Rarest of All Topps Test Issues: The 1961 Dice Game Series

1961 Topps Dice Game Bill White SGC 5 EXNever heard of it? That’s OK. Like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, cards from the 1961 Topps Dice Game test series are considered more urban legend than reality with the number of known specimens from the entire series coming in lower than that of the iconic T206 Honus Wagner card. In fact, the known population of each card can be counted on one hand. Most of what is known about this set is speculation, but it seems that having defeated the Bowman company for baseball card supremacy, Topps considered dabbling in a market that was dominated by the American Professional Baseball Association (APBA) and Strat-O-Matic board games introduced in the 1950s, producing an independent game which included black and white baseball cards reminiscent in design to cards produced by Leaf in 1960. Unlike the baseball card sets from 1952 to that point, this collection of 18 cards was to be sold as a set with a pair of dice and together were used to play a simulated baseball game. The reverse of each card is filled with numbers and baseball plays, outcomes determined when the card holder “called a pitch” and then rolled the dice. However, the concept didn’t get past the initial stage of development and the cards are so rudimentary that they don’t even have any trademark or copyright information to identify them as a Topps product. Some of the information on the reverse, specifically those related to baserunning, are crudely printed from handwritten originals, confirming how early in the process this test series was. It’s very possible that just a few complete sets were made so that test subjects could try playing the game to see if it was a marketable product. Some of these cards escaped the Topps factory from the files of Woody Gellman, an editor and art director at Topps for over 25 years. Examples have surfaced with staple holes, which could have been one or more of each in the set that was attached to a file card and locked away in the archives.

The Jewel of Mickey Mantle Cards, and 17 Others

Forget the 1951 Bowman rookie card or even the 1952 Topps issue; if you want the absolute rarest card of “The Commerce Comet” ever produced, it’s the 1961 Topps Dice Game Mantle. Just 2 are known to exist with a PSA 1 selling for $144,000 in May, 2018, seemingly a bargain with the astronomical prices realized on other Mantle cards over the past few years. Other great Hall of Famers, namely Mays, Drysdale, Kaline, Musial and the Robinsons, Brooks and Frank, are part of the 18-card series and each represents the single toughest card of their respective libraries. With one player from each position and the set evenly divided between American and National League, the 18-cards represent “all-star” teams. If the set sold well, the likely plan was to update and expand the collection in subsequent years, letting players custom tailor their lineups over time.

Mile High Card Company to Offer Newly Discovered Group of 1961 Topps Dice Game Cards – Each Fresh to the Hobby and the First Ever Graded!

The MHCC March Auction will offer five 1961 Topps Dice Game cards, each making their very first appearance to the hobby. “Several advanced collectors have taken on the task of trying to complete this amazingly elusive set, and years of searching for those white whales is about to pay off” said MHCC President and CEO Brian Drent. Not only are they the very first graded examples of Jim Davenport, Dick Groat, Bill Mazeroski, Norm Siebern and Bill White even seen by the general public, free from the staple holes mentioned earlier, it’s interesting to note that several of the cards have writing on the reverse that appear to be revisions to some of the dice-roll outcomes, as if the Topps used feedback from the test subjects to attempt to make the game more statistically realistic to actual outcomes. In virtually any other circumstance, writing on the card is a big liability to its value but in this case it’s a strength as it explains some previously unknown details of the collection’s very short life, which technically didn’t even get as far as to enter the test issue stage. Though we may never know the full story behind the ill-fated 1961 Topps Dice Game, what is true is that it is the rarest Topps product ever produced. The MHCC March auction begins on Monday, March 4th and closes Thursday, March 21st.

1961 Topps Dice Game Bill Mazeroski SGC 3 1961 Topps Dice Game Norm Siebern SGC 4 VG/EX
1961 Topps Dice Game Jim Davenport SGC 2 GOOD 1961 Topps Dice Game Dick Groat SGC 2 GOOD

The 1967 Topps Set: A Card Collector’s Dream

A decade after introducing “on field” shots for the 1957 collection, Topps returned to the baseball diamond for the 1967 set and created one of the most aesthetically pleasing and enigmatic assemblages ever produced. Offering the brightest and sharpest images to date, Topps decided to let the photo the focal point of the card by ditching the nameplates and moving a small player name and position combo to the top of the card and the colored team name to the bottom. Matching the clean image of the front is the bright green surface on the back, which alerts collectors to whether a raw card has top-grade potential. With significant rookie cards, a tough high-number series and a handful of quirky variations, the ‘67 Topps set provides plenty to challenge the high-grade set-builder.

