Welcome to the 2018 installment of the PSA Set Registry awards! With over 133,000 total sets registered at the time of the awards deadline, the task of selecting the special award winners was tough as always. As the Registry continues to grow each year and more hobbyists assemble unique, high-quality collections, the voting process becomes more challenging. This year, some sets became the first of their kind to reach completion or certain grade levels, and over 25 exceptional collections entered the Registry’s hallowed halls. PSA would like to thank all the collectors who have made our Registry program the most popular of its kind.
After a record-setting year in 2017, PSA just finished its best year in our 27-year history! None of the success would be possible without the unwavering support of our loyal customers. The PSA staff looks forward to seeing many of you at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland this summer. We have some fun family-oriented promotions planned for the big show and another new coffee table book about collecting baseball cards will be ready to make its debut. In fact, those who attend the PSA Set Registry luncheon will not only receive a free copy of this beautiful new release and other gifts, but the focal point of the book (former Boston Red Sox All-Star Rico Petrocelli) will be making an appearance as well!
Last year, PSA introduced some major enhancements to the Registry, but our work isn’t done. The focus of our efforts was making the Registry more accessible and easier to use, through desktop improvements and mobile applications. While PSA will continue to make progress in those areas, our staff shifted the focus of their efforts from administrative tools to “fun” this year. By the end of this calendar year, the Registry will be equipped with additional tools to help measure your set building progress, including increased recognition of achievements and new awards. The hobby is about having fun and PSA wants to make your experience on the Registry even more fun by adding a game within a game to the site. Details will be coming soon.
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, CEO Collectors Universe
Dr. Jay Swartz - Best Collection of the Year
Some of our past winners own a lot of plastic. No, we don’t mean that their wallets are full of American Express, Mastercard or Visa cards. We are, of course, referring to sheer volume of PSA-graded items in their collections. This year, our selection not only possesses impressive size at over 26,000 PSA-graded items, it also covers an array of subjects and genres across the PSA Set Registry. Of the 273 sets registered, 228 of them are ranked inside the top twenty in the category. Nearly 70 of those sets rank in the top five.
Dr. James E. Swartz has a collection that most hobbyists would be envious of. Baseball, basketball, football, golf and more are all represented from mainstream classics like 1953 Bowman Color baseball and 1952 Bowman Large and Small football sets to regional beauties such as 1954 Red Man Tobacco baseball. While most of his sets date to the 1950s-1970s era, his collection contains cards manufactured during the 19th century and it extends to those released in the past 30 years during the hobby explosion and beyond.
It’s not often you find “The Sultan of Swat,” “Wilt the Stilt,” Batman and Dr. Spock all hanging out together, but it shows the great breadth and diversity of this immense collection. Perhaps most importantly, when viewing all the wonderful sets Dr. Swartz collects, it is immediately apparent that completion is at the top of his priority list. There are dozens upon dozens of complete sets in the collection and more that are on the verge of being finished.
Dr. Swartz does exactly what collectors are supposed to do. He sets his sights on a goal and then finds a way to reach it. At the end of the day, that is a big part of what collecting is all about, no matter what kind of spending power or PSA grade taste you have. We need to check all the requirements off the list and make sure every hole is filled. Then, and only then, can we be totally satisfied with our efforts.
In 2018, we are honored to add the terrific collection of Dr. Swartz to our exclusive list of annual award winners for Best Collection of the Year.
John Branca - 1951 Bowman Baseball - Best Set of the Year
Though it was not realized at the time, the 1951 Bowman baseball set marked the beginning of a new era in our national pastime. Players returning from wartime duties, the emergence of television and Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays finding their way onto the national scene all contributed to change baseball as we knew it, and in terms of the hobby, kicked off what may be the greatest decade in hobby history. The 1951 Bowman set includes Mantle and Mays’ initial forays onto the hobby scene, as well as stunning representations of the other legends of the era, and is thus desired by legions of collectors and in all grades. This set is the finest on the PSA Set Registry and boasts a GPA of 9.20.
