The 1965 Topps Set: The “Empire” Strikes Back

You can criticize Topps for many things, but lack of imagination isn’t one of them. Though they controlled a virtual monopoly in the national baseball card market following Bowman’s demise in 1955, Topps never stopped searching for new ways to deliver their product, but not all of them were home runs. The 1964 series was a disappointment for many collectors. They said the cards were simple and boring, that there weren’t any good rookie cards and the orange backs just seemed out of place. In short, the set just lacked pizzazz. And then came the 1965 Topps set! Topps broke out the Crayolas to deliver one of the most enticing and colorful collections in the company’s history. With sharp photographic displays, most set against a bright blue sky, surrounded by boldly pigmented frames of various colors, the 1965 Topps set became an instant hit that has withstood the test of time as one of the most beloved collections of the decade.

This Set Has It All!

For the first time since the 1957 collection, the 598-card ’65 set featured a great selection of rookie cards with Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Steve Carlton as well as short-printed cards of Catfish Hunter and Tony Perez leading the way. The debut card featuring Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese player in the majors, added an international flair while star pitchers Luis Tiant, Denny McLain and Tug McGraw also making their first appearances. For the third straight year, the set opens with American and National League Leaders cards and includes World Series Highlights cards from #132-139. Of course, the key cards in the set are Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose and Sandy Koufax, all of which are among their priciest cards in high-grade. Speaking of which, the set is tough but possible to assemble at or near of the top of PSA’s grading scale with only 1,332 cards have graded PSA 10 or about one out of every 150 submissions, and just over 11% of all submissions have received a MINT grade. Several significant Hall of Fame issues have yet to find their way to the PSA 10 level, including 50 Marichal, 160 Clemente, 300 Koufax, 330 Ford, 350 Mantle and 400 Killebrew. And that leads us to one of the most amazing post-war sets ever assembled.

Mile High Card Company to Offer 1965 Topps Set Ranked #1 All-Time on the PSA Set Registry in MHCC’s March Auction.

At an overall GPA of approximately 9.85, the 1965 Topps Set featured in MHCC’s March auction is well over a half-point ahead of its next closest challenger. There are 211 cards graded GEM MINT; that’s almost 16% of all existing GEM MINT specimens. Key cards to earn PSA’s top grade include #1 AL Batting Ldrs., 5 AL RBI Ldrs., 6 NL RBI Ldrs., 10 NL Pitching Ldrs., 12 NL Strikeout Ldrs., 95 Mazeroski, 155 Maris, 187 Stengel, 193 Perry, 205 Spahn, 377 Stargell, 500 Mathews, 513 Yankees Team and 540 Brock. Every other card is graded PSA 9. For high-grade set-builders, this is a golden opportunity to raise your set rating because this set is being offered two ways; in its entirety as well as individual lots, with the final sale determined by the greater total of the set versus the sum of the lots.

Jackie Robinson: A Man For All Time

Jackie Robinson Signed Ball

William Shakespeare once said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” It can be said that Brooklyn Dodgers infielder Jackie Robinson experienced all three. While Robinson’s career numbers don’t place him in the company of a Ruth, Gehrig or Cobb, his contribution to the history of baseball, as well as that of American society, makes him one of the most important figures of the 20th century. Baseball has always been considered an American institution, one that holds sacred its storied traditions and doesn’t take kindly to change. And with racial segregation dominating the climate of the time, it was a bold and daring move for Dodgers owner Branch Rickey to choose that moment to sign two black players, Robinson and pitcher Johnny Wright, and assign them to the class AAA Montreal Royals. Robinson quickly displayed the kind of superior talent that was major league material, but was that enough?

Why Jackie Robinson?

1947 I'm Rooting For Jackie Robinson Pin White Background PSA 7 NM

The answer, quite definitively, was no. There were black players in the Negro League with more talent and far more extensive accomplishments, but Rickey knew that performance alone wouldn’t break a color barrier that had been in place for over 60 years. If there was going to be any chance of success, the man chosen to integrate baseball would have to have impeccable credentials off the field as well as on the diamond with the temperament to absorb the wrangling of racist hatred and abuse while armed with nothing more than a smile and his ability to play the game. Jackie was that man. A multi-sport star athlete at UCLA who served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army, Robinson was educated, well-spoken, and an honorably discharged Army officer. He was a man of integrity and, most importantly, was willing stand up for a cause he believed in. His message was clear – “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

 

The Post-Robinson Era of Baseball 

Jackie Robinson Signed Dodgers Photograph PSA/DNA AuthenticStarting his major league career at the advanced age of 28, Robinson played only ten seasons from 1947 – 1956, all of them for the Brooklyn Dodgers. During that time, the Dodgers played in six World Series and Robinson was selected to play in six All-Star games. His career marked the beginning of the “post long-ball” era that saw the strategy of raw power give way to a more balanced attack that included speed and superior base running. Robinson was one of only two players during his career to accumulate at least 125

Leaf Jackie Robinson SGC 84

steals while registering a slugging percentage over  .425. More importantly, Robinson’s career made possible the rise of fellow teammates Don Newcombe, Jim Gilliam, Joe Black and Roy Campanella as well as baseball legends Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and those who would follow.

