Are you aging as gracefully as vintage Topps baseball cards? Here's one guide to get the most bang for your buck and still have an impressive collection of '60s Hall of Famers.
It was the decade that gave us expansion, a Triple Crown, a new single-season home run record and the end of a Yankee dynasty.
1960s baseball history plays out on vintage Topps baseball cards from the era, but it's easy to get lost when figuring out how to start a solid collection without breaking the bank. Despite the increase in value in the four decades since, it's still possible to start a meaningful collection of these older gems--all Hall of Famers--without spending a fortune. We've got a list of ten cards to consider, none of which are difficult to locate.
Smart shoppers should be able to grab all of these cards for around $1,000 in ungraded near mint condition (you might even be able to find some nice graded ones at this level).
- 1960 Topps Yankees Coaches: Can't afford the cards from when Bill Dickey and Frank Crosetti were actually playing for the Yankees? This one pictures them as coaches on Casey Stengel's staff, right in the middle of the era when the franchise was winning pennants virtually every season. Just a cool little piece of history that won't set you back more than $25-30.
- 1961 Topps Roger Maris. When the photo was taken, Maris hadn't set the single-season home run record yet, but he looks poised to do something great. 1961 Topps are not hard to find, especially not the first series. This is card #2 in the set, picturing Maris in his pinstriped Yankee glory. If you're buying '60s cards, the '61 Maris is a must. $175
- 1962 Topps Home Run Leaders: We promise to stop the Yankee train in a minute, but this card (#53) is as history-charged as it gets. The card pictures the American League home run leaders from the historic '61 season with Maris and Mantle #1 and #2. The chase that season was as exciting as it gets for anyone who followed baseball then--or appreciates it now. $60-75.
- 1963 Topps Carl Yastrzemski. Yaz was first pictured on a Topps card in 1960, but his rookie card is pricey and not all that exciting. This one is from the '63 Topps first series and one of the more affordable but sharp-looking cards of the Red Sox Hall of Famer. It can be had for $50-60.
- 1965 Topps Hank Aaron. 11 years removed from his rookie card, Hank had already started writing his Hall of Fame ticket by the mid-60s, having led the Milwaukee Braves to two pennants and a World Series victory. Sadly, this is his last card in a Milwaukee tomahawk uniform. It captures the end of an era, and gets you a nice vintage Aaron card for around $110-120.
- 1966 Topps Pete Rose: Rose baseball cards haven't lost much luster despite his troubles. Collectors consider him a Hall of Famer, even if he isn't an official member. Rose was catching fire by this time and the '66 is one of the cleanest, most affordable '60s Rose cards around. He played into the '80s, but you need to have a fair representation of his legacy on the game. At $70-80, this is a very nice buy. Get the highest grade you can afford.
- 1967 Topps Whitey Ford. It had pretty much come apart for the Yankees by now. Their stars were aging. The farm system wasn't producing suitable replacements in quanitity. The championship years were gone and not coming back for awhile. This is Whitey's last card as an active player. #5 in the '67 set, it's an incredible bargain at $25-35. Take a look at what he accomplished when you flip the card over.
- 1968 Topps Johnny Bench. We're splurging on '68s. Bench may have been the greatest catcher of all-time. One of the best players on one of the best teams once the Big Red Machine got rolling in the 70s. A key to the very affordable '68 Topps set. The Bench rookie card is grossly underpriced, probably because it's not rare. Still a must-have for the post-War vintage card collector. Buy a nice one for $140-150.
- 1968 Topps Mickey Mantle. Of all of Mantle's regular issue cards, this one is the least expensive. In the space of ten minutes at the recent National Sports Collectors Convention, we had our pick of near mint, ungraded examples at $200-300. Mantle's last vintage Topps baseball card is the '69, but it's a little more expensive because of that-- and the fact that there seem to be far fewer nice ones out there. You need a Mantle and this is the one to keep you on budget.
- 1969 Topps Willie Mays. No way you make it through the decade without a Willie. He was into the downward slide by this time. 18 big league seasons will do that, but Mays was still an icon who patrolled the Giants' outfield and put a scare into pitchers. This is just a very attractive card, aesthetically and in terms of value for your money. You can find a very nice one for $60.
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