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Looking Fine at 50: 1963 Bazooka Baseball

Topps packs weren’t enough for the most dedicated baseball card collectors in the early 1960s.  Kids who really loved collecting, were crazy for cards—and had a few more nickels than the average youngster—had to have a box or three.  The 1963 Bazooka baseball card series marked the fifth year for what had become an annual rite of summer.  Fifty years later, they remain popular, somewhat elusive and probably quite underrated.

Bazooka baseball card box 1963The big boxes went above and beyond those little penny pieces of gum with Bazooka Joe comics inside.  A whole box could keep you chewing for a couple of weeks.  There were three cards on the back, separated by a dotted line.  Yes, these were designed for cutting.

Unlike regular packs, you could actually see the players you were getting.  Mickey Mantle disappeared from New York area grocery stores.  Yaz went fast in New England.  In the Upper Midwest, you could grab a Hank Aaron box and get Harmon Killebrew too.

In ’62, Bazooka had created 15 different panels.  When boxes hit store shelves in the spring before JFK’s assassination, there were only 12 to collect but no shortage of superstars.  Virtually every panel had at least one future Hall of Famer, which is one reason why they’re a bit pricey today, at least in panel and complete box form.  Mantle was card #1.  A PSA 8 complete Aaron/Ernie Banks/Bob Rodgers panel recently sold for $325.

Bazooka Mickey Mantle 1963The size of the cards was reduced in ’63, to 1 9/16” by 2 ½” (panels are 2 ½” by about 4 11/16”.  The backs, as usual, were blank.  Graded single cards can bring fairly impressive prices as well since they are more commonly found and are easier for set builders to accumulate quickly.  A raw (EX) Mantle single sold for $205 recently.

Complete panel sets are valued at $800-2000, depending on condition.  Single card sets, when offered, bring $500-1,200.  Low grade sets are sometimes cheaper.

Collectors should be careful with 1963 Bazooka, though.  About a decade ago, a flood of fakes came on the market.  Many appear in slabs, encapsulated by “FGA” or “Gem” Grading.  Some have an overly glossy appearance from reprinted photos while others look more realistic but have a purely gray back rather than the light brown or tannish-gray coloring.  See the checklist below.

1963 Bazooka Baseball Checklist (3 sequentially numbered cards made up each box back panel)

1             Mickey Mantle

2             Bob Rodgers

3             Ernie Banks

4             Norm Siebern

5             Warren Spahn

6             Bill Mazeroski

7             Harmon Killebrew

8             Dick Farrell

9             Hank Aaron

10           Dick Donovan

11           Jim Gentile

12           Willie Mays

13           Camilo Pascual

14           Roberto Clemente

15           Johnny Callison

16           Carl Yastrzemski

17           Don Drysdale

18           Johnny Romano

19           Al Jackson

20           Ralph Terry

21           Bill Monbouquette

22           Orlando Cepeda

23           Stan Musial

24           Floyd Robinson

25           Chuck Hinton

26           Bob Purkey

27           Ken Hubbs

28           Bill White

29           Ray Herbert

30           Brooks Robinson

31           Frank Robinson

32           Lee Thomas

33           Rocky Colavito

34           Al Kaline

35           Art Mahaffey

36           Tommy Davis

About Rich Mueller

Rich is the editor and founder of Sports Collectors Daily. A broadcaster and writer for more than 30 years and a collector for even longer than that, he's usually typing something somewhere. Type him back at [email protected].

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