Monday, February 4, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Cards Release and the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 Topps Set

by + Dean Hanley

When you were growing up, opening up the first pack of baseball cards of the year was always a great adventure. Who would be in that first pack? Seeing a player from your favorite team was always a good omen. And getting a star card in that first pack was even better. The smell of the gum made you think of spring and you knew the days would soon be getting warmer and longer – and baseball was back!
Complete Sets are available at for your favorite years
The 2013 Topps Baseball Series 1 was recently released with 330 base cards and the usual assortment of games, contests and autograph cards to keep the interest of collectors – and bring younger fans to the hobby. Topps also encourages repeat purposes through a special offer: redeem 50 pack wrappers for a special set of cards.

The release of the 2013 Topps baseball cards also caused us to take a fond look back at the 1963 Topps baseball card set, since this is the 50th anniversary of that vintage set. The 1963 Topps baseball card set with its large, bright, glossy photographs of the players, ranks among the best Topps sets of the 1960s in terms of eye appeal.
The complete 1963 Topps baseball card set at
The 1963 Topps baseball card set featured 576 standard size cards, and the first three series of cards (numbers 1-283) were printed in high numbers. Starting at card #284, the card population greatly decreases. The high number series, with even scarcer cards, ranges from card numbers 523-576. The key rookie cards from this set include #537 Pete Rose and #553 Willie Stargell.

The smaller black and white photo inside the circle is an attractive addition to each 1963 Topps baseball card. The color of the 1963 Topps set also is a refreshing reprieve from the dark, dank cards that Topps produced in the previous two years. Even the 1963 card backs, neatly arranged and printed in black with yellow-orange backgrounds, are some of the most beautiful ever produced. 

WIllie Mays and Stan Musial card available at
The 1963 Topps multi-player cards are our favorite feature of the set. These cards contained some especially creative combinations of players. Some examples include: Stan Musial and Willie Mays on #138 “The Pride of the N.L.," Mickey Mantle and two other Yankees on #173 “The Bombers Best,” and #242 “Power Plus” with Ernie Banks and Hank Aaron. All of these beautiful multi-player cards were issued in the first five series and are very affordable for collectors.
1963 Topps card available at
The1963 Topps can be a very frustrating set to try to build. The biggest production oddity with the 1963 Topps set is that the number of cards printed in the first three series, far outnumber the population of cards in Series 4 through 7. The 1963 Topps set is also unique among vintage baseball cards sets in that it has officially two “high numbered” series (the 6th and 7th), starting with card #447.

Collectors do not seem to mind paying big bucks for stars like Sandy Koufax or Don Drysdale, but are much less likely do so for marginal players like Daryl Spencer or Larry Sherry. No other vintage set (with the exception of the 1952 Topps set) requires collectors to purchase such a large percentage of high number cards at those higher prices to complete the set.
1963 Topps Pete Rose rookie card 
The 1963 Topps Rookie Star Cards – with four player faces on each card -- turned out to be a bad idea. Kids did not like them and would routinely pitch the cards. The feedback was so negative that Topps redesigned the Rookie Star Cards again in 1964, so that the rookie cards had pictures of only two players. The four player Rookie Star Cards would not rear their ugly heads again until 1974. 

What makes the Four Player Rookie Cards shortcomings so glaring is that the most valuable card in the 1963 Topps set is the #573 Rookie Star Card with Pete Rose. His Rookie Card has to be the ugliest high priced card in the hobby! 

If Rose was pictured on a single-player card, it would also benefit the prestige of the 1963 Topps set as a whole. If the set had a full-sized attractive Rose Rookie Card as its focal point, it is probable that 1963 Topps would be remembered as one of the best sets of all time and rank just below the 1952 Topps set in popularity. But, sadly, that was not meant to be.
Koufax, Drysdale and Podres won all four games in the 1963 World Series sweep over the Yankees.

The 1963 baseball season ended with a Dodgers World Series sweep, led by dominant pitching performances by Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres, who are prominently featured on card #412, “The Dodgers Big Three."

Will 2013 bring us another memorable ending and will the 2013 cards be looked back at so fondly by a future generation? Only time will tell.

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