Wendell W. Smith (T205 Gems) - 1911 T205 Gold Border Baseball Basic Set - Best Rookie Set of the Year
There is little that stirs hobby excitement like rare and high-grade cards being presented to the hobby for the first time. Such events spark discussions and cause hobbyists to wonder what other unknown treasures may still be in hiding, waiting to be revealed to the collecting world. The emergence of the Registry’s new #1 T205 set was just such an event. These century-old cards are extremely rare in top grade due to their age and easily chipped gold borders. Therefore, the unveiling of a complete set that ranks a full 1.33 points above the hobby’s previous best was nothing short of remarkable. This current finest set is 100% complete and has a GPA of 7.55.
Donald E. Spence (The Lone Star Collection) - 1916 Sporting News (M101-4) - Best Pre-War Vintage Baseball Set of the Year
A combination of age, rarity, completion and content makes this set worthy of recognition. Just four times over the years have complete M101-4 sets been documented on the Registry, and only two remain active today. The 200 cards required for completion feature crisp photographic images which offer rare glimpses into history that make them so attractive to hobbyists. In addition, this set not only includes many legends of the era such as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Ty Cobb, but also the rookie card of perhaps the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of spikes, Babe Ruth. Not only is this set complete and the nicest example ever listed on the PSA Set Registry, it stands well above the next-finest complete example on the Current Finest list with a GPA of 6.70.
Don Louchios - 1959 Home Run Derby - Best Post-War Vintage Baseball Set of the Year (1948-1959)
Imagine collecting a decades-old set that represents a national television show but whose cards were distributed regionally. To increase the difficulty are superstar players and an oversized format that is so often the kiss of death for high-grade set builders. It is rare that a set with such qualifications can even be assembled, let alone in beautiful condition. The 1959 Home Run Derby set is a perfect example. Featuring the greatest home run hitters of the 1950s, these cards are chased by set, player and type collectors with equal ferocity. Overcoming all odds, this featured set sits atop the PSA Set Registry at 100% complete and with a GPA of 6.05.
Larry's Basic HOF A Set - 1960 Fleer - Best Vintage Baseball Set of the Year
Time spent with a 1960 Fleer baseball card set can be likened to the perusal of a book about Hall of Fame legends from days gone by. This 79-card set makes use of classic black-and-white imagery with contemporary colorization and sets it within simple-yet-bold blue, green, red or yellow borders. Card backs feature short biographies, each one a mini history lesson. The overall presentation makes an elegant and powerful statement. Few vintage sets are ever assembled with such dedication to quality. Lording over the PSA Set Registry with a GPA of 9.91, this set is truly one for the ages.
The Hill Collection - 1984 Donruss Master - Best Modern Baseball Set of the Year
Regardless of age, a black-bordered set presents immeasurable difficulty to the collector. While strong color imagery literally pops off the black background and makes for a stunning visual display, the fragility of the borders guarantee that only the smallest percentage of cards will ever be considered for gem mint status. It was Don Mattingly and Darryl Strawberry rookie cards that first attracted collectors to this set, while the design and exceptional checklist have helped it stand the test of time. One of the most popular sets of the decade, this master set consists of a staggering 689 cards, every one of which has been assembled in PSA Gem Mint 10.
Mike Millea (MB Mike) - 1969-70 Topps - Best Vintage Basketball Set of the Year
Tall Boy sets have a special place in the hobby. While they are frowned upon by some collectors because of their atypical size, that uniqueness is exactly what endears them to other hobbyists. The 1969-70 Topps basketball set is a classic not only due to the dimensions of the cards, but also because of the numerous rookie cards it includes. No fewer than 17 Hall of Fame members, including the iconic Kareem Abdul Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), have rookie cards within this set. Assembly in high grade takes a steely nerve and marathoner’s perspective. This set maintains its spot at the pinnacle of the PSA Set Registry with a GPA of 8.89.
