1964 Topps Stand-Ups: Copied, But Never Surpassed

Here’s a quick quiz for you. Other than being baseball cards, what did the 2004 Bazooka and 2011 Topps Lineage baseball sets have in common?

There may be other correct answers, but the commonality in view right now is that both sets included inserts based on the 1964 Topps Stand-Ups. Actually, 1964 Topps Roberto Clemente stand-upwe could add 1934-36 Batter-Up and 2012 Panini Golden Age to the mix as the Topps card from the 1964 season actually owed its creation to the historic Batter-Up cards.

The 1934-36 Batter-Up set, issued by National Chicle, consisted of blank-backed die-cut cards. And though the pictures were in basic black and white, the cards were found with blue, brown, green, purple, red, or sepia tints to them. On the cards the player’s photo was die-cut so that it could be punched out while the lower half was folded creating a “standing up” effect for the player. This simple but appealing design feature has been used frequently in the history of baseball cards as already noted. In addition to the sets already mentioned this idea has been repeated in the 1951 Topps Connie Mack and Current All Stars, 1973 Laughlin Stand-Ups, 1987 Donruss Pop-Up All-Stars, 1991 Giants Action Images Stand-Ups, and the 1991 Petro-Canada Stand-Ups.

1964ToppsStandUps07But of all these (and likely some others not mentioned), the favorite with collectors through the years has been the 77 cards that make up the 1964 Topps Stand-Ups. As with any card set that is collected, the reasons for putting the set together varies with the individual. However, there are some common factors – appearance, player selection, scarcity – that have made the 1964 Stand-Ups desirable for many years.

Distinctive Look

Once you are familiar with the 1964 Topps Stand-Ups you will never fail to recognize them. The full-length, color player photos on the cards are set against a green and yellow block background. As they are unnumbered cards it is usual to find them considered or listed in alphabetical order of players, which makes Hank Aaron the “first” card in the set and Carl Yastrzemski the last.

The standard-sized (2 1/2″ by 3 1/2″) cards are known to have been sold in both one cent and five cent packs, but there were four different wrapper designs used for this set. As mentioned above, the backgrounds of the card are green and yellow. The top half is yellow and the bottom half is green (some have speculated that this was to symbolize a sunny sky and a green field. Regardless of what was intended, the color scheme is indelibly identified with this card set. At the card bottom the player’s name is printed in red ink, and below their name is their position and team name. The lower half of the cards also includes a facsimile autograph, while the upper portion includes instructions on how to manipulate the cards into the punched-out and standing position.

At only 77 cards it is a relatively small set to build, and with its great eye appeal of bold backgrounds matched with very bold photos, it has stayed a favorite of set collectors for decades.

Stand-Up Guys

The 1964 Topps Stand-Ups were the first Topps issue to feature a die-cut design since the 1951 All-Star sets. And against the bright background of the color blocks the cards feature full-length player photos so that, once they were punched out appropriately, the entire player seemed to stand (in miniature of course). The boldly colored photos are certainly part of the eye-appeal of this set which employs full body shots showing the whole uniforms, with some of the uniforms even showing rips and dirt and grass stains.

The front top portion does specify instructions on how to use the card for its stand-up feature, and that is also part of the reason for the scarcity of the cards. Once folded, the image would “pop” from the center in order to create a “Stand Up” figure for a window sill or dresser (or school desk if one had an understanding teacher). The cards were intended to be handled, indeed, they asked to handled and punched out right on the card’s face. Thus, it is not a surprise that many collecting kids did just that, much to the dismay of today’s condition conscious collector.250px-Topps-StandUps-1964-Sandy-Koufax

Of course, the die-cut punching out is not the only condition problem with the 1964 Stand-Ups. The full bleed colored borders are easily chipped and there are some side to side and top to bottom centering issues. Additionally, the Stand-Ups that were sold in the one per penny pack were susceptible to wax stains on the back where the pack was sealed.

The Challenges of the 1964 Topps Stand-Up Set

When the cards are stacked alphabetically (remember they are unnumbered) it places Aaron on one end of the checklist and Yaz on the other. As a result, those two cards are truly difficult to find in pristine condition as they were on the top and on the bottom of stacks and subjected to additional wear and tear.

Of the 77 cards in this issue, 22 are short prints:  Jack Baldschun, Norm Cash, Donn Clendenon, Don Drysdale, Ray Culp, Jesse Gonder, Tony Gonzalez, Frank Howard, Jerry Lumpe, Don Lock, Juan Marichal, Eddie Mathews, Willie McCovey, Albie Pearson, Ed Roebuck, Ron Santo, Warren Spahn, Dick Stuart, Bill White, Billy Williams, Hal Woodeshick and Carl Yastrzemski. There are some key players on that short-print list, which adds to the appeal and difficulty in completing the set.

Mickey Mantle lists as the most valuable card in the set at around $600, while both Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays clock in at around $300. (The Yastrzemski SP stands at $500 currently).

There are 21 Hall of Famers in this set (including Joe Torre who is in the set as a player, but in the Hall as a manager). That is not a bad percentage out of a card set of 77. It is the presence of the baseball immortals alongside of some true fan favorites (think Norm Cash, Dick Groat, Frank Howard, etc.) that give the checklist of the 1964 issue such great appeal.

64ToppsStandUpsPackUnopened Anecdotes

1964 Topps Stand Ups boxSpeaking of appeal, in June of 2007 an eBay seller offered a complete unopened box (120 packs) of Stand-Ups packs. Most collectors of the set have never even seen a single unopened pack.  Reportedly discovered at a yard sale, this was a genuine rarity and sold for more than $25,000. The unopened Stand-Ups packs have semi-translucent wrappers, so the buyer of a pack can see up front which player he’ll receive in each “penny” pack, kind of like a one-card cello pack. The winning buyer was able to put an unopened set together and had the packs certified as unopened and graded. Just that portion of the box sold for about $30,000.

Graded Examples

When it comes to grading the individual cards have had a rough go due to the condition issues mentioned earlier. To this date, PSA has had 13,305 cards from this set submitted to them for grading. Of these, only eight have received a Gem Mint 10 grade. Mickey Mantle has had more cards submitted for grading than any other card in the set with 523. Of these, ten have been graded a Mint 9, and that is the highest grade any 1964 Topps Stand-Ups Mickey Mantle has received. The most common grade for all considered cards from this set has been an “8,” as 3,870 cards have received this designation (29%).

Throughout the years the die-cut stand-up has been revisited and reused many times. It will likely be used again. But any card trying this feature out will have a long way to go before it matches the status of the 1964 Topps Stand-Ups.  See them on eBay here and on Amazon.com here.