Baseball was covered religiously in newspapers during the 1950s and ’60s, with eye-popping headlines and black-and-white photographs of players in action.
That was the template for the 1961 Nu-Card Baseball Scoops set, which was a smaller version of the 1960 Nu-Card Baseball Hi-Lites. Scoops cards measure 2½ inches by 3½ inches, which were the same measurements for Topps and Fleer cards of the era. The 1960 Nu-Card set measures 3¼ inches by 5 3/8 inches.
Boxes held 24 packs. Each pack held seven cards for the modest price of a nickel.
In 2017, Mile High Card Company sold a nearly complete box (23 of 24 packs) that was part of its famous Tennessee “Beer Box” find. Last year, Heritage Auctions offered a complete box with all 24 packs. It sold for $4,440.
The Scoops set included 80 cards, but curiously opened the set at No. 401 and closed at No. 480.
The layout is very similar to a tabloid newspaper. The vertical design on the card has a two-deck headline in red, with large black-and-white photographs of the players. One exception is card No. 434 of Bill Dickey, which looks like a pencil drawing of the Hall of Fame catcher. The cards honored players from the past and present, the game’s greats and players that caught lightning in a bottle.
Above the headline was a “Baseball Scoops” banner — baseballs replaced the two O’s in “Scoops.” The card number was in a box in the top left-hand corner of the card, while the newspaper “Extra” invitation was in the top right-hand corner. A three-star edition, no less.
The card back is horizontal, with the “Baseball Scoops” banner across the top middle of the card. Like the front, the card number is in the upper-left top of the card and “Extra” is on the top right.
The headline stretches beneath the banner, and there are a few paragraphs—generally two or three — describing the player’s particular great moment.
As Fresh as the Day’s Headlines (Well, Some Were)
In addition to great moments from the past, the 1961 set highlights action from 1960. No. 403, for example, focuses on Bill Mazeroski’s home run that gave the Pittsburgh Pirates a dramatic Game 7 victory in the World Series. No. 416 documents Roger Maris edging teammate Mickey Mantle for the 1960 Most Valuable Player award in the American League–a card that seems like it ought to be worth a lot more than the going rate.
Card No. 14 pictures Gene Autry under the headline that the American League was expanding to 10 teams for the 1961 season. Autry’s Angels were one of the new franchises. And card No. 415 celebrates Bobby Richardson’s 1960 World Series performance, when he was named the Fall Classic’s MVP.
But most of the cards in the set honor the game’s biggest names—Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Cy Young and Mantle.
Some of the set highlights include card No. 422, which reports on Mantle’s long home run at Griffith Stadium in April 1953, and No. 447, which examines Babe Ruth’s 60th home run in 1927.
Like a tabloid, the Nu-Card Scoops can sometimes show bias. That is evident with the headline for card No. 464, which reads, “Ump’s Wrong Call Helps Dodgers.” That is a reference to a play at first base in Game 5 of the 1952 World Series, and it’s among the more challenging cards to find.
Other tough pulls include the first card in the set. No. 401, “Gentile Blasts Birds Into First,” “Hodges Hits 4 Home Runs in Nite Game” (No. 441) and “New York Wins 26 Straight Games” (No. 456).
Sometimes the photos don’t match the event. Card No. 404 reads, “Willie Mays 3 Triples Paces Giants Victory” from a Sept. 15, 1960, game. The Giants were in San Francisco by then, the photo shows Mays decked out in a New York Giants uniform.
While color variances in the card stock do exist, there were some unauthorized reprints made, so if you see some cards with extremely white borders and pictures that don’t look quite as sharp as you’d expect, it might be best to stay away, especially if they’re also extremely cheap.
There have been 10,932 cards from the set that have been sent to PSA for grading. Of those cards, 468 have been graded gem-mint, with 2,968 designated at PSA 9. By far, the most commonly graded cards are PSA 8s, with 4,670. SGC has graded 1,238 with only 30 10s and 238 rating mint 9.
Eleven cards have no 10s on PSA’s extensive pop report: Nos. 414 (A.L. Votes to Expand to 10 Teams), 417 (Merkle Pulls Boner), 441 (Hodges Hits 4 Home Runs in Nite Game), 442 (Greenberg Returns to Tigers From Army), 445 (Rizzuto’s 2 Runs Save First Place), 461 (Yanks Champs Again!), 464 (Ump’s Wrong Call Helps Dodgers), 468 (Colavito Hits Four Homers in One Game), 470 (Sal Maglie Pitches No-Hit Game), 475 (Owen Drops 3rd Strike), and 479 (Hubbell Strikes Out 5 A.L. Stars).
The card with the most PSA 10s is No. 448 – “Cy Young Honored.”
There are also 141 autographed cards that received a grade from PSA.
Meanwhile, the highest price fetched for a PSA 10 card is $4,050, which was paid for No. 422 (Mickey Mantle Hits Longest Homer). Card No. 477 — Christy Mathewson Pitches 3 World Series Shutouts — was No. 2 in price at $1,794.38. Mantle rounds out the top 3, as No. 450 (Mantle Hits Longest Homer at Stadium), sold for $1,424.99.
The 1961 Nu-Card Scoops set is quirky but an interesting mix and prices for most cards are very modest today. The past meets the present in an issue that dates to a newsworthy time in baseball and there is plenty of information for baseball fans to digest. The set truly was a mini-newspaper.