It doesn’t often come up when the rarest post-War sports card sets are discussed but it probably should.
It’s also one of the best-looking sets Topps ever produced.
The 1959 Bazooka football card set was issued within months, possibly weeks, of the company’s initial Bazooka box set that featured baseball players. The baseball issue spawned several more years’ worth of cards on the backs of the “big box” of penny Bazooka bubble gum but the football set was a one-and-done affair.
Today, even major shows will turn up few, if any, 1959 Bazooka football cards but that doesn’t stop avid collectors of vintage football cards from looking, even if they only can track down a few of them.
There was one player on the back of each 20-count box of the familiar twin-pack gum. The large photos came with dotted lines around the edge, providing a guide for young hands to cut them. It wasn’t easy if you were a kid and plenty of surviving cards today are miscut. However, the cards themselves (measuring about 2 3/16” x 4 5/16” when cut properly, are stunning in their simplicity and color.
There are 18 players but 19 cards in a master set. Charley Conerly identified as a member of the Colts at first, followed by a version that correctly identified him as a member of the Giants. Topps included cards of Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Frank Gifford, Lou Groza, Bobby Layne, Y.A. Tittle and other stars of the day.
A few cards have proven difficult to locate including Brown, Groza and both Conerlys but by far the most challenging card to obtain is Tom “The Bomb” Tracy. The Pittsburgh Steelers running back is pictured in the uniform of his former team, the Detroit Lions, and for some reason his card is rarer than a T206 Wagner. In fact, some believe there are no more than a dozen Tracy cards in existence.
Card #1, Alan “The Horse” Ameche, Joe Perry and Howie Ferguson have also baffled collectors and his popularity means Brown’s card is also not very plentiful in the market.
PSA has graded only 152 1959 Bazooka football cards with just five having been awarded a grade of higher than 5. Many collectors have chosen to have them simply authenticated and labeled as such because of the difficulty in landing a high-grade when submitting a hand cut card.
The 1959 Bazooka football set doesn’t have a big following, likely because of the difficulty in putting one together. A complete set included several graded examples was offered in the December 2014 Mile High Card Company auction where it sold for $7,122. Still, common players can be found on eBay (see them here) for prices that don’t really reflect the true scarcity of one of the most elusive but attractive football card sets ever created.