Thursday, October 25, 2018

1962 Topps is complete..or is it?

And there it is, the final card I needed for my 1962 Topps set build. It came from eBay via one of my slew of lowball snipes finally hitting. It's mis-cut (no surprise in this set) and the back has a blob of ink/glue/carbon/gunk/stamping on it. But for the price, I'll take it.

And speaking of the the pre-stathead days, when wins mattered, one of the most fascinating things in the world for me was number-choked backs of team cards like this one. Jack Kralick was 4-1 versus KC but 1-3 against the Yanks? Pistol Pete Ramos lost 20 games? It was the sort of thing we made mental notes of  and used in our Whiffleball tournaments and stoop-ball games.

While it's the last card to be crossed off my needs list, it is NOT the final card that will go into the '62 binder. I have a couple of graded cards that I'm going to break out of their tombs soon. Over and above that is the reason this is going to be a rather long, drawn-out post.

The question of what makes up a 'complete' vintage set is one that pops up from time to time. I've seen it discussed on Twitter, Net54 and on blog posts. I've given it some thought as I build sets as well. Is a 'complete' set a 'master' set with every known corrected error and all the variations? Do you need all inserts, a wrapper? Or is a set 'complete' with one of each card number?

Trying to decide that for the 1962 set is far from simple. It's a fun and kind of crazy set to chase. It contains far more 'off the wall' weirdness than any other set of the era.

While building my 1959 set (first vintage chase) I came up with a 'rule' for myself. That set has no photo variations. But it is chock full of little and not so little errors/variations on the backs...wrong birth years, 'traded to' lines of text, stat anomalies, etc. Some were corrected, others not. I decided then that I would put together the set as the 'ten-year-old CommishBob' would. If it wasn't something I would have noticed as I was opening the pack, or when I was shuffling through my cigar box stash, well I wouldn't worry about it.

But, oh Lord, this 1962 set. Logo/no logo variations, completely different photos for some players, different croppings, green tints, green tints with different croppings, floating heads on corrected team cards, mis-numbered cards, mis-numbered cards with a different photo, mis-numbered cards with a different photo AND green tint, and so on.

Example #1, the above Willie Tasby cards. On the left a card with Tasby's cap logo removed. On the right Tasby with a logo. The 10-year-old CommishBob would have noticed that and put both into his cigar box. So both go into the binder. The same would go for Bob Buhl who had logo'd and non-logo'd caps.

I'd have been mystified by the two different Bill Kunkels. And wanted them both. There are seven or eight cards that show the same player with alternate poses. All come from the 2nd Series (cards 110-196). I won't post them all but here are my two favorites, Wally Moon and Lee Walls. Moon is the only one I remember noticing when these cards were new. Which, now that I think about it, is evidence that we got some of the 'botched' 2nd Series cards in Essex County, New Jersey in the spring of '62.

The story behind these is that Topps farmed out the printing of the series when they got into a crunch. The plates were damaged in transit, some could be salvaged, some not and those were remade. That is also the reason that the 2nd Series has 'green tint' variations. PSA has the story, or at least the most widely accepted version of the story on their website.

Angel team problem. But your friend opens a pack three days later and gets this.....

...Angels team with two floating heads? The hell? This would have been a difficult decision for me as a kid but I'm pretty sure I'd have wanted both versions. So I have them both in the binder now. And no, I don't know who the two floating heads are. I think I had an answer at some point but it's eluding me right now despite my decent google skills.

But those were fairly straightforward and easily addressed issues. More complicated is the Card #139 Hal Reniff/Babe Ruth deal. The Ruth card below is part of the Babe Ruth Special subset in the 2nd Series. It is the 'correct' #139 but not nearly the only one. I'm going to try to sort it out by memory:

  1. The 'correct' Ruth Hits 60 (below on left)
  2. The Green Tint Ruth Hits 60 which had a lime green field and is cropped differently, the foul pole is visible.
  3. Portrait card of Hal Reniff which is numbered #139 but is supposed to be #159 in the checklist. (Center card below)
  4. Hal Reniff posed action card, shows green tint. Also mis-numbered as #139 (Shown on right below)
  5. The 'correct' Hal Reniff card, his portrait card with the #159. 
Yikes. My sense is that I've have had to collect the Ruth and the three Reniffs (both portraits and the one action pose). So that's what I picked up for the build.

I figured a look at the back of the Ruth/Reniff mess couldn't hurt.

I've saved discussion of the 'green tints' until now. They are an interesting variation. I really don't have a handle on how I would have dealt with them in 1962. I suspect I'd have noted the differences but not cared. After all, the pictures were (except for the previously noted changes) the same. They each have minor cropping differences but I never would have noticed that. Sidebar: I found an interesting page that defines and shows each of the versions of the green tints. Fascinating stuff (to me anyway).

Some of the differences are subtle. The Pumpsie Green (irony noted) for example:

The color variation isn't particularly noticeable until you put the two cards next to each other. The cropping differences can be seen in the upper left corner where the upper deck meets the card border differently. The color of the woodgrain border also varies. I guarantee I never would have noticed that as a kid.

But some of the green tints look like this:

That, my friends, is hard to ignore. But I'm guessing my youthful self would have passed it off as just a 'hey, too much green ink' thing.

And some, like the Bob Nieman cards below, fall somewhere in the middle:

What did I decide? Well, I figured a nine card 'green tint example page' in the back of the binder would take care of it for me. And that's what I've done.