The Finest Known Jackie Robinson Single-Signed Baseball Comes to MHCC December Auction

It has to be seen to be believed! When this ball arrived in the MHCC office, we were amazed at how incredibly clean and bold the signature projects, virtually perfect and easily the best known to exist. Sporting the customary “Best Wishes” greeting and side panel placement, a trademark of the Hall of Famer, the ball has been giving a triple authentication from JSA, SGC and PSA/DNA, the latter two grading the ball at MINT 9. Simply put, it is virtual perfection! The ball will be featured in the Mile High Card Company catalog auction, beginning on Monday, Nov 20th and concluding on Thursday, Dec 7th.

1946 Jackie Robinson Type I Original News PhotoJackie Robinson Signed Check

Walter Johnson: A Legend Well Ahead of His Time

There’s no need to wonder how a power pitcher like Nolan Ryan or Bob Feller would have fared in the dead ball era of the early 1900s, because they were there. So was Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg and Aroldis Chapman. Each one of these ace hurlers dominated the early days of baseball, but they did so under the name Walter Johnson. Nicknamed “The Big Train” because a train was the fasting thing people knew of to move from one place to another at the time, Johnson’s unprecedented sidearm fastball baffled even the most iconic baseball immortals of his day.

“We couldn’t touch him …”

There weren’t many times in his 24 year career that Ty Cobb was overmatched at the plate, and far fewer that the surly “Georgia Peach’ would actually admit to. But mention the name Walter Johnson and you’d see a rare emotion from Cobb … humility. “The first time I faced him, I watched him take that easy windup. And then something went past me that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger,” said Cobb. “We couldn’t touch him … every one of us knew we’d met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park.” Johnson’s dominance can be traced back to high school. As a member of Fullerton Union High School, he struck out 27 batters during a 15-inning game. Discovered while playing in the Idaho State League, the scout that signed him said of the 19-year old pitcher, “He throws so fast you can’t see ’em, and he knows where he’s throwing because if he didn’t there would be dead bodies strewn all over Idaho.” Once he developed a curveball, “The Big Train” became a runaway train, leading the league in wins for four consecutive seasons while topping the strikeout board eight straight times and twelve in all.

Game-Used Walter Johnson Bat Offered in MHCC March Auction

With a body of work that includes the all-time record for shutouts with 110, second all-time in wins with 417 and a career record in strikeouts that lasted for nearly 56 years, Walter Johnson is not only considered by many to be the greatest pitcher of his day but the greatest pitcher in baseball history. As incredible as his accomplishments were on the mound, he was remarkably skilled at the plate. A lifetime .235 hitter with 24 home runs, Johnson was called upon to pinch hit over 100 times in his career and, at age 37, batted .433 with two homers and 20 RBI in just 97 at-bats. Mile High Card Company is proud to offer a game-used Walter Johnson Louisville Slugger bat in the upcoming March auction, one of only three known to exist, authenticated and graded GU8 by PSA/DNA. Also available is the most significant card issue of Johnson ever produced; his absolutely stunning T204 Ramly card that rates as one of the highest ever graded at SGC 80 EX/MT+ 6.5. Both items are among the finest of a variety of high-profile items featured in the MHCC auction, which runs from February 20th through March 9th.

One Week Left in Mile High Card Company May Auction: 1952 Topps Mantle PSA 6.5 Reaches $165,000

Mile High Card Company’s May auction has just one week to go and the event’s headliner; a 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle PSA 6.5, has already shattered the previous record price. “Oh, there’s still a long way to go for that ’52 Mantle” said MHCC President and CEO Brian Drent, “It’s the most spectacular example you’ll ever see at this grade and we anticipate a real battle in extended bidding. The card looks like a PSA 8!” The auction opened on April 18th and the ’52 Mantle quickly shot past the $100,000 mark within 2 hours, inclusive of the buyer’s premium.

Along with the Mantle, the 1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente rookie card remains the hottest commodity in the baseball card world with MHCC offering a pair of PSA 8’s that are currently $63,979 each. Other key items include a 1902-11 Sporting Life W600 Honus Wagner SGC 50 VG/EX 4 that is presently bid to $33,061, 1914 Cracker Jack #30 Ty Cobb PSA 8 NM/MT at $60,979, 1952 Topps #261 Willie Mays PSA 8 NM/MT at $32,922, 1965 Topps #350 Mickey Mantle PSA 9 MINT at $24,031 and 1984-85 Star #101 Michael Jordan BGS 9 MINT at $36,034.

