruth Basic Set - Best Vintage Player Set of the Year
This set is, technically, the smallest set to receive special registry recognition in 2012. At a mere 10 cards, this set is one that collectors could hold in the palm of their hands. Ironically, it is also one of the most valuable sets to receive an award. Not only is the set built upon the most powerful presence to ever walk onto the baseball field, it contains some of the most significant cards the hobby has to offer. For those of you who follow the market closely, two of the hottest cards over the past 5 years have been the M101-5 and M101-4 Sporting News Babe Ruth cards. The two cards in this set, both graded PSA NM-MT 8, are arguably worth $1,000,000+ by themselves. The Goudeys, US Caramel and Leaf cards of Ruth are also each graded PSA 8.
Michael Wynne - Cal Ripken Jr. Basic Set - Best Modern Player Set of the Year
In the post-1980 era, it would be hard to argue that there has been a more popular or more universally liked baseball player than Cal Ripken, Jr. He was an incredible player on the field and a class act off the field. This two-time MVP, 3,000 Hit Club member, World Series champion and Hall of Famer became known as Iron Man after breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games played streak in 1995. This set, which contains all the key Ripken rookies from 1982 and mainstream issues of Iron Man over the years, requires 175 total cards. What makes this set so great and worthy of recognition in 2012 is the fact that every single card is graded a PSA Gem Mint 10. A better collection of these cards, literally, does not exist.
Joe Wilson - 1964 Topps Stand Up Baseball - Best Topps Specialty Set of the Year
The 1964 Topps Stand-Up Baseball set is one of the more interesting non-regular issue sets ever produced by Topps. This colorful set, which requires 77 cards in all, has its share of stars and tough short prints throughout. For those who like high-grade material, this set can also provide a challenge as the colored borders reveal the slightest touch of wear along the edges and corners. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Mickey Mantle and a host of other great players from the era are all captured here. This year's winner is the finest 1964 Topps Stand-Up set ever registered with PSA, boasting a GPA of 8.64.
Publius' Top 100 Players (Less Steve Largent) - The NFL's Top 100 Greatest Players - Best Overall Specialty Set of the Year
One of the cool aspects of the PSA Set Registry is watching the evolution of this category over time. It is one of the segments on the site which allows for a great deal of creativity in developing set concepts. In past years, we have awarded football card collectors who focus on a particular position like the greatest running backs of all-time but this rookie card set covers the all-time best at a variety of positions, selected by an NFL Network panel in 2010. Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Lawrence Taylor and many of the most recognizable names in gridiron history can be found here. This year's winner carries a GPA of 8.52, which places it more than two full points higher than the second best complete set in the category.
Donald E. Spence - The Lone Star Collection - 1952-1955 Red Man Tobacco with Tab Mega Baseball Set - Best Regional Set of the Year
The Red Man tobacco sets of the 1950s are widely regarded as some of the most attractive cards produced during the period. The large format, coupled with the vibrant colors, make these baseball cards very eye catching...even from a distance. The individual sets, released between 1952-1955, are modest in size but contain a nice selection of American and National League standouts including Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Duke Snider, Ted Williams and Willie Mays. In addition, there are 208 total cards required in order to complete the entire set run. This year's winner carries a GPA of 8.43, which makes it the finest Red Man Tobacco Mega Set ever assembled on the registry.
David Burmon (dburmon) - 1909-11 Sweet Caporal Domino Discs PX7 Baseball Set - Best Oddball Set of the Year
A lot of attention has been paid to the 1909-11 T206 baseball set the last few years, with more and more collectors rediscovering this classic issue. Like the 1910-12 Sweet Caporal P2 Pins issue, the Sweet Caporal Domino Discs PX7 set is not directly related to the T206 set but it does contain many of the Hall of Famers from the period, including those of Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young and Ty Cobb. This winning set, which currently requires 137 different discs (including several variations), carries a GPA of 6.88. It is the only complete set on the registry and it ranks more than a full point higher that its closest competitor.
Ryan Timmer (The Timmer Collection) – 1961-1989 Wax Packs All Series Basketball - Best Unopened Pack Set of the Year
As more packs are opened over time, the scarcer they become. There is also no question that the advent of third-party grading gave collectors even more reason to risk opening vintage packs, which was once almost unthinkable. This particular basketball pack run covers three important decades of card production. It was during this time period that some of the most important basketball rookie cards ever made were released, including those of Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. This year's winner boasts a GPA of 7.50 for the 16 packs needed to complete the run.
