America’s trading card maker loved to tinker.
Producing your standard baseball, football, basketball and hockey fare didn’t mean you didn’t try new things even when you had a virtual monopoly decades ago.
From stamps with albums to posters to glossy cards, they were always putting something extra into packs or trying out new things to pack with the stick of pink bubble gum. The 1969 Topps 4 in 1 Baseball Stickers were another test run. Packs were sold only in a few areas and apparently they didn’t fly because it was the last we’d hear of them.
When collectors of vintage cards think “1969 4-in-1” they’re usually focused on the football stamps that were an insert in packs of cards later that year. The 4-in-1 concept started with baseball, though.
The 25-card set includes mini versions of four players on a standard size card. The images were used are simply small versions of ’69 Topps cards taken from the second series.
There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to how the 100 unnumbered subjects were chosen. They were all from the second series so there are some popular players included. Mini Willie Mays is on one card; Tiny Carl Yastrzemski is on another. There’s one that features both Pete Rose and Hall of Famer Don Sutton. SOME of the World Series cards were included, but not all.
The 1969 4-in-1s appear to have been produced early in the year as catcher Clay Dalrymple is pictured as a member of the Phillies. In its regular ’69 card set, there are two versions of his card including an updated one that reflects his trade to the Baltimore Orioles on January 21.
The backs of the stickers are blank.
The wrappers that held the cards (three to a pack) are plain white but Topps slapped a sticker on it to act as a label. The cards are believed to have been offered in pack form in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and possibly a couple of other places. Wrappers are extremely scarce today.
Why were the product made? Maybe Topps was just testing the viability of selling baseball stickers with gum. Maybe they wanted to see how they’d hold up in the package since the stock was so thin. The actual reasons for the set have been lost to time.
Today, only a few thousand are believed to exist. PSA has graded just over 750 to this point, while SGC has seen only 60. Only seven have been graded Gem Mint 10 by PSA with 94 rating Mint 9. SGC has graded nothing higher than two as Mint 9s.
Considering their scarcity, the 1969 4-in-1s aren’t as pricey as you’d think. A PSA 7 Rose/Sutton sold for $392 in September. An ungraded version sold for $293 around that same time. Stickers that don’t have a Hall of Famer or popular star can still be had for $25-$40 each but you may have to be patient as they don’t come up all that often. With only 25 in the set, it’s a reasonable challenge to try and complete one. You can see what’s available on eBay here.
2013 Topps Archives paid tribute to the ’69 4-in-1s with current players featured. It was a good history lesson for those who didn’t remember or know about the originals and a treat for those who like the ones from 53 years ago.