Donald E. Spence (The Lone Star Collection) - 1986-87 Fleer Run with Wax Pack - Best Modern Basketball Set of the Year
Perfection is rare within our hobby. So much so that it is not even considered by most collectors. Yet every so often, perfection is attained. When perfection is achieved in a set as iconic as 1986-87 Fleer basketball, which has a legion of followers, then something very special has been accomplished. Not only does this accumulation boast Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing rookie cards in PSA 10, but all other cards as well. The cherry on top is the inclusion of one of a small handful of PSA 10 wax packs in the hobby. This set boasts a perfect GPA of 10.
William J. Toppi - 1950 Bowman - Best Vintage Football Set of the Year (pre-1960)
Nestled within their PSA holders, high-grade 1950 Bowman football cards present themselves more as 2-1/16” x 2-1/2” pieces of art than simple trading cards. The first full-color Bowman football set, this issue is recognized for housing rookie cards of Hall of Fame members Otto Graham, Y.A. Tittle, Lou Groza and Elroy Hirsch. It is also known for being difficult to obtain in top condition. Those willing to tackle those challenges, however, are left with something truly special. This set, which holds the #1 All-Time position on the PSA Set Registry, has a GPA of 8.95.
Walt Bettinger (bulldog79) - 1964 Philadelphia - Best Vintage Football Set of the Year
Many fans consider the 1960s to be the heyday of professional football. Representing that period is the 1964 Philadelphia football set, for which beautiful color photography, a clean and classic design, and fantastic player selection have made it a collector favorite for more than 50 years. And what hobbyist does not appreciate the coolness of Jim Brown’s card (#30), which features the legendary running back’s own pink Cadillac convertible in the background? This All-Time Registry leader has a robust 9.60 GPA.
Mark Roberts (Mark's) - 1984 Topps - Best Modern Football Set of the Year
Eric Dickerson, John Elway or Dan Marino? It is a question for the ages and one that modern football card collectors have been debating for decades. Regardless of which of these three Hall of Fame rookie cards you prefer, not to mention the eight other HOF rookies in the set, there is little debate over 1984 being the premier Topps football set of the decade. To own one is wonderful. To own one in all PSA 10 is unbelievable, and it had never been done until now. With a GPA of 10.0, this set is hobby perfection across the board.
Ben Trudeau (Benoitben28) - 1911-12 C55 Basic & Master Sets - Best Pre-War Vintage Hockey Set of the Year
Featuring a design that has remained a classic for more than 100 years, the 1911 C55 set is rightfully placed among the greatest of all sets in the hockey pantheon. Though rather small at just 45 cards, this set gives away nothing in terms of all-star caliber. Vezina, Lalonde, Ross, Taylor and Moran are but a handful of the game’s early legends that are represented in this set. The color-line sketches depicting these hockey greats ensure that they are remembered at their finest. The 7.97 GPA of this set makes viewing these cards more enjoyable.
Joseph R. Henninger, III (Joester66Test) - 1966-67 Topps USA Test - Best Vintage Hockey Set of the Year
It seems that cards with wood-grain borders are almost always instant classics, and the 1966 Topps USA Test hockey set is no exception. Distributed in limited quantities, this set differs from the standard by having lighter-colored borders, English-only text and different player selection. It is just like the regular issue in terms of difficulty when searching for high-grade cards. The colored borders ship easily, and centering is a common problem. It takes a dedicated hobbyist to assemble this set in simply passable condition, let alone with a 7.67 GPA such as accompanies this All-Time Registry set.
Bill Fenton (Willy Wonka) – 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee - Best Modern Hockey Set of the Year
With the international fervor over the Wayne Gretzky rookie card, the competition on the PSA Set Registry for the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee hockey set is particularly intense. With less than .6 points separating the top six entries, every single chipped border and touched corner weighs heavily on the rankings. A new bar was set in the collection of this issue with the first complete set to achieve a 9.0 GPA. The caliber of this accomplishment can be fully realized when considering the colored borders, print defects, centering issues and rough cuts that plague this popular set.
