Coming up zeros is not always a good thing — unless you were collecting Topps baseball cards during the 1960s. Cards that ended in double zero tended to be big-name stars, and while that also was the case for many Topps cards that ended in 50 — or in a few cases, the pivotal No. 1 card — there was something alluring about pulling a “00” out of a nickel pack of Topps.
From 1960 to 1969, there were 52 slots for double-zero cards — 10 each for 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500. The 1967 and ’69 products were the only sets of the decade to have 600 or more cards. Of those 52 slots, 36 were held by 17 different Hall of Famers. Let me back up — one of those slots was taken by Joe Torre, who was a player in the 1960s but entered the Hall of Fame based mostly on his managerial ability. So if you want to quibble, 35 slots were held by 16 men who were Hall of Famers based solely on their playing ability. It’s up to you.
There are three players who had the most double zeros during the 1960s, and their names should not be a surprise — Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays had four apiece. Aaron was card No. 100 in 1969, No. 300 in 1960 and ’64 and No. 500 in 1966. Mays had card No. 2oo in 1960 and ’67, No. 300 in 1962 and ’63. As an added bonus, Mays was card No. 1 in 1966 — the only player in the 1960s to have the first card in the set and double zero cards at another point in the decade, too. Of course, a lot of that had to do with Topps’ decisions to run a defending Cy Young Award winner (Early Wynn) in the 1960 set, defending league MVPs (Dick Groat and Roger Maris) in 1961-62, league leaders (1963-64-65, 1968-69) and World Series champion cards (1967) in the No. 1 spot.
Mantle had card No. 300 in the 1961 set, was No. 200 in 1962, No. 300 in 1963 and held down No. 500 in his final regular Topps issue in 1969. There is a white variation of Mantle’s last name in that 1969 card, which makes it extremely tough — and valuable.
In fact, both versions of Mantle’s 1969 card are extremely tough to find in high grade. Only one card of each version has graded a PSA 10. There are 994 white variations that have been submitted to PSA; in addition to the gem mint, there are only six that grade out at PSA 9 and 77 are PSA 8s.
Sandy Koufax, Frank Robinson and Warren Spahn had double zero cards three times during the 1960s. Koufax was card No. 100 in 1966, card No. 200 in 1964 and No. 300 in 1965. Robinson had card No. 100 in the 1967 set, No. 400 in the ’63 set, and No. 500 in 1968. Spahn held down double zeros in 1961 (200), 1962 (100) and 1964 (400).
Home Run Hitters and Relocation
Another Hall of Famer, Harmon Killebrew, was card No. 400 in 1965 and No. 500 in 1964. Eddie Mathews was card No. 500 in 1965 and followed it up with No. 20o in 1966, which turned out to be his final card as a player for the Braves. It’s notable that Topps had to airbrush Mathews’ hat, since the photo most likely was taken before the Braves relocated from Milwaukee to Atlanta. Mathews also had the presence of mind—or the Topps photographer did—to keep him hatless for his 1967 baseball card (No. 166). Mathews had been traded to the Houston Astros, but the card shows him wearing a Braves uniform (although the photo is strategically cropped).
Sometimes, Topps got lucky or was simply honoring a player for the previous year’s effort. Bob Gibson was card No. 100 in 1968, the Year of the Pitcher, and the year after he won three games in the 1967 World Series, and followed it up with card No. 2oo in the 1969 set. Orlando Cepeda, the 1967 National League MVP, was card No. 200 in 1968. Mike McCormick, the N.L. Cy Young Award winner in 1967, was rewarded with double zeros with card No. 400 in 1968. Don Drysdale, who adorns card No. 400 in the 1969 set, was coming off a season where he set a major-league record for consecutive shutout innings (58 2/3). Players who were MVPs the previous season, like Ken Boyer (card No. 100 in the 1965 set) and Zoilo Versalles (No. 300 in the 1966 set) got some notice, too.
By the way, the players holding down No. 600 during the 1960s were Brooks Robinson in 1967 and Tony Oliva in 1969.
Some of the more unusual choices at “00” — or, call it a “I didn’t expect him to have a double zero number”scenario — was Johnny Temple in 1960 (No. 100) and Joe Cunningham in 1963 (No. 300).
Topps continued the practice into the 1970s and ’80s with George Brett, Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver, Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew and Willie Stargell popping up on many of the “important” slots but some years turned out to be sort of hit and miss with the star label.
It’s all in the numbers, and during the 1960s, it was a big deal to be on a card that ended in double zeros.
You can see all of those 1960s “00” cards on eBay here.