The set features 609 cards, not exactly a convenient figure when producing 132-card sheets, with several cards either short-printed or double printed. Even more interesting was the decision to slightly change the format after the first series, adding a dot between the player’s name and their position for series two through six. And each card carries a facsimile signature; that is with one unexplained exception (#254 Milt Pappas). But that’s just the start for the idiosyncratic ‘67 Topps set, which contains some of the most bizarre variations in existence which bump the master set from 609 to 624. Some are minor revisions; a trade statement added to #26 Bob Priddy and #86 Mike McCormick, the placement or addition of a period or copyright date on checklist cards #62 and 103, checklist #191 that changes the name Dick Kelley to Tom Kelley (and adds a neck to Willie Mays’ inset photo), and card #417 Bob Bruce, which had “RBAVES” misspelled on the back and later corrected.

But then there are the more puzzling variations; card #374 Queen, 402 Jackson, 427 Gomez and 447 Belinsky are missing stats or the stat line on the reverse, mysterious green ink appears above the bat on #58 Schaal, an inexplicable white streak was later removed on card #149 Moeller and 252 Bolin, part of the name is missing on the front of #128 Spezio, and checklist #454 features an inset photo of Juan Marichal, whose missing left ear suddenly reappears on the revised card. There’s even a blank-backed proof of #45 Roger Maris as a member of the Yankees (he was traded to the Cardinals before the season and CARDS appears on his regular card) though it is not considered part of the master set. And while the high-number series (#534-609) is understandably tougher, there are several that are particularly difficult to find in high-grade due to centering issues or print problems and are more heavily weighted on the PSA Set Registry; #558 Belanger RC, 560 Bunning, 570 Wills, 580 Colavito, 592 NL Rookies, 604 Red Sox team, 605 Shannon, 607 Stanley, 609 John, and the toughest of all, card #600 featuring Brooks Robinson. The highly coveted rookie cards of Tom Seaver and Rod Carew were held back and inserted in the high-number series, making them even more pricey than even Mickey Mantle’s stunning card #150

Mile High Card Company To Offer #4 PSA Set Registry Ranked 1967 Topps Set in their October 2018 Auction

Featured in the upcoming Mile High Card Company Auction is the #4 ranked 1967 Topps basic set, which carries a set rating of 9.49. There 154 cards graded PSA 10, including #30 Kaline, 240 NL Batting Leaders, 570 Wills, six cards from the difficult high-number series and four “one of one” examples (#38, 135, 137 and 145). Every major star from Mantle to Mays to Clemente, as well as the highly-prized rookie cards of Tom Seaver and Rod Carew, is graded PSA 9 with over 96% of the set rated MINT or GEM MINT. As MHCC has done in the past with world-ranked collections, this set will be offered as individual lots as well as a complete set (with the final sale going to whichever total (the set versus the sum of the individual lots) is higher. This provides the opportunity for many set-builders to improve upon their collections or for one collector to catapult themselves into contention on the PSA Set Registry with a winning bid on the entire set. The auction opens on Monday, September 17th and concludes on Thursday, October 4th.

1967 Topps Baseball Complete Set #4 Current Finest on PSA Set Registry With 9.49 GPA
1967 Topps Baseball Complete Set #4 Current Finest on PSA Set Registry With 9.49 GPA

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.