Webster’s Small Golfers - 1931 Churchman Small Golf - Best Vintage Miscellaneous Sports Set of the Year
Produced nearly a century ago by one of Europe’s largest cigarette card companies, the 1931 Churchman Small golf set ranks highly among collectors of the sport. Featuring many of the legends of the first half of the 20th century, this 50-card set uses caricatures to represent its subjects. Of particular interest to hobbyists are the Bobby Jones, Francis Ouimet, Gene Sarazen and Harry Vardon issues contained within. This set, which is the All-Time Finest on the PSA Set Registry, has achieved an overall GPA of 8.36.
Peter Parker - 1998 Champions of Golf Masters Gold Foil - Best Modern Miscellaneous Sports Set of the Year
Time spent with this set is like a trip through time. There are 62 Masters champions presented on these oversized cards. The combination of black borders, gold foil classic imagery blend with the importance of The Masters to produce a set that is simply stunning in appearance. As one might imagine from a set of such construction, high-grade examples are rare and come at a premium, making completion a considerable undertaking. This finest of all sets on the PSA Set Registry boasts an 8.75 GPA and 100% completion.
Chris Collins (Chris C) - Mickey Mantle Master Set - Best Vintage Player Set of the Year
There are few athletes that reach the level of hobby icon, but Mickey Mantle is most definitely one of them. His cards and collectibles are chased with a fervor that is matched by few others. The Mickey Mantle Master Set currently comprises 247 items, and this set is the first to achieve 100% completion. Every regular, regional and test issue issue are present and accounted for, along with postcards, coins, matchbooks and more. Add to the fact that this set comes with a GPA of 6.63, and its magnitude simply cannot be overstated.
Dominick Cirigliano (Domboski's) - Don Mattingly Master Set - Best Modern Player Set of the Year
Contemporary player sets are perhaps the most difficult of modern card challenges. With the wide range of oddballs, regionals, parallels and various inserts required, collectors have little hope of ever achieving completion. As in all things measurable, however, there are occasionally outliers. This set is certainly one of them. The Don Mattingly Master Set is comprised of more than 1,500 individual pieces that begin with his 1981 minor league issues and end in 1996, with the final cards produced during his playing career. Having reached 100% completion, a more thorough collection of “Donnie Baseball” cards has never-before been seen on the PSA Set Registry. To top it off, this set boasts a 9.61 GPA.
Josh Alpert (Tarjetas Imposibles '66) - 1966 Venezuelan Topps Baseball - Best Topps Specialty Set of the Year
Vintage American card sets are difficult enough to build. Reaching back through the decades, collectors search for cards that have escaped the fates of time. When the cards in question were produced in a foreign country, potential problems accumulate more quickly than the cards themselves. The completion of this set was a lesson in card collecting and international relations, as most cards were acquired directly from vintage accumulations. In addition to the marvel of 100% completion, this set has an incredible GPA of 6.38.
Daniel Hunt - Robert Casterline Collection (HUNT/CASTERLINE) - NFL - Top 100 Players - Best Overall Specialty Set of the Year
The best of the best… it is a grand concept, and not one to take on lightly. In this case, it is defined as the highest-graded rookie cards of the NFL’s Top 100 players. There is not a common card in the bunch; every single example is a proverbial big hitter. The dedication to such an undertaking, not to mention financial obligation, is simply staggering and could only be attempted by a handful of collectors. This particular set has cards that range in age from 1933-2002, Red Grange to Tom Brady, and everyone in-between. Completion alone is an accomplishment worthy of recognition. To do so with a 9.14 GPA is simply staggering.
Robert Taylor (Rob's) - 1963 Jell-O Hand Cut Baseball Set - Best Regional Set of the Year
Vintage, hand-cut sets are, by definition, difficult to find in high grade. Begin with the fact that most cards were originally cut from boxes or sheets by children with scissors. On the rare occasion that the cards were cut well, the chances that they have survived the decades without catastrophe are exceptionally small. Regional distribution and rare variations limit the possibilities still further. That this set is 100% complete and has a 5.99 GPA is the result of collector determination, love of the hunt and, undoubtedly, a bit of good luck.
