As the 1950s came to a close, the NFL was a one league sport. The pro football landscape was a year away from the change brought about by the American Football League. Vince Lombardi had just taken over the woeful Packers.
One maker of football cards.
The 1959 Topps football set would be the company’s biggest to date. 176 cards–44 more than they cranked out the season before. The company opted to use more photos of players without their helmets, a nice touch in an era when it was hard to see what your heroes really looked like.
It’s not a set jam-packed with Hall of Fame rookie cards, but there are 30 Canton enshrinees in the set, which makes it a bit of a bargain considering the selling prices of sets. Modern era finds of untouched cards have kept the market supplied well enough to keep prices down. In fact, it’s one of the most affordable vintage football sets.
There are plenty of solid NM examples in the marketplace, which has made piecing together a presentable set much less taxing. Even high-end graded sets aren’t impossible if you’ve got extra cash. As of this writing there are 14 complete sets with a weighted average grade of ‘8’ or better are listed on PSA’s Set Registry.
The “Other” Jim Taylor
The set might be best known for the Jim Taylor rookie card that doesn’t actually picture the Packers running back. Number 155 in the set actually pictures a Chicago Cardinals’ linebacker of the same name. Apparently the bright red jersey wasn’t enough for a light to go on at quality control. In fact, Topps made the same mistake with Taylor the next year, too. Finally, after Green Bay made the NFL title game in 1960, the “real” Taylor showed up the following season.
1959 Topps Football Rookie Cards
It was a bang-up year for rookie cards of big guys. Alex Karras, Jim Parker, Jerry Kramer, Sam Huff and Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb got their first cards in ’59. So did Super Bowl I hero Max McGee and John David Crow. A PSA 10 Kramer rookie sold for a whopping $11,808 earlier this year, but most of his rookie cards are well under $75, despite a lot of popularity among Packers fans.
The set features a second-year Jim Brown than can often be found for a very reasonable price in nice shape (although a PSA 10 sold for $33,600 this year). Third year cards of Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr and Paul Hornung are here, too. The #1 card in the set is Unitas, fresh from the incredible 1958 title game that made him a national star. His card is a little more expensive than Brown’s. Both the Brown and Kramer rookie were on our list of vintage football cards to keep an eye on.
The backs of the ’59 Topps football issue included a quiz on the back that asked youngsters to scratch off the answer with a coin. Unscratched cards are the only ones that wind up in high-grade holders but the set is one of the easiest to complete without looking at a lot of dog-eared fillers. The backs often suffer from toning which has an impact on the grade of many otherwise high-end cards.
The set also includes team cards and a team pennant subset.
Complete sets are not out of reach for many collectors with ungraded, but higher quality examples selling recently for $500-$1,000.
You can see 1959 Topps football cards on eBay by clicking here.