There are also a few checklist variations. But to paraphrase the great sportswriter, Dan Jenkins, the only thing more boring than checklists are checklist variations. I was NOT a checklist marking type as a kid so I would have noticed that the numbers were different or 'wrong' on a checklist but I'd have blown it off.

As with my other set builds, I have added inserts to spice things up. But to me they are just gravy. My set would be 'complete' without the extras.

The stamps are fun but I prefer the 1961 version done in green and brown. To me not every 'advance' means progress!

I had this Gus Triandos Baseball Buck in my Orioles collection. Gus agreed to move to the '62 binder for the cause. Oh, one thing I just now noticed. The text over on the left side ends with "He's an ex-Yankee." So what?

I will add a wrapper at some point. I think it's more of a part of a 'complete' set than the inserts but it is also much more costly. I can wait until I find the right one.

A couple of weeks ago I saw someone mention a 1962 printing plate that they had in their collection. I had never considered that before and thought it might be a nice addition to the '62 build. But I wasn't going to go overboard. i found this example of a common card plate on eBay and picked it up. It has ink residue but I don't mind.

So there it is....the 'Commishbob' version of a complete 1962 Topps baseball set. It's not a 'master set' but it has everything my complete set definition calls for.

The '62 set doesn't get a lot of hobby love. There are too many capless player photos and the wood-grain border isn't to everyone's taste. I've even read comments criticizing the All Star subset which 'too closely' resembles the base cards. Oh, well. But I challenge anyone to come up with flagship set whose opening three binder pages match the 1962 Topps for star power. Check them out:

Good stuff, right? I thought so.


  1. Congrats on an essentially completed set!

  2. Way to go! 1962 was the first cards I collected as an 8 year old. I still remember to 1st card 1 saw from my 1st pack. Mickey Vernon Senators MGR! Didn't know about all the variations.

  3. Congrats on completing the set. The green tint variant for many years confused me as I had never seen a real example of one. In the late 70s and early 80s any of the card checklist books, or early Beckett Price Guides they were mentioned but any images back then were in black and white. The first time I saw a color picture of the green variant it just looked like the grass was slightly greener. I would consider a '62 set complete even without the green tint variants. However I would include the picture variants, and I guess the logoless airbrushed hats vs logo hats I would include.

  4. Congrats, first of all.

    I like the concept of collecting the set like you would as a kid. I have the same philosophy. "Glow backs"? "Black-less"? I never heard of such stuff when I was buying cards at the drug store. Also, my kid collecting days (1975-80) were pretty free of variations. I know that if I was collecting the '62 set, a lot of those tint differences would never draw my attention. The actual picture variations -- however -- definitely. And now I need to get that Lee Walls variation!

  5. I've just started this set and have a printout of the picture/checklist variations. Not sure I'll try for all the green tints either, it's just too hard to judge if you don't have both in hand. I have lucked into a Tasby and Walls so far - was hoping they weren't impossible.

  6. NICE! Congrats! "Would I notice as a kid" is a great metric for staying sane. From what I've seen green tints, they're also not as sharp photowise as the main cards but like anything this old would be hard to tell from standard printing variations.

    Also nice selection of the printing plate. The one Stanford guy in the set. If I had to guess I'd say this was the yellow plate which you've got.

  7. For years, the only 1962 cards in my collection were capless head-shot boring Mets (zzzzzzzzz). Not surprisingly, I had a low opinion of that set for years. My opinion has improved over the past ten-or-so years, but it's still far from a favorite.

    ...But boy howdy, those photo variations catch my eye. Stuff like that just makes me excited, even when I wouldn't otherwise collect the players involved.

    I like your "10-year-old Bob" criteria. The only Master set I have is 1974 (my first set) which started out as a Washington Nat'l Lea hunt and eventually got to the "Well, I've gotten this far, may as well go all the way" point. Otherwise I wouldn't have even considered chasing variations listed as "Small San Diego" and "Large San Diego"

  8. Congrats Bob. I agree with your decisions on what to include and not including. I’ve done the green tint variations for my Redsox sets.ive also put the managers dream card in my Sox sets because it clearly was taken at Fenway.

  9. Sweet! A complete set is definitely in the eye of the beholder, but in the end it only has to pass one person's test. I think each 60's set has it's own share of brilliance and despair. '62 has many wonderful cards in it. Congrats on finishing it!

  10. Congrats! For me, a complete set (build) is 1 of each number. I don't include variations in the set builds, but I do in my Braves team sets (I want them all). Again, congrats on a fine feat!

  11. Congratulations on completing this set. Well... I'd consider it complete. Being a true completist could get very expensive. By the way... I love the idea of your 9-pocket green tint page.

  12. Hi Bob,

    I’m getting around to reading some of your interesting topics and ran across the information on your ‘62 set. When I was young I didn’t have much love for the wood-grain borders, but as the years go by I really like the design of these cards. I know it’s a little late, but congrats on finishing the set.

    I knew about the variations and the green tints, but didn’t know about the “why” of it. Made for an interesting read.

    I really like the printing plate. I wonder if the reason that there are some of these plates available are due to the different printers. I’ve personally not seen printing plates for any other Topps cards (pre-80’s) except for the ‘62’s.

  13. I have a 1962 Kubek Makes The Double Play with Ed Bauta's # 344 and info on the back. The Kubek card is supposed to be 311. Has anyone ever seen this?

    1. Those printing errors are rare but not unknown. It's a great item to have. I have no idea if there is much of a premium put on them.