The “E” Series: Sweetest of All Baseball Cards

Few would dispute that the T206 collection is the godfather of all baseball card sets. Oh sure, notable issues like Allen & Ginter’s, Old Judge and Mayo’s Cut Plug predate the T206 series. But with its expansive lineup, mainstream introduction of the forefathers of baseball royalty that include Cobb, Lajoie, W. Johnson, Mathewson, Speaker and Young, and of course the incredibly rare Honus Wagner card, the T206 series has become the “Mt. Everest” of the hobby. To this date, there isn’t a single collection on the PSA Set Registry (including the “big four”) that is 100% complete. It’s also the only set that gets its own link on the PSA website, with over 60 subset classifications by player, league, ad back and factory variation. The T206 collection is a hobby within a hobby. But with all the pomp and circumstance afforded this phenomenal series, the savvy collector has already caught on to what might be the next big market boom in the hobby; caramel cards, known better as the “E” series.

Caramel Cards – Tobacco’s More Colorful Cousin

Right about the same time tobacco cards were making the rounds, another wave of pasteboards targeting a younger crowd were landing in candy stores. Much like their tobacco cousins, caramel cards are of nearly identical size and have various ad backs. While some are known by the advertising on the reverse; American Caramel, Philadelphia Caramel, Standard Caramel, Croft’s Candy, Nadja Caramels, Dockman & Son, George Close Candy, Briggs Co., Bishop & Company and Williams Caramel among them, others merely have a checklist on the back and are referred to by their “E” designation and “anonymous” or by the number of cards in the set, labeled “Set of 30” for example. Most of these collections are very small, 25 to 50 cards in all, but contain such stars as Cobb, Wagner, Mathewson, Plank, Bender, Collins any many more. Tobacco-using adults that caught card collecting fever often turned to caramel cards if they wanted a Wagner or Plank since they were nearly impossible to acquire from the T206 series. The “E’ cards are bolder and more colorful in general, making them appealing to the children to which they were marketed. However, staining from the candy was virtually unavoidable, especially for those that sat on shelves through the hot summer months. It’s likely that the few that surface in high-grade were both well cared for and acquired during the earlier months of the year, when the caramel wasn’t as susceptible to the elements. For decades, caramel cards were overlooked by collectors … until one recent discovery put them squarely at the forefront of the baseball card world.

The E98 “Black Swamp Find” – A Game Changer!

In July of 2012, one of the greatest finds of early 20th century caramel cards was discovered in Defiance, Ohio, a town that was coined “The Black Swamp” by General “Mad” Anthony Wayne in 1794. This Black Swamp find consisted entirely of cards from the 1910 E98 Set of 30 series, a handsome collection that features different background color variations of each card, with 17 of the presented 30 subjects in the Hall of Fame. The find yielded almost 700 cards, virtually all of them in NM or better condition with four examples, including one of Honus Wagner, achieving a mark of PSA 10 GEM MINT. Considered the most celebrated addition to the baseball card market since the 1952 Topps find of the 1980s, caramel cards were finally getting the notoriety they deserved.

Mile High Card Company To Offer Over 300 Lots of Caramel Cards in March 2018 Auction.

In continuation of a record-setting 2017 year, Mile High Card Company presents a fantastic March auction to open the 2018 year that features over 300 caramel cards, ten of which come from the amazing “Black Swamp” find of 2012, as well as hundreds more from other rare early 20th century collections. Loaded with cards from all of the sets mentioned earlier, other tough issues from the time period are well-represented, including cards from T201, T202, T3 Turkey Red, M116 Sporting Life, 1915 Cracker Jack, D304 Brunners Bread, 1910 Tip Top Bread, T204 Ramly, 1916 Tango Eggs, and of course, 1909-11 T206. MHCC is still accepting consignments but time is running out. If you desire the maximum possible return for your prized sports cards and/or memorabilia, please call our office at (303) 840-2784 to speak with one of our team of experts, contact us at www.milehighcardco.com.

1933 DeLong: Baseball’s Ultimate One-Hit Wonder!

If ever there was a case of being in the right place at the wrong time, it existed for Harold Clark DeLong. A Treasurer at the Goudey Gum Company, DeLong left the organization in 1932 when Enos Goudey sold the business, starting his own company just blocks away from the Boston conglomerate. And while DeLong’s ill-fated foray into the baseball card market wouldn’t last longer than a single season, he produced one of the most memorable and coveted collections in baseball card history. 

