As the first full week of September 1960 wound to a close, much of America’s attention was focused on the upcoming presidential election where the young Massachusetts senator, John Kennedy was battling vice-president Richard Nixon. In Rome, the Summer Olympic Games were winding down and Florida residents were bracing for Hurricane Donna.
On the evening of September 9, a curious crowd turned out in Boston to watch the first game in the history of the new American Football League. The Denver Broncos emerged with a 13-10 win and the league that would eventually merge with the NFL was born.
1960 Fleer football cards were not celebrated far and wide. Many kids outside of the cities that hosted a franchise barely knew of the league, but trading cards were one way the league sought to grab the attention of young sports fans. Fleer produced a 132-card set for the first of four seasons it was the AFL’s trading card partner.
The cards weren’t especially pretty.
With no game action photos to draw from, Fleer did the best it could, using posed action shots, college photos and images of coaches drawn from their past positions. There was nothing in the background but a solid color. Many of the photos didn’t paint the subjects in a flattering light.
The backs did contain a nice bio of each subject and the card number inside a little football sailing over a goal post.
Fleer struggled with production and the cards are plagued with centering issues and other problems. Of the more than 17,000 cards graded by PSA, only 113 have been awarded a 10 grade and fewer than 2,000 reside in Mint 9 holders.
Each nickel pack also included an AFL team logo or college pennant decal as an insert.
There was one innovation in the 1960 Fleer Football set we’d not see again for nearly 30 years: individual cards of coaches. And looking back, what a group it was. From Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh to the legendary innovator Sid Gillman to a young Hank Stram, the ’60 Fleer set might be the only trading card set in history where the coaches overshadow the players.
Stram and Baugh routinely bring $60 and up in near mint-mint condition but respectable copies can be had for under $25. Lower grade copies are just a few dollars. Strangely, Fleer never did put Broncos’ coach Frank Filchock into the set. Why, we still don’t know.
There are a few rookie cards of note, but not many. Jack Kemp, who became an AFL star and later a prominent politician, is the most valuable card in the set with better examples typically starting at around $50.
While Kemp became best known for his time in Buffalo, he’s a member of the Los Angeles Chargers in the Fleer set.
1960 AFL Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Abner Hayes of the Dallas Texans (later, the Kansas City Chiefs) is also among the better cards.
You’ll spend $35 and up for decent examples of Ron Mix, the Hall of Fame lineman and a bit less for one of the league’s all-time great running backs, Paul Lowe.
Stars, TV Analysts and Roster Cuts
NFL veteran George Blanda, running back Billy Cannon (the 1959 Heisman Trophy winner) and Paul Maguire, who would become more famous as a TV commentator later in life, are on a short list of the higher priced cards in the set.
As Todd Tobias pointed out in his Sports Collectors Daily story on collecting autographed 1960 Fleer Football cards, about one-third of the players in the set were actually released during training camp and never played a down in the AFL, a consequence of the newness of the league and the uncertainty surrounding final rosters.
Condition and Pricing
Poor centering is often an issue with the 1960 Fleer cards and for lovers of graded cards, high-grade accumulations are a little challenging. Among the toughest cards to find centered and with sharp corners are #6 Sam Salerno, #75 Marv Lasater, #84 Jim Woodard and #78 Blanche Martin. 1960 Fleer pricing sometimes has more to do with the condition of the card than the player on the front, especially when it comes to graded examples.
There are 14 complete sets with a rating of 8 or better on PSA’s Set Registry.
The 1960 Fleer football set hasn’t really come along for the ride in the hobby’s recent boom. In fact, prices seem to have dipped a bit over the last several years.
Set prices vary by grade $500 a good starting point for an EX and better type set. With only 132 cards to chase, it’s also a good project for those who want to put one together themselves.
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