Other lots expected to see strong bidding are near complete T-206 and 1933 Goudey sets, a 1934 New York Yankees Team-Signed Baseball with (24) Signatures featuring Ruth and Gehrig, and several unopened wax and rack pack football and hockey cases from the 1970s and 1980s. Several PSA Set Registry rated sets are receiving significant interest, with a link to each provided on our website to give bidders an opportunity to seethe grades and population of each individual card in the set.

Bidding continues through Thursday, May 5th. Initial bids must be placed by 9PM EST on Thursday to qualify for extended bidding on that lot. All registered bidders can place bids by telephone or online. If you are not registered to bid with MHCC and want to participate in the auction, you can visit our website at www.milehighcardco.com to register or call our office at (303) 840-2784.

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The 1961 Topps Baseball Set – Nothing But Meat and Potatoes!

PSA Registry #2 Ranked Set in MHCC March Auction

61t300mantle9783It was just 3 weeks into the start of a new year and America was inaugurating John F. Kennedy as its 35th President. World War II was long behind us but a new threat emerged from its aftermath, one that would leave our nation on edge for decades and change the culture of our society. In a time marked by unrest and uncertainty, the Topps Company released a 1961 baseball set that brought order to chaos.

Gone were the wild color schemes of the 1958 and 1959 sets as well as the horizontal format of the 1960 collection. The 1961 Topps baseball set eliminated all of the gimmicky bells and whistles, offering a straightforward, no-nonsense format with brilliant color photos and rectangular name and team plates at the bottom. In addition to the usual lineup of superstars, Topps expanded their arsenal of star power with league leader cards, a “Baseball Thrills” subset that featured Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, a Most Valuable Player series and the high-numbered All-Star cards. While many collectors believe the 1961 set to be too conservative, sedate or just plain dull, it’s ample selection of Hall of Fame rookie cards (Ron Santo, Juan Marichal, and Billy Williams) and popularity of the Mantle and Maris cards due to “The Chase” has made the 1961 Topps baseball set a true classic!

It’s tougher than you think!

61t563cerv9973 61t484aaronmvp10871Many collectors are under the impression that the 1961 Topps set is the “easy” one to assemble in high-grade versus other sets of the decade. That might be true when compared to the troublesome 1962 and 1963 sets and their pesky colored edges, but statistics show that just over 6% of all 1961 Topps submissions have earned a grade of PSA 9 and only 0.24% (561 cards total) can claim GEM MINT PSA 10 status, making the 1961 Topps set tougher in elite grade than every Topps set from 1964 through 1969. Much of that is due to the higher number series (#523-589), among the toughest to complete of all Topps sets, which boasts many single pop PSA 9s and “one of one” PSA 10s.

 

1961 Topps Complete Set #2 On PSA Set Registry with Incredible 9.02 GPA

Presented for bidding, as a complete set as well as individual lots with the final sale going to whichever total (the set versus the sum of the individual lots) is higher, is truly a marvel in set assembly, ranked #2 on the PSA Set Registry with an astonishing overall GPA of 9.023. Of the 561 recorded PSA 10s, 24 are offered here, including the one and only PSA 10 specimens of #186 Valo, 255 Power, 405 Gehrig Benched, 438 Flood, 491 Phillies Team and 581 Frank Robinson All-Star. Other important PSA 10s are #260 Drysdale, 443 Snider and 484 Aaron MVP. Card #2 Maris, 150 Mays, 300 Mantle, 475 Mantle MVP, 559 Gentile, 563 Cerv, 578 Mantle All-Star and 579 Mays All-Star are all graded PSA 9 with just 15 cards in the entire collection graded lower. For a complete breakdown of cards and grades in this set, please visit our website for a link to the PSA Set Registry.
The auction opened for bidding on Monday, March 2nd and will conclude on Thursday, March 19th. All auction items are now available at our website, www.milehighcardco.com. MHCC is actively accepting consignments for our June auction, please call us at (303) 840-2784 to discuss any items you wish to consign or visit us in Philadelphia (March 6th – 8th) or Chicago (March 20th- 22nd) to drop off any consignment items and pick up a catalog for the current auction.