Underfunded and Poorly Distributed

Harold DeLong had an advantage as a key executive in the development of the Goudey series prior to his departure, allowing him to create a clearly more aesthetic product than his former employer, but there were just too many obstacles standing in his way. Goudey, founded in 1919, was a well-established purveyor of chewing gum and had the financial might to secure the materials needed to produce the largest mainstream collection since the legendary T206 series. DeLong, on the other hand, was pioneering a poorly funded start-up that could only muster the ability to release a diminutive 24-card collection. Oh, but what a collection it was! While the brightly colored pigments, real life player depictions and ornate background artistry were a tremendous contrast from the straightforward and often monochrome format of the Goudey collection, there simply was no way that DeLong’s small series could compete with a Goudey set ten times the size that included a quartet of Babe Ruth cards. In addition, the DeLong cards didn’t have the nationwide distribution channel of the Goudey series, and if that wasn’t enough of a handicap, it was widely thought that Goudey’s bubble gum was just clearly superior. Even in the hometown Boston area, DeLong had to contend not only with Goudey but also had to compete with the regionally issued George C. Miller collection. All things considered, DeLong never really stood a chance of success.

A True Collector Classic! 

Although there is no Babe Ruth card in the DeLong set, the 24-card collection is jam-packed with star power, boasting 15 Hall of Famers and led by the issues of Yankees Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig and fellow Cooperstown resident Jimmie Foxx. In addition to their groundbreaking appearance, what makes the DeLong series so highly collectible to advanced hobbyists is the difficulty to build an elite assemblage. Nearly 3,000 cards from the entire 24-card collection have passed through the halls of PSA without a single GEM MINT specimen, only two graded MINT and just five subjects (McManus, Terry, Traynor, Gomez and Klein) making it into double-digits pops at the PSA 8 level. Ironically, some of the most difficult high-grade finds from the series are not Hall of Famers: Oscar Melillo, Riggs Stephenson and Lon Warneke. While the series is a challenge to build, there are presently 31 complete collections on the PSA Set Registry with just eight that have reached a level of 7.0 or higher.

Mile High Card Company to Offer One of the Finest Complete 1933 DeLong Sets Ever Assembled 

Featured in the Mile High Card Company September Auction is the second finest 1933 DeLong set ever assembled, boasting a set rating of approximately 8.83 with several PSA 8.5 cards that stand as the one and only examples at that grading tier with none graded higher. All but two of the cards in the collection have a grade of NM/MT or better. As MHCC has done in the past with world-ranked assemblages, this collection is being offered as a complete set as well as each card offered individually, with the final sale going to whichever total (the set versus the sum of the individual lots) is higher.

MHCC is presently in the process of lining up more breathtaking items to make our next auction even greater and you still have time to be a part of it. If you desire the maximum possible return for your prized sports cards and/or memorabilia, please call (303) 840-2784, contact us at www.milehighcardco.com. or visit the MHCC booth at #1136 and #1138 of  the 38th National Sports Card Convention in Chicago, July 26th-30th.  You might even walk away with an added bonus – a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card PSA AUTHENTIC.

For each $500 of value consigned to the September MHCC auction, you’ll earn one ticket for the drawing. The larger the consignment, the more tickets you’ll receive, but everyone who consigns to MHCC at the National will be entered. The card is valued at $10,000 and the winner does not need to be present for the drawing, which is at 3:00 PM on July 30th.

Unprecedented Wax Box Find with 1948 Bowman Baseball Near Full Box Heads to Mile High Card Company June Auction

A few weeks ago, we were getting ready to put the final touches on the upcoming June auction when the phone rang … “Hello, I have some unopened full boxes and almost full boxes from the 1950s and 1960s that I am considering for your auction.” Well that certainly sounded promising, so I asked, “that’s great, what do you have?” He started off by telling me about a complete 1959 Fleer Ted Williams box, which certainly caught my attention, and then went into material that included near full wax boxes of 1961 Topps football five cent, 1962 Topps football and 1962 Fleer football. As he went on further (1960 Fleer baseball near full box, 1961 Fleer football full box, 1961 Fleer baseball near full box, 1961 Nu-Card Scoops near full box and 1961 Nu-Card Football near full box), I was trying to put a dollar value on the whole group when he hits me with “ and there’s a 1961 Fleer basketball unopened box.” I was already impressed at this point, but when he mentioned the 1961 Fleer basketball box, I said to him, “Aha! You buried the headline on me.” Actually, we still hadn’t reached the headline!

