Vintage baseball cards on a budget for the fan who likes a little history with his cardboard.
They're all 40 years or older now. Enough time has gone by to make Topps baseball cards from the 1960s truly vintage. Not enough time has gone by to render them prohibitively expensive for those who still want nice cards for their buck.
The cards issued in this decade had a decidedly cool appeal. Printing technology improved and so did the images coming out of those wax packs.
You've got Mantle, Mays and Clemente. But there are other, less expensive cards that should be in the binders of any collector with an appreciation for the game. Here are fifteen cards to consider adding to your collection--or to honor if they're already safely tucked away...all of which can be purchased for $100 or less in near mint condition.
1960 Topps Bill Mazeroski: Maz slayed the mighty Yankees with one swing at Forbes Field that October. His home run is among the five most famous in history. If you're in Pittsburgh, it's probably number one. His card was in the first series that year and the fact that he's a Hall of Famer makes the price pretty sweet. A very nice one shouldn't cost more than $50.
1961 Topps Ron Santo: Like the pain of Cubs fans themselves, Santo's rookie card exudes promise. An excellent career was just starting, but Santo would never taste the World Series. Still, he's a borderline Hall of Fame candidate and an enormously popular figure--almost the 21st century version of Harry Caray as a Cubs broadcaster. Because of that, you'll always find a buyer for a Santo rookie--just look in Chicago. A good deal at $40-75.
1961 Topps Yankees team: The '61 Yankees aren't the '27 Yankees, but they are still revered among fans. Mantle, Maris, Yogi, Ford. One of the all-time great teams. Not hard to find at $50-75.
1962 Topps Maris Blasts #61. Not Maris' regular issue card, but an especially important one in light of the steroid era. This card captures the moment many fans still consider the greatest home run season ever. Maris cards are still very popular and at $50-75, it's a bargain.
1963 Topps San Musial: Stan the Man first showed up on baseball cards in the late 1940s. By '63 he was wrapping up his long and amazing career. Looking a bit long in the tooth, but it's worth buying this card just to turn it over and look at his stats from a career that took him from post-WW II America to the start of Vietnam. $90-110.
1964 Topps Tony La Russa rookie card. Law degree. Utility infielder. World Series manager. A lot of people don't even realize LaRussa had any baseball cards. An easy card to find and an easy one to buy with the knowledge that he's a future Hall of Famer...and apparently once a supporter of the All-American crew cut. $30-40.
1964 Topps Lou Piniella rookie card: Another Hall of Fame manager's rookie card in the same set. Both from the same town. Both still managing in 2009. What are the odds? If you're buying LaRussa, you might as well sweeten the pot with Lou. Hall of Fame manager? You be the judge. $30-40.
1965 Topps Masanori Murakami: Who? Unless you're a serious fan or really know your 1965 Topps, this one might escape you. Masanori was the first Japanese player to appear on a mainstream U.S. baseball card set. We're told the Japanese can't get enough of this card. $30-40.
1965 Topps Warren Spahn: Another guy who appeared in those early Bowman sets and was still chucking it in the '60s. This is Spahnie's last card. He's a Met, of all things, but no one will remember Montana as a Chief or Favre as a Viking (we think). He's still listed in the price guides as HOF. Another great stats card. $35-55.
1966 Topps Sandy Koufax: If the world were fair, Koufax would have pitched into the 1970s. The world is not fair. Sandy's 11 year run on cards ended with this one. We're stretching the budget a bit at $100-120.
1967 Topps Carl Yastrzemski: His triple crown year. Little did we know in 1967 that he'd be the last for the forseeable future. The Impossible Dream. Fenway Park. Yaz. It doesn't get any better for New England baseball fans. Great little slice of history, too. $65-80.
1968 Topps Denny McLain: 1968 was the year of the pitcher and no matter what's happened to this guy since that magical 1968 season, it's still jaw-dropping. The last 30-game winner in the Major Leagues. Things were never the same for him afterward, but to Tiger fans, the memories of that season were are sweet indeed. $15-25.
1968 Topps Bob Gibson: An ERA of 1.12? Even if they made the hitters swing with Little League bats, that's impressive. Gibson was in the middle of his incredible career and the Cardinals were en route to a date with Detroit in the Series. Gibson cards are a little underrated but beloved by Cardinals fans. $30-45.
1969 Topps Tom Seaver: Can you really name more than six or seven players from the '69 Miracle Mets? 40 years later, they don't exactly roll off the tongue unless you're a die-hard Mets fan from way back--or a student of the game. This was not a lineup of stars, but Seaver was as big as it gets. Just coming into his prime, Tom Terrific symbolizes the franchise to this day. You really can't collect vintage cards without this one and it's easy to find. $60-80.
1969 Topps Ernie Banks: Cub fans thought they'd won the pennant in late August. They were sure of it. There wasn't as much cynicism then. It all unraveled in September, though. This is one of Banks' best cards--and his most affordable since it's from the first series. The '69 set is so pure and despite not leading the Cubs to the promised land, this card is still a little ray of hope. $35-50.