Among the rarest of Topps issues, the cards commonly referred to as 1966 Punchboards are not well known even among advanced collectors. Prior to issuing the larger and less scarce Punchouts set in 1967, Topps developed a precursor before redesigning it, probably after a failed original product test. Occasional singles would pop up in auctions during the 1990’s and a cursory checklist appeared in some of the major price guides in the years following, but the 1966 cards were poorly understood in the hobby, a situation that exists to this day.
The 1966 Punchboards came in two card panels, as manufactured, with small black & white portraits in the upper left and bottom right corners, with one oriented upside down to the other when connected, like a face card in a deck of playing cards. The middle of the panel has a dashed line and appears to be lightly scored to allow the game’s players to separate each discrete card. Small nubs appear on some borders and the panels were clearly connected in a larger construction at some point.
Once separated each player’s name is displayed prominently to the right of the photo, below which are his league and position information. This entire top portion of the card has a white background. Below this is a field of 35 yellow baseballs on a colored background which, of course, are meant to be punched out to play the game. These backgrounds are blue for the NL and red for the AL with each panel having one player from each league.
It is believed but not confirmed all cards were blank backed.
In addition an instruction card was included in each pack and is presumed to measure the same as a panel, about 2 ½” x 4 “. I’d love to say I know all of this firsthand but while my collection of Topps type cards is extensive, it does not include one of these so I must rely upon the observations of others.
Amazingly, a scan of a proposed box flat exists, featuring Mickey Mantle no less. A wrapper has not been seen but Rob Lifson of Robert Edward Auctions has seen one and describes it as “a normal standard fully-printed wrapper – not a blank white wax wrapper with a …. I had the top of the box also, which as I recall also pictured the same Mantle card.” So the wrapper is another Mantle piece!
Lifson goes on to state “It certainly was not a cello wrapper, but I’m not 100% sure it qualifies as a ‘wax’ wrapper though it may. It was printed on a strong paper stock. I remember that the wrapper appeared to have been ‘sealed’ with a piece of tape on the reverse – sort of like someone had actually just taped the pack shut by hand.”
The box flat identifies the Punchboards as a bubble gum product so it’s possible that the referenced tape may have also displayed the ingredients as similar types of seal are known on other test packs of this era, but that is unconfirmed.
I published a study of the set on my blog (www.toppsarchives.blogspot.com) in December 2008 which recapped the nine known panels plus half of a tenth, or 19 subjects. The checklist now stands at 14 panels/28 subjects; I was contacted by a collector after my original post appeared, who sent scans of five additional panels and the instruction card in June of 2009, all of which he had inherited. His cache is likely the largest in the hobby and since owning a mere single would be a capstone to anyone’s collection, quite impressive.
This is the checklist as known today:
|NL Player||AL Player||NL Position||AL Position||NL Team||AL Team|
|Mays||T. Conigliaro||OF||OF||Giants||Red Sox|
Frank Robinson has an airbrushed, blank cap (traded from the Reds to the Orioles on December 9, 1965) but Joe Torre is wearing a Milwaukee cap in his photo. With the Braves involved in litigation concerning their pending 1966 move to Atlanta, Topps may have decided to just leave the M on Torre’s cap but all of this dates the cards definitively to 1966, although they were probably designed in late 1965.
You can plainly see that no more than two players are known at any position in either league, assuming each outfield position counts as two spots. Analysis of the above position distribution indicates an 18 panel/36 card set was likely planned, so there is easily enough room for representatives of the five currently missing teams. The big question of course is whether or not there are four more panels and eight more cards waiting to be found.
Five teams remain unaccounted for: one from the NL (Astros) and four junior circuit teams (Angels, Athletics, Indians & Senators). The Twins, participants in the 1965 World Series (along with the Dodgers), have four players in the known set while the Giants, Red Sox and Yankees have three apiece. The aforementioned Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox and Pirates all net two players and the remaining known teams have a sole member represented.
Many of the subjects on the checklist are represented by a single example; it’s doubtful more than three or four of each have survived and that could be on the high side. This may not be the rarest Topps baseball issue but it’s certainly close to that pinnacle.
Update: Topps has announced that it will include a Punch Outs element in its 2015 Heritage baseball cards.