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Rich Klein: Vintage Card Distribution Mysteries

We’re Rambling about vintage cards today with some quick observations, head scratchers and historical notes.

  • 1958 Topps 443Richs Ramblings Have you ever wondered why 1958 Topps baseball is almost the polar opposite of the distribution patterns of the 1952-73 era?  Instead of each series getting more difficult as the set progresses, the set becomes easier as the card numbers get higher. And why are only 443. 446. 450 and 462 short prints? Only four cards as short prints? That does not make a lot of sense to me.  And of course the triple printed high All-Star high numbers. The last series is one I would love to re-verify with a sheet to see what those cards are the distribution anomaly. And even stranger, not only are the first series 1958 cards tougher but the cardboard stock is also more difficult to maintain in good condition. And were the Yellow Letters and  Names done at a different factory? 
  • 1962 Topps Green Tint Sammy Drake 1962 Topps Green Tint and other variations.  The new/old supposition is the “Green Tints” were produced at a different factory. At one time the green tint cards were considered much tougher and had a significantly higher value than the regular cards but that has now become closer to even in pricing.  That development is somewhat similar to the 1952 1st Series cards.  When I started collecting in the 1970’s there was a significant premium for the black backed cards and those cards were considered near impossible. Now, with commons booking in the $50 range for ex-mt examples, the price differences that once existed for these cards no longer do. I wonder how many other variations have had pricing schematics change over the years? 
  • 1966 Topps ChooChoo Choo Coleman 1966 Topps Choo Coleman (and names like that).  Years ago, one of my Beckett teammates was on a show trip and was asked who he was looking for. When asked, he mentioned Choo Choo as a joke so he could concentrate on doing his research and not have to see any cards.

Imagine his surprise when a dealer pulled out one of the 1966 Topps Choo Choo Colemans and quoted a price. It is a tough card to find and needless to say, that taught him to say “Puddin’ Head Jones” for future questions.

Hot Potato HamlinRemember when the pre-war Play Ball and late 1940s Bowman cards used some of the players nicknames? After all who wouldn’t want a Luke “Hot Potato” Hamlin card? 

  • 1970 Jim FrenchDave Hornish and I go back and forth on scarcities (in a very friendly way) with regard to some of the older Topps sets. I swear there must be some double and/or triple prints in the 1970 6th series as I have tons of Jim French cards (#599) and they show up in almost every lot of 1970 semi-hi’s.  There are other 1970’s semi-hi’s which have to be harder. Either that, or Jim French is my new best friend. We also have had many discussions about the double prints (or more) in the 1967 hi number series. I will tell you from dealing experience the easy numbers are truly much easier than the other high numbers. 
  • Recently, there was a really cool thread on Net54 about ‘guest appearances’ on cards. I have told the story about how Maury Wills had a Topps card many years before 1967 because Luis Aparicio was sliding into 2nd base during the 1959 World Series but did you realize that Roger Maris had a 1969 card as part of the World Series subset or Willie Mays had a 1974 card that way as well?   Maris and Mays had both announced their retirements before those cards were printed but I always say that it would have been real nice to have a 1969 Roger Maris or Rocky Colavito card or a 1974 Willie Mays or 1969 Eddie Mathews card.  All of these and many more would be appreciated now more than they would have been to kids in those days. Sometimes historical perspective trumps what an eight-year-old boy may have wanted at that time in history. 
  • Mickey Mantle 1965 ToppsAnd why are the toughest cards in the 1965 Topps set the middle range between 284 and 446? Back in the day I had dealers tell me that was true for 1963 but I always think this is really more true for 1965. I think 1965 Topps may be the hardest set to complete in the 1960’s because some of the tough cards are so sneaky. And if you think about that, the 1965 Topps Mantle may be the most difficult regular issue Mantle card of the 1960’s.  I bet if you really dug into 1965, some of those cards are just as hard as some of the legendary tough 1966-67 high numbers. 
  • Finally, it’s nice to know whom we inspire. Remember my references to ‘cards that never were?  Well, it kick started this effort.  Really cool that one of our columns in the Ramblings inspired these ‘Cards That Never Were.  Enjoy! 

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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