Never 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.