1961 Fleer Basketball Full Unopened Wax Box BBCE 1961 Topps Football 5 Cent Pack Full Unopened Wax Box BBCE 1961 Fleer Football Full Unopened Wax Box BBCE

“I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

This was already the greatest compilation of unopened material I’d ever heard of, and then he said, “Oh, and I have a box, it’s only 19 of the 24 packs, but it’s a Play Ball box from 1948. Wait, no, it’s 1948 Bowman.” Now I’m starting to wonder if Brian (Drent, MHCC President and CEO) is trying to punk me. I said, “I’m sorry can you repeat that?” He said, “1948 Bowman. The box and the wrappers say Play Ball on them but it’s Bowman. There was an extra pack that’s open and it’s the little black and white cards.” Now I’ve never seen or even heard of anyone who has seen a 1948 Bowman pack, but he’s claiming to have 19 unopened packs and the original box (which I also have never seen or heard of). I had to ask the obvious question, “How did you come across all of this?” He told me it was left to him by a member of his family who owned and operated a confectionary company that produced trading cards in the 1950s and 60s, though not a competitor to Topps, Fleer or Bowman in the sports card market. A quick Google search confirmed it and he still lived in the city from which the company had operated. Realizing that this would require an in-person pick-up due to our quickly approaching deadline, I asked if we could call him back in 5 minutes and sprinted down the hall with my page of notes to Brian’s office.

“You need to get off the phone NOW!”

Brian was looking out the window while talking on his cell phone when I walked in. As he turned and caught my eye, I said, “You need to get off the phone now!” Looking slightly perplexed but still, I handed him the notes, still listening to the person on the other end of the phone. After a few seconds of perusing the paper, he said, “Listen I gotta call you back.” Brian looked at me as if now I’m trying to punk him, but once I explained the lineage of the collection, he was back on the phone. Fifteen minutes later, he was booking a flight to pick up the collection.

Incredible 1948 Bowman Baseball Nearly Full Unopened Wax Box (19/24) Packs BBCE Incredible 1948 Bowman Baseball Nearly Full Unopened Wax Box (19/24) Packs BBCE

Untouched for over a half-century

The next day, Brian arrived to find the boxes laid out on a white linen across a dining room table. He was immediately drawn to the ’48 Bowman box, which seemed odd because it had “Play Ball” advertised all over the box and the packs. The thickness of the packs was also unusual but similar to a 1952 Bowman pack he has once seen. If not for the one opened pack, which contained five well-centered NM/MT to potentially GEM MINT examples and three large slabs of gum, there really wasn’t any indication that they were 1948 Bowman packs. The collection had been stored in a vintage Stroh’s beer case that was as old as the cards, the ones made of thick cardboard stock that originally had the insert to separate individual bottles. It was clear that this collection had been untouched for over a half-century. The consignor asked what he thought the collection was worth and revealed a dollar figure with his own estimate. Brian looked at the number and said, “Let’s put it this way; I’ll pay you four times that amount right now but I advise you not to take it. That’s what I think it’s worth”

“It’s Marvelous …”

We contacted Baseball Card Exchange owner Steve Hart, widely recognized as the foremost authority of unopened material, to examine and authenticate all of the material. After a few days of the material in his possession, we called Steve to ask what he thought. “It’s marvelous, all of it,” he claimed, verifying the authenticity by sealing the full boxes and adding their stamp of approval while providing a Letter of Authenticity and wrapping the near full boxes. Even Mr. Hart was not aware of any other 1948 Bowman baseball packs known to exist. The five cent packs are “NM to NM/MT and awesome” according to BBCE. The original box, though heavily damaged and taped, is also the only known example. In fact, BBCE had specific comments for each of the boxes:

