If you like your sets easy to complete, inexpensive and packed with star power, you’ll get a kick out of the 1969 Topps Deckle Edge set.
If you like your cards well centered and near perfect, you may wind up with a long-lasting headache.
While the astronauts soared toward the moon and back, Topps was going old school with one of its insert sets. The company created a black-and-white bonus card for some wax packs that featured a ‘deckle’ or ‘scalloped’ edge, similar to what you’d find on old photographs. Measuring smaller than a regular issue card at 2 1/4″ by 3 1/4″, the deckle cards were made to look and feel like a snapshot. A facsimile autograph adorned the front. The back contained only the player’s name and a designation number (“No. 3 of 33 photos”).
As summer went on, though, it was clear that there were actually more than 33 cards to locate. Card #11 was Jim Wynn. Or was it Hoyt Wilhelm? Actually, it was both. Each player shared #11 but Wynn, the Houston Astros’ young “Toy Cannon” was harder to find. #22 was Rusty Staub. At least until Joy Foy cards started popping out of packs with the same number. Foy is the harder of the two to find these days.
Back then, few people noticed how imperfect the cards were. Now, high-grade collectors are finding the 1969 Deckle Edge set to be perhaps the toughest post-War insert set to complete.
The cards are often found to have less than perfect centering. Many are downright awful, mirroring similar problems with the regular issue Topps cards of that year. Collectors looking to have their Deckle Edge cards graded find that isn’t the only problem, however. It seems at least half of the cards didn’t take well to the printing process. Surface marks from the press are embedded lightly into the cards. It’s not easy to spot without turning the glossy photo at an angle in good light. The roller’s mark will instantly downgrade an otherwise NM/MT card to EX.
Beyond the centering issues and print impressions, the backs of the Deckle Edge cards are white and the cutting process has left many with chipping along the edges, another downgrade in the eyes of professional graders.
As a result of the myriad problems, mint condition 1969 Deckle Edge cards are virtually impossible to locate. Less than 2% of all of the cards graded by PSA from this set have reached a mint ‘9’ level. Only two sets on the PSA Set Registry have a rating over 8. Just 25 collectors have enough higher grade examples to have their sets listed.
The good news for vintage baseball card collectors is that if you’re not among the graded card crowd, the 1969 Topps Deckle set is highly affordable. Even solid EX-NM sets can be had for $85 and less. Mid-grade sets often grade at under $60. The two hard to get extra variations will set you back around $8-10 each and show up regularly online or in the stacks offered by dealers. There are ten Hall of Famers in the set, with Roberto Clemente usually the most expensive at $15-250 in ungraded EX-NM condition. Willie Mays, Pete Rose, Carl Yastrzemski and Brooks Robinson will generally cost $5-15 each.
The 1969 Topps Deckle Edge set is a throwback to the days of simple, quirky sets that popped up inside so many nickel wax packs.