A look back at 1963 Topps

17 03 2012

As I did last year, I’m taking a temporary break from my lifetime Topps project to collect the current year retro sets that Topps comes out with.  Heritage is the first of these sets, and last year at least, was my favorite.  I loved the 1962 design.  I’m excited for 1963 – but I could see me liking Gypsy Queen a little bit better when it’s released.  Anyways, I’ll start doing some similar stuff with what I do for each Topps set – but like I did last year, I’ll compare the original set to the “retro set” as I go.  So first up is 1963 Topps.  If you’re reading this, and you know any info I could add – feel free to post a comment (and thanks!).

576 cards in the set – 22 less than the year before.

  • Set Design: The design features a white border around most of the card, with a colored bar at the bottom of the card.  The player’s name, team and position are featured on the left and middle of that bar – to the right is  a player photo in a circle.  The design certainly draws its look from the 1953 set.  The back features off-white cardstock with gold highlights.  The card number and “Topps” is in the upper left corner inside a baseball, next to the player name, team and biographical information.  Below this is a write-up of the player, next to a comic and a quick blurb on the right hand side.  The player’s complete seasonal and lifetime statistics are at the bottom in a gold box.
  • Subsets: League Leaders (#1-10), World Series (#142-148), In Action (#311-319), Sport Magazine All-Stars (#390-399, #466-475), Multi-player specials (12 cards throughout), Team Cards (20 cards throughout), Managers (19 cards throughout), Topps All-Star Rookies (9 cards throughout), Rookie Stars (20 cards throughout).  The “Babe Ruth” subset is gone, and the Rookie Parade cards at the end of the 1962 set are replaced with the Rookie Stars “4 quadrant” floating head cards throughout the set.  The Sport Magazine / Sporting News All-Star cards were also gone.  The All-Star rookie cards have the large trophy in place of the second picture on the team.  I’ve read that Topps had planned an All-Star subset for cards number 577-598 to bring it up to the same # of cards from 1962.
  • Packs: Topps issued the set in 7 series (see below).  Cards were available in 5-card wax packs (5¢) that came 24 to a box, 1-card wax packs (1¢) and cello packs (I believe 11 cards for 10¢).  As was usual for the time – the last series is perceived as rarer than the rest.  There are also some cards in that series that were short-printed.
    • Series One #1 – 109
    • Series Two #110-196
    • Series Three #197-283
    • Series Four #284-370
    • Series Five #371-446
    • Series Six #447-522
    • Series Seven #523-576
  • Rookies: Pete Rose is one of the bigger RC’s ever, and there is also one of Hall of Famer Willie “Pops” Stargell.  Tony Oliva and Rusty Staub also have rookie cards in the set.
  • Hall of Fame: There are 37 (or 40 – depending if you count the broadcasters) Hall of Famers in this set.  Factoring the addition of Stargell, that’s a net 4 decrease.  Babe Ruth, Miller Huggins and Lou Gehrig were gone after being included in the 1962 Ruth subset.  Early Wynn had his last Topps card in the 1962 set, and Red Schoendienst his last Topps card as a player.
    • Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks, Casey Stengel, Eddie Mathews, Orlando Cepeda, Brooks Robinson, Stan Musial, Harmon Killebrew, Warren Spahn, Al Kaline, Gaylord Perry, Mickey Mantle, Richie Ashburn, Walter Alston, Robin Roberts, Billy Williams, Willie Mays, Whitey Ford, Hank Aaron, Luis Aparicio, Don Drysdale, Frank Robinson, Bill Mazeroski, Yogi Berra, Dick Williams, Lou Brock, Jim Bunning, Carl Yastrzemski, Duke Snider, Juan Marichal, Whitey Herzog, Bob Gibson, Willie McCovey, Hoyt Wilhelm, Ron Santo, Willie Stargell    (Out of these guys – Perry, D. Williams, Brock, Yaz, Stargell and McCovey all had cards in the 1980 set – where I started my lifetime Topps project.)
    • Bob Uecker, Tony Kubek and now Tim McCarver have all won the Hall’s Ford C. Frick award as  broadcasters and have cards in this set.
    • Dave DeBusschere is featured on card #54 in the set – he pitched 2 seasons for the Chicago White Sox before focusing full-time on his pro basketball career, where he became a Hall of Famer and was voted as one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players in 1993.
  • Last Active player: Rose was the last active player from this set, playing his final game on August 17, 1986.
  • Variations: There are far fewer variations in this year than the 1962 set.  The 2 “Rookie Stars” cards in the first series have an error variation where it says “1962 Rookie Stars” on the front – this includes the DeBusschere card noted above.  Card #341 of Jack Baldschun has an error where there is a white streak across the smaller inset photo in the bottom right – there is a version where this streak was removed.  Art Fowler also has a variation where the number on the back of his card is colored in gold as opposed to a white box that’s supposed to be there.  Finally, there are 2 color variants for 3 of the set’s checklists (#102, #431, #509).  There are a few uncorrected errors, as well – the Ken Hubbs card doesn’t list his position on the front.  Ron Santo is pictured on Don Landrum’s card, and the card for Eli Grba really pictures Ryne Duren.  The back of Jim Owens’ card has a “R” for the column header where there should be a “W”.  Finally, the back of Ernie Banks’ card said “Major and Minor League record” – but he never played in the minors, and the comic on the back of his card actually points this out!

Wax boxes have a photo of a batter, catcher and umpire waiting on the pitch.  It appears to be Phillies catcher Clay Dalrymple.  The box has the words “Topps Baseball Bubble Gum” and either 1 cent or 5 cents depending on which type of card you bought.  The sides have a couple of other action shots from a distance, while one side has a Stan Musial advertisement for the product, claiming “Topps Baseball is the finest series ever”.  An ad for “Topps Finest” – 30 years early?

Parallel Set

There were no parallel sets for 1963 Topps.  In the 1960’s, Topps did produce cards for the Venezuelan market that paralleled the first couple of series, but usually only in even years.

Promo Cards

  • Topps issued a couple of 3 card advertising panels to market the set.  The panels have 3 player cards on the front of the card and the Musial advertisement on the backs.

Insert set

  • 46-sticker set – Topps Peel-Offs were inserted in most of the series of Topps card (1 per cello or 5-card pack).  These stickers measure 1-1/4″ x 2-3/4″ and include a “floating head” picture of the player inside a colored oval with the player name, team and position.  The backs come blank or with instructions.


  • I believe there is an advertisement on some of the packs for an album that can be purchased.  Other than that, I’m not aware of any promotions similar to the sticker album available in the previous year.

Other releases associated with the Topps flagship set

#1 – I did find a picture of some boxes that were used to hold the cards for presentations that Topps made.  Other than that – not much else that Topps released in 1963 for baseball.  These actually look pretty nice considering the times!

I had an autographed card of Whitey Ford from the 1962 set, but I don’t think I’ve ever owned a card from the 1963 Topps set.  It’s a nice looking design – and the card backs actually seem really nice compared to other years around this time frame.  I’m excited to open the Heritage product!




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