  • 1959 Full Ted Williams full wax box – This one is extremely clean with NM/MT to MINT packs.
  • 1961 Fleer football full wax box – Most boxes have been salted away in collections and don’t come out anymore. Packs are NM/MT.
  • 1961 Topps football full wax box – The crown jewel of the find (other than the ’48 Bowman). I’ve seen less than 10 packs and they are usually EX … I’ve never heard of a full box. These packs are NM/MT to MINT.
  • 1961-62 Fleer basketball full wax box – Packs are NM to NM/MT and as fresh as can be.
  • 1962 Topps football near full wax box (20/24) – Packs are NM/MT overall and sweet.
  • 1960 Fleer Baseball Greats near full box (20/24) – Ten of the packs have mildew damage, the other 10 packs are NM to NM/MT.
  • 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats near full box (20/24) – Packs are sweet and NM/MT.
  • 1962 Fleer football near full box (19/24) – Packs are NM/MT and very rare.
  • 1961 Nu-Card Scoops baseball near full box (23/24) – Packs are NM to NM/MT overall.

Whether you’re a serious collector or just a curious bystander, this collection of unopened material will certainly be remember throughout the sports card hobby for generations to come. The Mile High Card Company Spring Auction will begin May 30th and conclude on June 15th. For additional information or to consign to an upcoming auction, please visit our website at www.milehighcardco.com or call our office at (303) 840-2784.

1948 Bowman Baseball: The Pioneer of the Post-War Era

From T206 to Goudey and everywhere in between, tobacco, caramel and gum companies tried to lay claim to the baseball card market, never getting past just a few seasons. While Gum Inc., manufacturer of the 1939-41 Play Ball series, appeared poised to mount a run at becoming the driving force that would lead the hobby into the next generation, their aspirations were halted by material shortages from World War II. Three years after the fighting subsided, Leaf and Bowman came forth to revive the industry, offering vastly different concepts of the future of the baseball card market. In the end, Bowman survived and went on 8-year run that dominated the industry until Topps permanently took over in 1956.

What if the roles had been reversed and Bowman was able to push Topps out of the market? One thing is for sure; the 1951 Mickey Mantle card, his true rookie card, would have no competition whatsoever as most coveted sports card ever produced. But while Bowman had the advantage of experience and an established customer base, Topps quite simply made a superior product. The simple black and white design of the inaugural 1948 Bowman series might not win any accolades for innovation, but the 48-card collection is one of the most important compilations in the hobby and the undisputed pioneer of the post-war era!

48 for ‘48

Whether it was meant to be a test set or a means to keep production costs as low as possible in a once again uncharted market, Bowman limited their introductory series to a mere 48 cards, formatting and sizing them almost identically to the football and movie star sets of the same year. While the cards were rife with centering issues characteristic of new start-ups, it was the first mainstream set produced in 7 years and thus, loaded with “rookie” cards of established players that had yet to appear on cardboard. Nine Hall of Famers are scattered within the set, and with a debut lineup that includes Musial, Berra, Kiner, Rizzuto, Spahn and Schoendienst, the 1948 Bowman series lives up to the words of William Shakespeare, “Though she be but little, she is fierce!”

The Only 1948 Bowman Baseball Packs Known to Exist Offered in June Mile High Card Company Auction

MHCC is proud to present one of the greatest finds of unopened wax boxes ever offered, headlined by a 1948 Bowman Baseball Near Full Wax Box with 19/24 packs. Until now there was not a single known pack to have survived, but this collection was consigned by the family of a rival trading card company that acquired all of the material for product research and has been stored away over half a century. Steve Hart of Baseball Card Exchange (BBCE) has examined all of the offered material and verified its authenticity, placing the BBCE wrapping and seal of approval on the full boxes and providing a Letter of Authenticity for the near full boxes. In each case, the packs are all NM to MINT and absolutely fabulous! Whether you’re a serious bidder or just an interested observer, this amazing event will be at the forefront of the hobby for a very long time.

Is Ted Williams the greatest hitter in baseball history?

Whoa, whoa, slow down there, deputy!

