More than 50 years after it was produced, the 1965 Philadelphia football set still has problems getting respect.
It had six rookies in its 198-card set who would become Hall of Famers, and for the first time, the NFL’s logo was placed on the front of the card. That was a pointed reminder that Philadelphia had the rights to produce NFL cards, and not Topps, who lost the contract to the upstart company in 1964. Wax packs cost a nickel, while cello packs were a dime apiece.
But Topps, thinking out of the box, came up with the unique “tall boy” set for its 1965 set of AFL-only players. Topps also had the good fortune to issue the rookie card of New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath — one of the most sought-after cards of the 1960s. Or any decade, for that matter.
So while the 1965 Philly set wasn’t flashy, it did reflect the image of the NFL — simple, uncluttered, and lots of blocks. It also was very similar in design to the debut set from 1964.
1965 Philadelphia Football Basics
1965 Philadelphia Gum football cards were sold in nickel wax packs and ten-cent cello packs.
The cards measured 2½ inches by 3½ inches and feature a large photograph of the player. Most of the shots were posed, but the players were not wearing their helmets. Beneath the photo are the player’s name, team and position in a black rectangular box. The coveted NFL logo sits at the bottom right.
The card backs were made of gray stock and had red print, including a red card border. The player’s name, team position, age, height and weight, years in the pros and college make up the top third of the card. A biographical paragraph, with white letters against a red background, takes up the middle. Or, where applicable, the players 1964 and lifetime statistics are used. The lower portion of the card had a scratch-off section, where collectors could rub a coin to produce a player’s picture. To get the answer, a collector was directed to view a different-numbered card. It was a subtle way for Philadelphia to encourage collectors to complete the set.
Of the four Philadelphia sets, the 1965 card backs are the most difficult to read. The red hue is not bright and tends to blend in with the gray background. The brown backs from the 1967 Philadelphia set are much more legible, for example.
Coaches, Rookies and Errors
For the second year in a row, the cards are numbered alphabetically by city name and then by the players’ names. Each team is represented in 14 cards — a team card and a play card that diagrams a successful play and features that team’s coach. That enables collectors to find cards of coaches such as Don Shula (No. 14), George Halas (No. 28), Tom Landry (No. 56) and Vince Lombardi (No. 84). The set wraps up with a pair of checklists.
The six rookies who would become Hall of Famers are Paul Warfield (No. 41), Mel Renfro (No. 53), Dick LeBeau (No. 64), Carl Eller (No. 105), Paul Krause (No. 189) and Charley Taylor (No. 195). Key veterans include future Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas (No. 12), Mike Ditka (No. 19), Jim Brown (No. 31), Bob Lilly (No. 47), Paul Hornung (No. 76) and Bart Starr (No. 81).
There are at least two uncorrected errors in the set. For the second straight year, Philadelphia spelled the last name of Dallas Cowboys cornerback as “Adderly.” Also, the first checklist (No. 197) has Merlin Olsen’s last name spelled as “Olson.”
Finding 1965 Philadelphia cards in high grade can be difficult, given the technology — or the primitive nature of it — during the mid-1960s. As with most cards of the 1960s, centering is a problem. The cardboard stock for the cards was thin, which led to more instances of fraying at the corners. It is also difficult to find cards that do not have the backs rubbed off by coins.
A total of 27,131 cards have been submitted to PSA for grading, and 140 have achieved gem-mint status. There are no PSA 10s of Unitas, Ditka, Brown, Lilly, Hornung or Starr. Of the six key rookies, there are two PSA 10s of Taylor out of 428 sent for grading. There is one PSA 10 for Warfield out of 583 cards submitted. There is also one of Eller out of 630 submissions, and one for Krause out of 335 candidates. None exist for Renfro or LeBeau.
Among the 1,912 cards sent to SGC for grading, only one card came back as high as a 98 — Green Bay receiver Boyd Dowler (No. 74).
Complete sets can usually be found in respectable condition for $700-$2,000 with the quality of the major Hall of Famers and rookie cards a key factor as always.
The 1965 Philadelphia football set may not have been as flashy or different as its counterpart at Topps, but it certainly had a solid lineup of players. The star power was much more prevalent in the NFL, and Philadelphia had a strong lineup to choose from.
You can see single cards, lots, sets and more on eBay by clicking here.