Consigned by a collector in South America, a collection of rare, high-grade cards from decades ago is making its debut this month. Heritage Auctions is offering 117 lots of 1959-1968 Venezuela Topps baseball cards, including top notch examples of some of the Hall of Famers contained in the sets that were issued through a Topps’ partnership with South American printing company Benco beginning 64 years ago.
With over 1,200 cards in all, it’s the most expensive higher grade collection of Topps Venezuela cards
Seizing upon the surge in baseball’s popularity in the post-World War era and the emergence of Latin Major League stars, Topps began marketing cards to Spanish speaking countries. Today, they’re rare, with most examples typically in rough condition. The group coming to auction bucks that long standing trend.
The first Venezuelan issue mirrored the first two series of their 1959 Topps set (cards #1-198) but in limited quantities exclusively within South America. Topps conducted this decade-long venture, culminating with their 1968 Venezuelan series. The run ultimately yielded some of the rarest and most sought-after baseball cards in the company’s history.
While similar to Topps’ regular cards, the Venezuelan issues were distinguished by their unmistakably inferior cardstock and print quality. The lack of a glossy finish and the coarse texture of inexpensive cardboard contributed to condition issues, making it a challenge to find these cards in anything close to pristine condition. Coupled with their limited production, distribution in foreign markets, and the tradition of collectors in the market area adhering these cards into albums created for them, the Venezuelan cards present a host of challenges. PSA has never assigned a “GEM MINT” 10 rating to any Venezuelan Topps card.
However, earlier this summer a single-owner collection presented itself to Heritage, one that included some cards that would become the highest-graded examples known to exist, including a 1959 Mickey Mantle (PSA 5), a 1960 Carl Yastrzemski rookie card (PSA 5.5), a 1964 Ernie Banks (PSA 8) and ’64 Mantle (PSA 6).
According to Heritage, the collection “is the result of decades of unwavering dedication to collecting.”
Some of the later Venezuelan issues include players who never appeared on an MLB card. Others, like Dave Concepcion, made their debut on Topps Venezuelan cards before they actually showed up on a US-issued Topps rookie card. The ’67 Veneuzelan Concepcion, graded 6, is one lot in the auction. The ’67 Venezuelan set also included a group of “Retirado” (retired) players like Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial and Sandy Koufax, who had just called it quits after the 1966 season.
Other cards in the auction include a PSA 8 1967 Mantle, a PSA 7 1967 Mantle, a PSA 6 1968 Johnny Bench rookie, a PSA 5 1964 Pete Rose, a PSA 6 1964 Willie Mays, a PSA 4 1964 Hank Aaron and other cards of Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Roger Maris and other stars and Hall of Famers of the era.
Bidding in the Heritage Fall Sports Collectibles Auction is set to close Nov. 16.