If you are a set collector looking for a real challenge – not just a test, but an upper level course at set-builder graduate school – then you might be ready to start chasing down the ultra-rare 1959 Bazooka Baseball set.
The baseball card collecting world of 1959 knew two things – pictures of ball players will never have any value and packs of them cost either a penny or a nickel. 1959 Bazooka bucked both of these notions – the former not until years later. Topps’ first Bazooka issue measured an irregular 2 13/16” by 4 15/16” and each box of gum had just one card on its bottom – subsequent Bazooka issues came with three players per box panel.
In 1959 each piece of gum cost a penny. Each box contained 25 pieces meaning that for just one card and a hell of a lot of gum a kid would have to plop down an entire quarter! That’s a lot lawns mowed in the late 1950s.
Despite the rather high-end price for their day, the Bazooka cards proved so popular that Topps soon added 14 more cards to the nine they issued originally. It’s those last 14 cards – all shortest of short prints – that sends the ’59 Bazookas into the next echelon for set collectors.
Among the original nine are superstars like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. An auction for a PSA 7 Aaron – which claims to be the highest graded example – fetched almost $1,700. Aaron’s card comes with two variations—one showing his name in yellow and the other in white.
Mantles go for even more, examples graded only as ‘Authentic’ command prices in the $700-$900 range. One sold in August 2014 after a best offer was accepted on a $2,595 asking price.
The short prints – even common players – command even higher asking prices in some cases. Five of the short prints – Richie Ashburn, Ernie Banks, Don Drysdale, Nellie Fox and Duke Snider – are in the Hall of Fame.
The original nine Bazooka cards are rare, but can be found on eBay. Short prints, however, are almost nonexistent. Uncut sheets of the super rare short prints have sold twice in recent years. One example sold in 2005 for $5,220. The same sheet sold again in 2012 for $11,258. A complete set which featured a PSA 8 Roy McMillian and both white and yellow letter Aaron variations sold for $9,400 in 2009.
It’s always difficult to find high quality cut out cards. Whether you’re chasing Post Cereal issues from the 60s, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese cards from the 1980s or even Baseball Card Magazine issues from the 80s and 90s – kids with less than steady hands had trouble following the lines when it came to adding these cards to their collections.
That’s the rub. It seems PSA and other grading services will only give these cards a number grade when the dotted line is completely visible. Otherwise, these cards are branded with the Scarlet Letter of graded cards – Authentic. This makes anything with said lines evident even more unbelievably valuable. However, consider this: of the hundreds of 1959 Bazooka cards graded by the company, not many have been awarded a numeric grade and as of this writing there are only three PSA 8’s and nine in PSA 7 holders.
It will cost you a pretty penny to go out in search of 1959 Bazooka baseball cards, but the catch is you might not be able to find very many of them anyway.