Before you go running off to grab your Goudey Babe Ruth card and cradle it in the fetal position, just hear me out. You don’t have to agree with it; I’m not even sure I agree with it myself. And while there’s no doubt that Babe Ruth is, and always will be, the most dominant athlete of his day and the greatest icon in American sports history, or even just American history, a case can be made that Ted Williams was actually the greatest hitter the game has ever known. Mile High Card Company offered a Spectacular Fresh to the Hobby 1950 Ted Williams Boston Red Sox Game Worn and Autographed Jersey in our August 2016 auction, and while preparing a description for the catalog, I got an opportunity to crunch the numbers on behalf of “The Splendid Splinter” with some interesting results. Keep in mind, what I’m about to suggest is completely unscientific and totally speculative, but might just give some insight into how truly incredible a hitter Ted Williams really was.

It’s Not Just About the Numbers!

Sure, a side by side comparison of the career numbers of Williams to Ruth leaves “Teddy Ballgame” lagging far behind in every category but walks (#4 all-time, Ruth is #3) and slugging percentage (#2 all-time, Ruth #1) with a slight lead in doubles (525 to 506). But Williams missed considerable time while in the prime of his career to military service; close to 5 years. What I’m proposing is to “give back” those lost years, using seasonal statistics prior to and after military service, to estimate what his career body of work might look like. Of course, many would say, “Hey, it is what it is, players get injured but we don’t sit around ‘giving’ them extra stats for missed games.” True, but losing time to injury is part of the game; losing time to defend your country is something different altogether. While it’s possible that Williams might have gotten injured and missed time anyway, I’m not claiming the player with the best numbers is the best hitter. We’re just trying to “even the playing field” of what might have been so that we can make an “apples to apples” comparison … so here it goes!

World War II

Ted Williams was in his fourth season at 23 years old having just completed an American League Triple Crown season, batting .356 with 36 homers and 137 RBI when Uncle Sam summoned him to military duty. He wouldn’t see the field again until he was 27 years old, losing three prime years of his career. If we take the average of the two seasons prior and the four years after his service, projecting that over three years would net Williams 1,548 more at-bats, 408 runs, 555 hits, 113 doubles, 106 home runs, 390 RBI and 449 walks to his resume, with a batting average of .359 over those three seasons.

Back to the Front

In the six seasons after his return from World War II, Ted Williams won two batting titles, two home run crowns and was twice the American League MVP. But in 1952, he was recalled to active duty to serve as a combat pilot in the Korean War, playing only six games in ’52 and returning to the field for 37 games in 1953. Using the average of the prior season and the three seasons after as an estimate with Williams missing about 83% of those two years, it earns him another 677 at-bats, 146 runs, 230 hits, 41 doubles, 63 homers, 157 RBI, 195 walks and a .340 batting average.

The Fair Comparison

OK so in our alternate universe, Ted Williams never served in the military and continued to perform at or about the same rate for those “missing” years. Under those conditions, here’s the career comparison of Ruth and Williams…

AB R H 2B HR RBI BB AVG
Ruth 8399 2174 2873 506 714 2214 2062 .342
Williams 9931 2352 3439 679 690 2386 2665 .362

Not only would Williams surpass Ruth in several key categories, he would be baseball’s all-time leader in runs, RBI and bases on balls (all highlighted in red). He would have retired second to Ruth in homers, and with 29 round-trippers in his final season in 1961, might have played another year or two for the chance of taking the all-time home run crown. And let’s not forget, Ted Williams didn’t have “The Iron Horse” batting behind him … EVERY … SINGLE … GAME … for well over a decade! The defense rests, your honor. What’s your verdict?

1950 Ted Williams Boston Red Sox Game Worn and Autographed Jersey sold in our August 2016 auction
williamsphoto082
1950’s Ted Williams Type I Original Photo Used in 1954, 55, and 56 Topps Card by George Woodruff Sold in our August 2016 auction

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.

52mantle65

crackerjackposter

14cjcobb8

The 1953 Topps baseball set: A New and Improved Collection

Not long after the New York Yankees secured another seven game World Series championship over the Brooklyn Dodgers in the summer of ’52, Topps architect Sy Berger was hard at work, utilizing feedback gathered from the release of the inaugural Topps set to create an even better product for 1953. The “super-sized” pasteboards were praised by collectors, though the subpar colorization of the black and white images and limited success of the troubled high-number series left plenty of room for improvement. An even bigger problem was brewing in Philadelphia as Topps had the attention of rival Bowman, who would not only increase their card size for the 1953 collection but also file a lawsuit against Topps, alleging player contract violations. It was clear that in 1953, Topps was either going to make their mark or become the next victim to fall by the wayside.

