Distributed in penny or nickel wax packs, cello packs and rack packs (36 cards for 29 cents!), the 1960 Topps Baseball set took kids aback. Used to seeing a vertical image on their cards from 1957 through 1959, Topps shook things up by using the horizontal format they’d offered in 1955 and ’56.
The idea lasted only one year.
Topps promoted the set to stores that carried its product by touting the “two photos on every card” and indeed there is a color portrait shot along with a black and white “action” photo as they promised (see the front and back of one of those salesman’s sample cards in the photo gallery at the bottom).
Launching a new decade that would eventually see an end of the New York Yankees’ long-running success story (at least temporarily) and the end of nickel packs, the 1960 Topps set has plenty of star quality. There are regular cards of 38 Hall of Famers. It would have had one more, but Ted Williams was in the second year of an exclusive contract he signed with Fleer.
There would be seven series of 1960 Topps cards issued from late winter through autumn with a total of 572 produced. The seventh series high number cards (#507-572) carry a premium and can be pricey thanks to the SPORT Magazine All-Star Selection cards numbered 553-572 (see an analysis of which high numbers are hardest to find in top condition here).
The card stock they were printed on alternated from series to series from a white cream color to gray. Topps used two printing companies during the production process to make sure the series were distributed on time and the gray stock was cheaper. Series 5 had three different back colors with a brighter white color back popping up on some numbers in addition to the cream and gray-colored backs. Sixty-six fifth series cards were printed with either white or gray backs, something not lost on those who put ‘master sets’ together.
You will find the font used to spell out the player’s name to be in alternating colors that included green, yellow, light green, orange, blue, red, black, pink, and light blue. There was also a wide variety in the background colors of the action photo on the front.
Backs of the 1960 Topps cards contain a ‘Season Highlights’ section on the lower left, with information about what the player did at the major or minor league level in 1959. To the right, is the cartoon that was so familiar on the back of Topps cards for so many years. The top includes a short player bio, his stats from the ’59 season along with career totals (no full season-by-season log). The cards are numbered in the upper left.
1960 Topps is short on high value rookie cards but you will find a couple of Hall of Famers. Carl Yastrzemski, after abandoning his Notre Dame baseball career for pro ball, makes his debut on #148, although he wouldn’t see big league action until 1961. Yaz was part of the Rookie Prospect subset that starts with card #117 and ends with him. He would be a Topps mainstay through part of the 1980s.
Willie McCovey, who had made his debut in 1959, gets card #316 on the Topps All-Rookie Team, which are numbered 385-391. Jim Kaat’s rookie card is also in the All-Rookie series.
Bob Gibson’s second Topps card is here, too. A PSA Mint 9 #73 Gibson sold for $2,947 in 2014.
The 1960 Topps set begins with 1959 A.L. Cy Young Award winner Early Wynn in the number 1 spot. Often hard to find in high-grade as the top card in so many stacks and boxes, you’ll pay $200-300 for a graded, NM/MT example.
As with most 1950s and 60s card sets, the most valuable card in the set is Mickey Mantle, who was #350. A Mantle card with some mild corner wear but no creases can usually be found for around $200. A PSA 6 (EX/MT) will run $275-325 with costs going up substantially at the higher levels. Sales of PSA 9s have been in the $8,000-$9,000 range.
Coaches get their floating heads on a special set that, sadly, didn’t last. They do include some well-known names and take over cards numbered 455-470.
Topps again used dual player cards as part of the set including #160, which features the Yankees’ Mantle and the Cardinals’ Ken Boyer as “Rival All-Stars” and #, the #7 “Master and Mentor” card which features Bill Rigney and Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants.
The most difficult card to find for those who like graded—or even just high-grade raw cards—is #451 Curt Simmons. PSA has awarded only one 9 over the years and just 33 reside in an ‘8’ holder.
Among the other tough common cards to find in high-grade are #19 Felix Mantilla, #21 Dutch Dotterer, #27 Dick Drott, #53 Tom Morgan, #78 Bob Grim, #102 Kent Hadley, #112 Jack Harshman, #116 Jim Rivera, #237 Elmer Valo, #446 Ellis Burton and #489 Steve Ridzik. Overall, cards from Series 1 appear much more difficult to locate in higher grades.
There were a couple of errors made. #346 J.C. Martin actually pictures teammate Gary Peters while the Peters card (#407) is actually Martin. The error wasn’t corrected but on card #58 of Gino Cimoli, you will find versions that have him with either a Cardinals or Pirates logo on the front. Lew Burdette’s card uses the “Lou” spelling on the front and back.
Prices for complete sets vary greatly based on condition. You can land a mid-grade set for $600-$1,000 but expect to pay $4,000 or more for a set that leans more toward EX/NM and better and $5,000-$10,000 or more for a set featuring some graded cards and a NM/MT ungraded balance.
In addition to the retail packaging options mentioned at the beginning, Topps issued vending boxes. A surviving unopened box from the third series sold for over $11,000 via Mile High Card Company in 2014.
You can see 1960 Topps cards on eBay here.
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