West Coast - 1956 PM15 Yellow Basepath Pins Baseball Set - Best Oddball Set of the Year
The term “oddball” is something of a disservice to collectors, as there should be no negative connotation with atypical sets. Yet in terms of naming a category, interesting, rare and beautiful are far too general to be used. However, they are all apt descriptors of this PM15 Yellow Basepath Pins set. With slightly more than 500 being graded over PSA’s first 26 years, they do not come up frequently. The pins are susceptible to dings, scratches and rust, all of which detract heavily from appearance and grade. That this complete set of the greatest names of the 1950s has survived to receive a 9.0 GPA is wonderful, and it is not at all surprising that this group happens to be the finest ever seen on the PSA Set Registry.
Jason Weil (The Weil Collection) – 1953-1993 Topps Baseball Cello Packs - Any Series - Best Unopened Pack Set of the Year
Collectors of unopened packs have a degree of self-control that many of us simply cannot comprehend. They withstand the call of unknown treasures and appreciate a pack as a piece all its own. Assembling such a collection also requires a type of knowledge that is not widespread in the hobby. But when the result is a collection as incredible as this, it is easily appreciated by all. A complete forty-one years of Topps cello packs, many with Hall of Fame members showing, is a collection never-before completed on the PSA Set Registry. In fact, no one else has even reached the halfway mark. This collection has a GPA of 8.89.
DJR - 1889 Kinney Bros. Leaders (N222) - Best 19th Century Vintage Non-Sports Set of the Year (pre-1900)
This set is has maintained the top spot on the PSA Set Registry since it was first logged in 2006. Thirteen years atop the leader boards is impressive, but a GPA of 7.78 for a set of cards that was issued more than 135 years ago is truly something to behold. Comprised of historic legends such as George Washington, Napoleon, Marie Antoinette and Julius Caesar, these cards feature beautiful artistic renderings of men and women whose names have withstood the test of time and maintain their status today as leaders of their time.
PSUinCT - 1933 World Wide Gum Sea Raiders - Best Pre-War Vintage Non-Sports Set of the Year (1900-1947)
If anyone ever questions the decades-old fascination that we have held with swashbuckling sea pirates, they need be steered no further than the 1933 World Wide Gum Sea Raiders set. Presented with an artistic design similar to Goudey baseball and Indian Gum sets, the Sea Raiders cards take a somewhat romantic view of life on the seas. The cards’ illustrations and rich color make them visually appealing, while the simple text on the reverse adds just enough history to tell an interesting story. This 48-card set is the All-Time Finest ever added to the PSA Set Registry and stands complete with a 6.73 GPA.
Sprigle Family Collection - 1952 Topps Wings - Best Vintage Non-Sports Set of the Year (1948-1959)
While some sets are so challenging that few ever attempt them, others are so widely-desired that competition is strong for high-grade material. The 1952 Topps Wings set is an example of the latter. With less than one-half point separating the top three sets on the PSA Set Registry, every single card takes on a value greater than a simple sales price. This classic non-sports set features aircraft from around the globe on 200 colorful cards, each measuring 2-5/8” x 3-3/4”. This all-time Registry leader has an impressive 8.34 GPA.
Mike's Marvel Super Heroes Set 1 - 1966 Marvel Super Heroes - Best Vintage Non-Sports Set of the Year
There is mastery of a set, and then there is mastery of a set. This is an example of the latter. Not only is this the All-Time Finest set on the PSA Set Registry with a 9.79 GPA, but the collector owns eight of the top nine examples of this set on the Registry. All are complete and have a GPA above 8.17. Frankly, Captain America, Iron Man, Daredevil, Thor, Spider Man and the Incredible Hulk have never looked better, nor been more dominant.
Zack Browning (Gem Mint Pokemon) - Pokemon Charizard Master Set (1999-2017) - Best Modern Non-Sports Set of the Year
Superstars come in all shapes, sizes and species, and on a list of iconic trading card subjects, Charizard would have a spot next to Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan and Johnny Unitas. The undisputed favorite character of the Pokémon series, the Charizard currently comprises 73 cards spanning the period from 1999-2017. One of only two such PSA Set Registry collections at 100% completion, this set boasts an otherworldly 9.96 GPA.