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Astonishing 1916 M101-4 Sporting News Babe Ruth rookie card to be sold in Mile High Card Company March 2015 Auction

As we stand at the cusp of a new baseball season, Mile High Card Company is set to commence with the Spring Auction, which begins on March 2nd and concludes on March 19th. The auction preview will be available Friday, February 27th. Keeping in line with MHCC’s sterling reputation for offering the best in sports cards and memorabilia known to exist, this auction promises to feature many unique, rare and historically significant items. Headlining the auction, one of many items that would serve as the cornerstone to any world-class collection, is an SGC 60 EX 5 graded 1916 M101-4 Sporting News card of Babe Ruth.

m101-4 Babe Ruth Rookie cardThe most important rookie card ever produced!

While the legendary T206 Honus Wagner card and a handful of other illustrious pasteboards may eclipse the Ruth rookie card in both rarity and value, the premier appearance of “The Bambino,” pictured as a lanky Red Sox pitcher, provides an ironic contrast to the rotund slugger who posted unprecedented offensive numbers while wearing the pinstripes of New York just a few years later. Unlike baseball cards that were produced exclusively by tobacco, gum, or candy companies, the Sporting News collection was the creation of Chicago-based printer Felix Mendelsohn, who contracted with several companies to distribute cards with blank backs so his clients could add their own advertising and create a “collectible business card.” Thus, the Ruth rookie card is thought to exist with no less than 16 different reverses though the Sporting News example is the most widely coveted by collectors.

George Herman “Babe” Ruth … pitching ace!

After posting a 22-9 record with a 2.39 ERA for the minor league Baltimore Orioles in 1914, Ruth’s contract was purchased by the Boston Red Sox. From 1915-1917, Ruth was one of the best pitchers in the game with a combined 65-33 record and an astonishing 2.01 ERA, leading the American League at 1.75 in 1916. But Ruth’s prowess as a hitter was becoming more evident, and with his desire for more playing time, the Red Sox began transitioning Ruth to the outfield in 1918, cutting his starts on the mound in half and giving him more opportunities at the plate. Ruth proved that he could be dominant at both by posting a 13-7 record with a 2.22 ERA while also batting .300 and leading the American League in home runs in just 317 at-bats. In 1919, Ruth’s time on the mound was scaled back even more but he still posted a 9-5 record, though his ERA rose sharply to 2.97. More importantly, his 432 at-bats yielded 29 homers, 113 RBI and 103 run scored, all league-leaders.

Traded to Chica … uh, New York.

“The Babe” almost wasn’t a Yankee! When Red Sox owner Harry Frazee made it public that he was willing to part with his greatest asset, the Chicago White Sox offered star outfielder Joe Jackson and $60,000 cash for Ruth’s services. Wary of the ongoing investigation into the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal and the potential consequences to “Shoeless Joe,” Frazee was delighted when the New York Yankees entered the bidding with a cash offer of $100,000 and Babe Ruth was sent to New York. Manager Miller Huggins immediately put an end to George Herman Ruth’s pitching career and made him a full-time outfielder. Had the White Sox been successful, instead of Ruth becoming the savior to restore baseball’s integrity, he would’ve worn the cap of the team that destroyed it and likely become just another name among the greats and taking the sport of baseball on a very different path.

 

m101-4 babe ruth rookieOffered is one of the most stunning, mid-grade M101-4 Sporting News Babe Ruth rookie cards in existence!

The featured item would be at home in a world-class museum or on exhibit at Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame just as easily as it will be in the collection of the highest bidder. Though graded SGC 60 EX 5, an extraordinary accomplishment on its own, this prolific pasteboard is likely the most impressive specimen for the grade and has a stronger overall appearance then several graded even higher that have recently become available. Any collector that has been in the market for a mid to upper-grade Ruth rookie card is well aware of the two biggest pitfalls plaguing the issue; centering and print lines. The M101-4 Ruth is almost always poorly centered, but the featured specimen offers superior framing for the issue, slightly positioned toward the left side but well within parameters for a higher grade and far more accurate than the large majority of examples in the EX grade. Even more significant is the absence of the two horizontal print lines that appear on virtually every M101-4 Ruth, clearly scarring the surface from the center to the right edge near the top of Ruth’s image and in the middle, by Ruth’s waist. Many prospective buyers think these imperfections to be unavoidable at this grade level, but we’re happy to report that this card proves that to be false. The image quality of the young, lanky legend is superb, enhanced by an unadulterated layer of reflective gloss, while each corner shows consistent, mild wear with light enamel loss that is visible under magnification but looks less pronounced to the naked eye. The Sporting News ad on the reverse is surprisingly strong and well-preserved, ably positioned on an off-white canvas that is clean save for the light mark under the “C. C. Spinks & Son” name, a negligible blemish considering its placement on the card and a likely reason the SGC grade isn’t higher … which, of course, would greatly increase the price. We advise you to research prices realized for this card in similar grade, then look at those cards and compare it to what you’ll be getting here. We did, and there was no comparison; this one is superior … hands down!

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