For the collector with a budget the baseball card hobby can often be intimidating. We salivate over high-grade vintage cards that cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars each. But if you’re willing to take the perspective of a fan and collector, there are bargains—and even wise investments to be found.
If you’ve got a taste for champagne but are stuck on a beer budget–or just like value for the dollar– here are ten solid 1960s and 70s cards to consider –and why.
Any true collection of baseball cards really needs to have a card of Babe Ruth. No other athlete is more responsible for the greatness of our national pastime than the Sultan of Swat. Unfortunately baseball cards from his playing days are quite out of range for a truly budget minded collector. The 1960 Fleer is a true vintage card, not a 21st century reprint. It depicts the Bambino taking a cut in a farewell appearance at Yankee Stadium just prior to his death in 1948 and is an overall nice looking card.
This is the last card of Willie Mays that depicts him as a member of the Giants. The impact of the Sey Hey kid on the game was enormous. Many still regard him as the best all around player to play the game. This card is particularly nice looking with a yellow background and a picture that captures Mays in a classic manner. From the easy-to-find first series, it is certainly an affordable way to include a regular issue Topps card of Willie Mays into any collection and one of the most affordable Hall of Famer cards from the 1970s. You can own a very nice one for this price.
Topps commemorated Hank Aaron’s 715th home run by adding “All Time Home Run King” to the card, even though Aaron hadn’t technically broken the record when the cards were printed. It’s the #1 card in the set and the last from Aaron’s days as a member of the Braves. The 1974 Topps not only allows you to include a regular issue Hank Aaron card to your collection—one that’s not easy to find in high-grade– but also display a memento of the passing of baseball’s home run torch.
Mickey Mantle is another player who really must be included in any serious baseball card collection. His Yankees won several World Series titles and were undoubtedly the team of the 1950’s. In addition you have the star value of Mickey Mantle. There is no other player who has as much value added to his baseball cards because of demand than Mantle. Thanks to overproduction and less interest overall, this card is a vintage card from Mantle’s playing era that does not come with a $200+ price tag like most of his other cards, but it’s simply gorgeous.
Nolan Ryan certainly has more star value than any other pitcher of all time. Baseball fans can debate who the best pitcher was forever, but one cannot deny the star value of the Express. Ryan threw the baseball faster than any other player. He also threw the most no-hitters and struck our many more batters than any other pitcher. His 1976 Topps card depicts him in the prime of his career while a member of the California Angels. It’s a key card in the ’76 set and a steal—even in near mint at $25-30.
Joe Torre was a good player but he’ll enter the Hall of Fame for his managerial skills. Torre’s run of success capped an amazing career that will span more than 50 Major League years before he finally retires from baseball activities. 1962 Topps are always hard to find in high-grade, but Torre’s rookie card in ungraded, EX/NM shape is relatively easy to locate at a price that would have to be considered a nice bargain.
What’s a baseball card collection without Pete Rose? Scandals aside, his play on the field was the stuff of legend and his style is classic. His ’72 Topps card is from the semi-high number series and represents the middle of a career that would have normally meant first ballot Hall of Fame election.
Santo isn’t a Hall of Famer, despite the protestations of devoted Cubs fans. He is, however, the perfect symbol of the franchise and a guy whose name gives warm fuzzies to thousands. Santo’s rookie card is a deal, but it’s best to shop outside of Chicago if you want one at a decent price.
Rookie cards may be the magnet that attracts collectors to certain players, but milestone years are underrated. Mazeroski’s homer to win the 1960 World Series was still months away when this card hit the market, but it’s the perfect complement to a collector’s hobby room. Few moments can beat his Yankee-beating blast at Forbes Field. Luckily, his first series card from that year’s Topps set is an easy get, even in great shape.
Blyleven was once a perennial bridesmaid in Hall of Fame voting, but his rookie card is worth owning. Like its black-bordered brothers in the 1971 Topps set, this one is a bear to find in high-grade but you’ll have a blast looking. It’s a key to the ’71 set, which was short on important rookie cards. As a Twins’ announcer, Blyleven remains very popular with fans.