Bazooka began issuing cards on its boxes of gum beginning with its 1959 set. But in 1963, the Bazooka All-Time Greats baseball set moved away from a panel discussion.
Topps had been putting cards on the back panels of Bazooka boxes, but the All-Time Greats set was the only one to be inserted inside the boxes of gum.
Issued at the same time as its regular 1963 Bazooka set that featured current players, the ATG set was sort of a preview of Bazooka’s last set in 1969-70 when past greats were used for a “Baseball Extra” set. Then, however, the cards were on the outside of the box.
The complete set of ’63 All-Time Greats contains 41 players, and as the set name implies, all were greats — Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson are some of the big names that highlighted the checklist.
1963 Bazooka All-Time Greats Design
Every specially marked box of gum had five cards, measuring 1 9/16 inches by 2½ inches. The card fronts showed each player in a mug shot or floating head format in black and white, with the banner “All-Time Greats” across the top of the card. The player’s name was situated underneath the mug shot in capital block letters, while his team and position was located directly beneath it. The background around the player’s face consists of gold foil, but there are rarer, more expensive versions in silver. Alongside the photograph are golden leaves.
The checklist is focused on players from the pre-World War II era. It was a little sad to see the use of a photo of Ruth clearly taken during the final months of his life when cancer had taken its toll on the once robust Babe’s appearance.
Grover Cleveland Alexander’s nickname of “Pete” is used as his first name on the card front, rather than the pitcher’s formal name. Because of the small size of the card, it was probably decided that his full name was too large for the space allotted at the bottom of the card.
The backs have the card number in white, set against a black circle. The player’s name is adorned in large block letters to the right of the number, with his position and team directly underneath. The player’s birthdate and birthplace also are included; the text is set against a gold background on those with a gold front but there’s no gold on the back of the silver colored cards.
A long paragraph extolling the achievements of each player take up most of the card back.
Pricing and Grading
What’s interesting about this set is that although it was issued 54 years ago, it still is relatively affordable to assemble, even in top condition. But that’s the catch—of the 2,341 cards submitted to PSA for grading, only six have been awarded a grade of Gem Mint 10 — Johnson (silver), Herb Pennock, Willie Keeler, Rogers Hornsby (gold and silver versions) and Hugh Duffy (silver). However, 116 of the cards have earned PSA 9 grades and there are 750 verified PSA 8s.
The number is even lower at SGC, with none of the 756 submissions grading at 98. There are 12 that came in at SGC 96 and 11 at SGC 94.
The gold foil does tend to scratch easily which likely affects the grading of many otherwise solid cards.
The most coveted cards in the set, at least in terms of value, are those of Ruth, Cobb and Gehrig. Mathewson, Young and Johnson are in the next level of value to collectors.
Most 1963 Bazooka All-Time Greats are affordable, particularly for collectors who are not overly grade sensitive. The silver cards generally will command twice of what the gold tint cards fetch. Except for Ruth and Lou Gehrig, even most NM/MT graded examples of the top names still fetch no more than $100 (you can see about 200 for sale and auction here).