In 1959, Topps expanded their baseball card set to 572 cards and produced them in series. So when you purchased a pack early in the year, the cards would only be numbered 1-110 and as the year went on, other series would be offered for sale. At the time, it seemed logical, but for collectors of Topps cards from 1959-1973, it represented a challenge…and still does today. The later series were marketed late in the season when interest had waned and the cards became scarcer. So, when you hear a collector talk about “high numbers” being difficult to find, you understand the issue.
How this relates to “rookie cards” begins with that beautiful ’59 set. The best rookie card that year was future Hall of Famer Bob Gibson and his card was in the high number series (#514)…making it a tough card to find, especially in nice condition. In addition, all the All-Star cards were also in the high number run, creating another difficult collecting challenge that included Mantle, Mays & Aaron. The current value for the “Gibby” RC is $700.
The values listed are for cards graded NM 7 (Near Mint).
As the calendar turned to the 60’s, many great players made their debut and their rookie cards were (and still are) in great demand. In 1960, there was Carl Yastrzemski ($350) & Willie McCovey ($275). 1961 had Juan Marichal ($100) & Billy Williams ($55)…and in ’62, it was Lou Brock ($275), Joe Torre ($125) & Gaylord Perry ($150).
The 1963 Topps set included a concept where many of the rookies were shown together on cards that had small, cropped photos of four different players…and they were in the high series. That is where you’ll find the rookie card of Pete Rose…shown with Pedro Gonzalez, Ken McMullen & Al Weis. While not very visually appealing, it is still a valuable card indeed at a book price of $2,200. Willie Stargell’s rookie card ($265) is also in this category and includes three more obscure players.
The ’64 set has Phil Niekro ($100) and there are lots of Hall of Famers in ’65 with Steve Carlton ($200), “Catfish” Hunter ($80) & Tony Perez ($90). ’66 included three HOF hurlers with Jim Palmer ($95), Fergie Jenkins ($75) & Don Sutton ($65). Tom Seaver ($900) & Rod Carew ($375) both debuted in the high number series of the ’67 set.
The 1968 set features the rookie cards of two of the most popular players of the era…Nolan Ryan ($1,200) & Johnny Bench ($225). Once again, Topps included multiple rookies on certain cards, so Ryan shares his cardboard with Jerry Koosman, while Bench is shown with Ron Tomkins. Finishing off the decade, Reggie Jackson ($500) & Rollie Fingers ($45) grace the ’69 set with their rookie cards.
1970 had Thurman Munson’s RC ($100). The ’71 set (with black borders) is especially difficult to find in nice condition and has HOF members Bert Blyleven ($115) & Ted Simmons ($90) along with a card that features both Dusty Baker and Don Baylor ($80).
The end of the era featured Carlton Fisk in ’72 ($45) and Mike Schmidt ($275) in ’73.
Ironically, five of the Hall of Famers in this collection are among former major leaguers who passed away in 2020 and then we lost Sutton just this week.