Adam Baron Cohen (The Red Barons) - 1933-34 National Chicle Sky Birds - Best Pre-War Vintage Non-Sports Set of the Year
This colorful-set, which is based on famous pilots, aviation pioneers and aircraft from the early part of the 20th century, contains fantastic artwork throughout. For those not familiar with the set, the design closely resembles the style seen on 1934-36 Diamond Stars from the baseball card world. Within this 108-card issue are cards of Orville Wright, James Doolittle and Baron Manfred von Richthofen (The Red Baron) but the two keys to the set are cards of Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. This year's winner, with a GPA of 7.43, is the finest set ever registered in the category.
William P. Bengen (Jean-Luc Picard) - 1952 Topps Look 'n' See - Best Vintage Non-Sports Set of the Year (1948-1959)
The 1952 Topps Look 'n' See set is one of the more interesting trading card issues ever produced. The set covers a variety of famous figures from a diverse list of occupations and backgrounds. There are all sorts of subjects in this set, from Presidents to writers to artists. Who ever thought there would be a set that contained cards of Cleopatra, Genghis Khan and Babe Ruth? Yes, there is a Ruth card included but the 135-card set is built upon non-sports figures. This year's winner carries a GPA of 8.31 and it ranks #1 on the All-Time Finest list.
Richard L. Mongeau - 1965 Gilligan's Island - Best Vintage Non-Sports Set of the Year
Gilligan's Island, the popular television show, aired from 1964-1967 for a total of 98 episodes. The show, which starred Bob Denver (Gilligan), Al Hale, Jr. (The Skipper), Jim Backus (Thurston Howell, III), Natalie Schafer (Eunice Howell), Tina Louise (Ginger), Russell Johnson (The Professor) and Dawn Wells (Mary Ann), became a cult classic. Reruns ensured that future generations were converted to fans long after the show was cancelled. The set, which contains 55 cards in all, captures various scenes from the show. This year's winner has a tremendous GPA of 8.81, placing it in the #1 All-Time slot in the category.
Brian Karl - 1971 Topps Brady Bunch - Best Modern Non-Sports Set of the Year
From 1969 to 1974, The Brady Bunch aired and quickly became a favorite of families across the nation. Carol and Mike Brady brought their three boys and three girls together and the mayhem ensued. This 88-card set, which is considered a test issue by most hobbyists, is relatively tough to find in high-grade for a post-1970 trading card issue. That is due in part to the fragile, colored borders and poor centering, which plagues many of the cards. This year's winner is the finest Brady Bunch set ever registered on the site, carrying a GPA of 8.02.
Super Bowl - Super Bowl Basic Set (1967-Present) - Best Ticket Set of the Year
In the world of tickets, there may not be a more popular ticket collecting theme that those based on Super Bowl tickets. It is the most significant single-game event in all of American sports. The beauty of collecting Super Bowl tickets, whether they are full versions or stubs, is that it may be challenging to collect in high-grade yet it is actually feasible to complete the run and continue to add to the collection with each passing game in the future. At the present time, there are 46 different tickets that make up this run, with many of the tickets booming with eye-appeal and others, like the 1969 "Joe Namath Guarantee" game, virtually impossible to find in high-grade. At the time of this year's deadline, the 2012 winner was perched at the top of the All-Time Finest list.
Adam Baron Cohen (The Twinight Collection) - 3000 Hit Club (Any Medium) - Best Single Signed Baseball Set of the Year
One of the most popular ways to collect baseball autographs is by achievement. Some autograph enthusiasts collect autographs of award winners, such as league MVPs or Gold Glove fielders, while others focus on noteworthy milestones. There are collections like those built upon home run hitters (500 Home Run Club) and pitching victories (300 Win Club) but amongst the most popular is the 3,000 Hit Club. To put the achievement in perspective, a player would need to collect 200 hits for 15 straight seasons to reach the milestone. This set is modest in size, requiring less than 30 total autographs but some of them are extremely tough, including Cap Anson - the first man to reach 3,000. This year's winner has a very high GPA of 9.41, making it the finest, and only, complete set in the category.
Best of the Registry Winners of 2012
Click here to view the sets that were #1 on 5/31/12 5pm EST (2pm PST) with one of the following criteria:
- 95% complete for vintage sets pre-1970
- 100% complete for modern sets (1970-present)
- 1,000 or more cards registered in player and mega sets
10 Year Anniversary Recipients
To celebrate collectors who have won awards for being number one in their category for at least ten years in a row, we recognize their sets with the 10 Year Anniversary icon. To these collectors, you have our thanks for your loyalty and friendship. We appreciate all you do for the PSA Set Registry. To view a list of these award winning sets, please click here.