Not everyone chases high grade baseball card sets, but for those who do, some are easier to obtain than others. A recent look at the PSA Population Report for 1950s, 60s and 70s Topps cards reveals plenty of disparity in the percentage of straight NM/MT (8) cards compared to the total number of cards that have been encapsulated. We chose the '8' grade for the 1950s and 60s since it's probably the best barometer to measure higher grade cards and often the condition goal that collectors set. We also examined the 1970s, using the PSA 9 grade to see which sets were most popular with submitters and how they fared.
There seems to be a perception that 1952 Topps are in short supply, but the set actually ranks fourth on the list of 1950s sets in terms of total number of cards graded. More than 159,000 1952 Topps had been encapsulated as of July 4. Confirmation of what collectors already assumed, however, is that there aren't many high grade examples out there. Just 14,554 of them-- 9.1% ---earned an 8 label. Because of the selling prices of even mid to low grade 1952 Topps, collectors and dealers aren't shy about submitting any '52 Topps card. In the two weeks since we checked the report and jotted down some numbers, over 200 '52 Topps have been added to the roster, but only eight of them were graded 8.
1953 Topps cards stand out on the list--both in terms of total number graded and percentage of 8's. It's the only year from the 1950s where fewer than 100,000 grace the Pop Report. If you're looking for 8's, as of a couple of weeks ago, you'd have only around 12,000 to choose from (12.3%).
Also fairly tough to find in higher grade are the 1955 Topps. Of 108,254 copies graded, only 16,291 (15%) made the '8' level.
There's a big disparity between 1955 and 1956, partly because of the increase in the number of cards in each set. The larger '56 set has resulted in nearly twice as many cards submitted and authenticated--nearly 200,000 in '56 compared to 108,254 in '55. The percentage of 8's is more telling. Just 15% of all '55 Topps graded made the '8' level while 22.3% of '56's did.
In the 1960s, the percentage of high grade cards grows starting with the '61 set. The 1960 set is the last one in which fewer than 30% of submissions resulted in an '8' grade. A lot of cards from that year have been submitted, however. Nearly 200,000 in all. In '61, a whopping 218,632 have crossed graders' desks, 38% of which are PSA 8. As a side note, there are also over 12,000 9's.
Sets from 1962, '64 and '66 have seen lesser amounts of submissions, with all sets after 1963 showing at least 40% of them receiving an '8' grade. Collectors, it seems, have sharp eyes, especially for 1967s, where nearly 46% were slapped with an '8'. The wood-bordered '62s are tough, but not that tough with 31.6% 8's.
In the 1970s, collectors seem to try but don't always score with 9's. Percentages of 9's compared to all submissions are surprisingly low. In 1970, '72 and '75, less than 20% of submissions have been awarded an 9. The 14.8% figure for 1970 is especially surprising. Those gray borders sometimes do show the slightest of wear.
The most popular 1970s set for collectors to send in and the most difficult to get back in a mint condition holder is the black-bordered 1971 issue. Cards from this iconic set usually sell for high prices in high grade. More than 207,000 '71 Topps cards had been submitted as of early this month with a scant 6,014 earning a 9...just under 3%.
Collectors don't submit as many cards from 1973-forward because the commons and minor stars simply often aren't worth the cost of submitting. The 1970s set with the fewest number of graded cards is 1977. Plagued by centering issues and fuzzy corners, just over 60,000 had been submitted as of July 4 with 23,052 reaching the 9 level. There are plenty of 9's in 1978--51,825 to be exact, which is more than double the number awarded from the '77 set and almost twice as many from '79.