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Ramblings: Readers Recall Brushes With 1969 Topps White Letters, Other Scarcities

Following the story on 1969 Topps ‘white letter variations’, we were very pleased to hear from good friend and long-time reader Bill Hedin with some personal memories of how he received some while opening packs as a kid in Massachusetts. And, reading his letter, that distribution makes sense as many vendors who set up at the Albany shows I referenced were from the southern New England area.

1969 Topps Mickey Mantle white lettersIf I were half as smart as I like to think I am sometimes, I would have been more aggressive in going to New England in search of those cards yRalph Houk 1969 Topps white lettersears ago. As I have written, I had friends in Boston and on each trip there would always go to Fenway Sportscards and buy a ton of cards. I loved being in Walt Kelley’s store because he would give me boxes, tell me to go a separate room where there were old school radios and televisions set up to make buying cards such a relaxing experience. That room with the old equipment may have been my favorite place ever to buy cards.

Without further adieu, here are Bill’s memories:

I had every store in our city who carried cards on my list of who had or was getting which series of 1969 Topps. Sometimes, I’d have to buy the remains of, say, series 2 so they would order series 4!  I was even instructing one Rexall Drug Store owner to order five boxes of the remaining series.

Well, we had white letters at all four of my local stores. In fact, I kept buying the boxes of the Mantle series in anticipation of the next series coming out, so I had a dealer size stock of white letters at age 8! This helped me 10 years later when I opened my first store and was doing my first shows.

In those years, 1968 thru 1972, whatever series our local stores did not carry, I’d order from guys like Stan Martucci, Larry Fritch, Gelman, etc.

In 1973, Marlborough, Massachusetts got the entire 660 cards in one box. At first, I thought it was a fluke at Topps, but the print on the box said collect the entire set! What a joy it was to complete the set fast and use the money  earned shoveling, paper routes, errand, mowing lawns and stuff to buy vintage collections around the city and surrounding area.”

A few minutes later, the nostalgia of thinking about these packs got Bill to do some more reminiscing and he sent this as well:

“In early August, 1970 while hunting at our local Grants store for the Topps last series, my sister and I spotted a clerk putting up a huge display of the new Topps football cards! They were opening and dumping hundreds of rack packs into the table bin. We knew to get our Dad’s favorite, O.J. Simpson, if he was on top.

We never found those last two series of 1970 Topps baseball cards in our town, but I had a plan:  send away for the two series for my set and invest the $20 bill into the new football.

Ken Reynolds 1971 Topps RookieThe most difficult card I ever had to find was in 1972.  Local hero (now retired gym teacher/coach) Kenny Reynolds came up in the 1971 Topps hi #’s in that famous ‘3 Reynolds’ rookie card. We were all waiting for him to have a card all to himself in 1972.  I knew the adults in town would pay me $1 for one, so it was time to buy a bunch of 1972′s! We found plenty of Kenny Reynolds with the Phillies, but the first series card of Ed Farmer of the Cleveland Indians was impossible.  I needed to buy them along with the last 2 series from one of my mail order places.  To this day, I smile when I see the elusive Ed Farmer 1972!”

Another reader sent this memory, which will leave your mouth agape at an opportunity missed while he was a youngster in the late 1960’s:

(Wisconsin-based mail order dealer Larry) Fritsch each year would send a free baseball set from Fleer and Golden Press with the purchase of the complete Topps set. Years later after getting married and finding out about the baseball card craze of 1981, I dug out all of my baseball cards and found an (unsent) order mixed in with them. I had checked off for order five 1952 Mickey Mantles in top condition. He was selling them for $1 apiece but I never mailed it off.

I was very upset to find that I would have had five of them to choose from while I was building my near mint 1952 set during the 1981 collection craze. The order had a 1968 date on it.  $5 for the five cards was a lot of money for a 12 year old back then.

Thanks for the memories, guys. We appreciate them.

If you have old memories to share, please send them to me and we’ll feature your stories in upcoming Ramblings.

Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]

About Rich Klein

Rich Klein has spent almost his entire life collecting baseball cards having begun at the tender age of seven. He has spent more than three decades in the organized hobby including editing the first 12 editions of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Card and Collectibles. He lives in Plano, TX along with his wife Dena and their two dogs. You can reach him at [email protected].

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  1. […] Bill Hedin, I realize there are a lot of collectors who don’t choose one or the other. Bill had great stories about Ken Reynolds who was a teacher in his local school or trying to get that elusive 1972 Topps Ed […]

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