Forty years ago this summer, the small fraternity of adult baseball card collectors surely began corresponding by mail and sharing long-distance phone conversations once the existence of a new type of issue. The only place it seemed to be showing up was in New England. The 1974 Topps Deckle Edge set, as it came to be known, was one of the many 'test' issues Topps produced during the decade. Today, despite its black and white photos, the '74 Deckle Edge set has become a bit of a classic.
Available in packs with two or three cards and a stick of gum, the wrapper read simply 'Baseball Photos' with the original Topps logo in the top left corner. 'Deckle' or scalloped edge photographs were popular in the late 1960's and 70's and Topps took the concept to youngsters with this oversized set. With cards measuring 2 7/8" x 5", the 1974 Deckle Edge issue was a distant cousin of the 1964 Giants set that had been issued ten years earlier and featured color photos.
The backs of the cards featured something that had never been done before and has rarely been seen in the hobby since: dated photos. Printed in a cursive style and rather formal, the copy includes not only a date but the location of the photo. At the bottom is a newspaper-style paragraph highlighting a player's recent achievement.
Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Frank and Brooks Robinson, Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew and other notables are the most expensive players in the set, which doesn't really have any 'scarce' cards.
The PSA Population report shows over 2,450 cards graded and authenticated with 708 rating a mint '9'. There are 16 PSA 9 Ryan cards in the market with 11 Aaron cards rating mint and 2 PSA 10 gem mint. A PSA 9 Lou Brock recently sold for $300 on eBay while a PSA 8 Catfish Hunter brought just over $100.
The second highest rated set on the PSA Set Registry sold recently via Goldin Auctions for over $14,000. Just one set currently registered with PSA has a cumulative rating over 9 and only three have a GPA over 8.
Still, in the grade 6-8 range, only a few of the cards in the set are pricey meaning a good start is possible for set collectors. Many attractive ungraded examples, free of creases, can be had for less than $20.
Backs were printed in either gray or the more scarce white color. Proof versions exist without the scalloped edges.
To see 1974 Topps Deckle Edge cards on eBay, click here.