Leaf first tried its hand at a baseball card set in 1949. While that was a popular issue, the company wouldn’t return to the baseball card market until 11 years later with the creation of black and white glossy cards distributed inside packages of…marbles.
With Topps owning the rights to produce cards packed with gum, Leaf and its partner, Sports Novelties, Inc., sold five-card packs with a marble for five cents.
It turned out to be a one-and-done issue with a fairly ambitious 144-card checklist that is, unfortunately, devoid of some of the game’s biggest names. Nonetheless, it’s unique for many reasons and the smaller size has put it on a lot vintage card collectors want lists.
1960 Leaf Basics
While the company’s first major baseball set created in 1948 and distributed in ’49 utilized color, the 1960 set reverted back to black and white photography – a curious move since color sets were the standard at the time.
In terms of actual look, there were some similarities between the two sets, though. Both included a large picture of a player on the front with his name in big, bold letters at the bottom. But the 1960 Leaf set shrunk the name just enough to squeeze the player’s position and team name onto the front.
The cards were also a little bigger in 1960. While the 1949 Leaf set consisted of cards that were nearly square, the 1960 Leaf cards were a size more traditional to today’s cards at 2 1/2″ wide x 3 1/2″ tall. The backs of the 1960 Leaf cards included the player’s name at the top along with a card number, biography, and statistics from both his previous year and his entire career. In fact, 1960 Leaf backs have some of the more extensive bios ever seen on cards.
The set is often not initially identified as a Leaf set. The Leaf name does not exist on the cards and the only company identification show is that of Sports Novelties, Inc. at the bottom.
With 144 cards in the set, the release included its fair share of big names. Many notable figures were missing, but aside from the more difficult variations and high number issues, key cards in the set belong to Luis Aparicio, Brooks Robinson, Duke Snider. Also there is a rookie card of longtime manager Dallas Green.
The set included a few variations – some of which are quite scarce. First, there’s card No. 25 of Jim “Mudcant” Grant. Grant’s card has both both dark cap and white cap variations and the latter actually pictures Brooks Lawrence.
Hal Smith actually has three different No. 58 cards. In one, his team name appears on the back. A second has that name darkened out. Finally, a third has the team name missing altogether.
Finally, a couple of uncorrected errors found their way into the set. Ironically, these are on back to back cards, No. 114 and No. 115. Card No. 114 is supposed to be Stover McIlwain but is actually Jim McAnany. No. 115 is mistakenly Ken Kuhn instead of Chuck Tanner.
The difficulty in assembling a 1960 Leaf set comes in finding the high numbers. Card numbers 73-144 are considered much more scarce than the first 72 cards and sell for a premium.
Commons, for example, typically sell in the neighborhood of 4-5 times as much as the low-number cards. High number stars in the set include Sparky Anderson (‘George’ on his card), Orlando Cepeda, Curt Flood, and Jim Bunning. There’s also a special card featuring both Hal Smiths then in the majors.
1960 Leaf cards aren’t inexpensive but singles will fit most collector’s budgets. Mid-grade commons in raw condition can be found for only a few dollars with stars a bit more. The most expensive cards in the set are usually those in the high numbers. Anderson’s card, often a difficult find, starts around $100 in decent mid-grade condition.
Including the variations, the Hal Smith version with his team name darkened out is far the most expensive card in the set. A PSA 5 sold for over $500 earlier this fall.
A complete Series 2 unopened box sold for over $8,000 at auction in 2015.
Because of the scarcity of the high numbers, it isn’t easy to find many affordable complete sets. They do come up for sale but are not cheap. When you can find them, decent sets (minus variations) usually start around $800-$1,000. A high-grade set recently brought over $4,200 at an auction.
You can see 1960 Leaf baseball cards on eBay here.