Alberto Bugari (littlemoka) - Pro Bowl Basic Set (1939-Present) - Best Ticket Set of the Year
Tickets are a tangible piece of history and fantastic representation of individual events. World Series, Super Bowls, Heavyweight championships… you can’t get into any of them without a ticket. This assemblage of entry passes to NFL Pro Bowl has been completed on the PSA Set Registry by just one collector. This accumulation of tickets connects all the games’ greats into a single collection – Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, Fran Tarkenton, Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, John Elway, Peyton Manning... and that is just a handful of the quarterbacks. Few other collections could even come close to representing as many legendary players as this set.
Matthew Malamet M.D., F.A.C.S. (mmalametmd) - World Series MVP - Best Single Signed Baseball Set of the Year
World Series MVP. It has a certain ring to it. What young baseball fan did not grow up wishing to one day hold that title? Beginning in 1955, this award has been handed out annually at each Fall Classic. The list of honorees includes Hall of Fame members and others who simply starred when the spotlight shined brightest. Whether each awardee had only 15 minutes or 15 years of fame, all made their mark in the most important part of the season. This collection features 58 years of single-signed balls from World Series MVPs. A spectacular collection that honors excellence under pressure.
Mike Pap (The Impossible Dream) - 1961-62 Fleer Basketball - Best PSA/DNA Autograph Set of the Year
Autographed trading card sets are an entity all their own. To assemble such a grouping, one must be part collector and part historian. These hobbyists learn about each individual shown on a card, how long they played, when they retired, what they did after leaving the game and, in some cases, when they left the earth. Collectors tie their collection permanently to the athletes, knowing that each card was actually handled by the subject at some point along the journey. This is not only one of the greatest vintage basketball sets in the hobby, but it is also 95% autographed. A rarity indeed.
Ben Thornhill (West Wood) - 1975 Cincinnati Reds World Series Champions - Best Game-Used Bat Set of the Year
Few items are more personal to players than their game-used bats. Lathed and weighted to each player’s exacting specifications, a bat tells the story of the hitter that once swung it. This collection of game-used bats is comprised of the starting eight members of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds, and went to the plate with Bench, Concepcion, Foster, Geronimo, Griffey Sr., Morgan, Perez and Rose. “The Big Red Machine” was a National League powerhouse in the mid-1970s, with four future Hall of Fame members in their lineup and a World Series championship awaiting them at the end of the season. These bats helped them along the journey and the award-winning set has a virtually perfect GPA of 9.74.
In 2015, we launched the PSA Digital Album within the registry so collectors could show off their great sets in a more visual format. As part of the annual registry awards, we give our registrants a chance to vote for their favorite albums. At the time of the awards deadline, there were over 7,600 albums being built by collectors. This year the judges nominated 10 albums and based on the results of the poll, our registry community decided to recognize David Peck’s 1979 Gulas/RAX Roast Beef Championship Wrestling Set.
David Peck - 1979 Gulas/RAX Roast Beef Championship Wrestling Set
David Peck (dpeck100) does it again! In 2016, he treated us with his 1982-1983 Wrestling All-Stars Complete Set and took a gold award for Best Digital Album. This year, he presented the 1979 Gulas/Rax Roast Beef Championship Wrestling set and the judges thought, “What a cool album!” and nominated the set as one of the top ten. Dpeck’s peers thought the same and voted his set the number one album for the year. The scans are super sharp and the subject matter colorful and interesting. Wrestlers such as the Red Terror, Chief Thundercloud and Prince Tonga grace the pages of the album. Dpeck’s set description also adds to the overall personality of this wonderful digital album. Enjoy!
Sets in the following categories that were #1 on 5/31/18 5pm EST (2pm PST) have been recognized as "Best of the Registry." They meet one of the following requirements:
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
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.