Topps 2.0 – Making a classic even better

In order to improve the appearance of the players, Topps commissioned artist Gerry Dvorak to sketch and paint the likeness of each player. The result was a collection of memorable portraits and action shots, finely detailed with dominating images and warm flesh tones that, to this day, stands among the most admired in the industry. Even the background of each card was carefully crafted, capturing the feel of the stadium crowd and appropriate advertising that lined the fences. Jackie Robinson was moved to the pole position as card #1, with Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Mickey Mantle and Eddie Mathews also moving from the previous year’s high-number series to the ’53 set’s first series. This gave collectors an opportunity to quickly acquire many of the popular stars that they were unable to find the previous year.

As the court battle with Bowman over player contracts raged on, Topps was forced to continually make changes to their print plans, replacing players that they couldn’t get under contract by either “moving up” a player from the next series to the present one or double-printing a player in the existing series. There were also five cards from both the 1st and 2nd series that were moved back, creating “chase cards” that couldn’t be obtained until the next series was released. By the time Topps reached the late-season high number series, there weren’t enough contracted players for a complete run, so many more cards were double-printed, with six (#253, 261, 267, 268, 271 and 275) left out of the series entirely. Seemingly a mix of superstars and “no-name” players, the cards slated for double-printing were likely chosen randomly or left in the hands of the printer to decide. If left up to Topps, they surely would have gone exclusively with big name stars. After all, who’s going to complain about getting too many Mickey Mantle cards? As for the six missing subjects, one can only speculate who they may have been. But it should be noted that Richie Ashburn, Leo Durocher, Gil Hodges, Bob Lemon, Robin Roberts and Duke Snider all appear in the ’52 series and are absent in the ’53 collection.

With the dreadful centering issues plaguing the 1952 Topps high-number series largely corrected, a new wrinkle was introduced that would soon be added to the card collector’s vernacular; chipping. Though the attractive red and black nameplates that ran along two of the edges were met with overwhelming favorability, collectors soon realized that the colors easily flaked, making it a much more difficult task to keep their cards in pristine condition. As a result, only 30 cards from the entire set have graded PSA 10, and less than 1% of all submissions have reached the level of PSA 9. Ironically, Bowman countered with a “color” series revered by many as their best ever, but they fell to Topps once again in terms of sales, and a new king of the baseball card market was crowned!

#4 Ranked PSA Set Registry Collection – 8.41 Set Rating – offered in MHCC October 2015 Auction

Over the last 25 years, several small “finds” of high-grade 1953 Topps cards from Canada produced a modest cache of perfectly centered, chip-free pasteboards that received the blessing of PSA in the form of PSA 8 and higher grades. There’s little doubt that some of those premier examples made it into this complete assemblage. Presented in the October 2015 Mile High Card Company auction is a crowning achievement in card collecting, one of the finest 1953 Topps collections in existence. Nearly impossible to assemble today if started from scratch, this set ranks #4 on the PSA Set Registry with an overall 8.41 set rating. Every card in this collection carries a minimum grade of PSA 8, with #41 Slaughter, 77 Mize, 114 Rizzuto and 63 others graded PSA 8.5, and 54 cards graded PSA 9, including amazing MINT specimens of #27 Campanella, 37 Mathews, 61 Wynn, 66 Minoso, 76 Reese and 86 B. Martin. Included is a stunning PSA 8 example of Mickey Mantle, a card that has been riding the coattails of the 1952 Topps card to record-breaking prices each time one is offered. The most astonishing member of this collection is a breathtaking PSA 9 card of #224 Satchel Paige, one of the single finest specimens known to exist. Offered as a complete set as well as each card individually, with the higher total between the set price versus the sum of the prices of the individual cards determining the method of sale, this set is but one of many collections rating at or near the top of the PSA Set Registry that will be available in the MHCC October 2105 auction.

53t244mays8451

53t220paige9085

53t1robinson8406

53t82mantle8083