A look back at 1964 Topps

11 03 2013

In honor of Heritage coming out last week, and me buying two boxes yesterday, here’s my post on the original.

Last year once Heritage hit, I basically stopped posting about my Lifetime Topps project and started doing retro sets only until October.  I’m going to try to avoid having that happen this year by doing less detailed looks at these retro sets that I buy.  I’ll still do Heritage in some level of depth because it’s my favorite product.  But I won’t be doing 20-something comparisons this time!  We’ll see Gypsy Queen and Archives come out, I’ll post less on those, too.

This year’s Heritage product has less to live up to in my mind.  The 1962 design was one of my favorites of those older sets that I knew of when I was a kid.  The 1963 design was one I didn’t know much about, but after being featured as last year’s Heritage throwback, it became one of my favorite designs Topps has ever done.  The 1964 set probably isn’t in that category.  I don’t think it’s a bad design, just not a very good one, either.  It’s better than 1961, I guess.  1964 is an in-between year.  I think a lot of people loved the very unique 1962 design and 1963 seems to be a favorite for many.  1965 and the pennant design is also a fan favorite, so I think that will be the more popular product.

1964 Topps Rose Wrapper587 cards in the set – 11 more than the year before.

  • Set Design: The design features a white border with the team name in big block letters at the top.  There is a black box at the bottom with the player name and position, with the player photo in the middle.  The orange-colored card backs are horizontally oriented with the card number inside a baseball in the upper left corner and player biographical data along the top border.  There is a blurb about the player at the top and a trivia question along the bottom that you’d have to rub down to see the answer.  The player’s complete statistical record is shown in the middle of the card.
  • Subsets: League Leaders (#1-12), World Series (#136-140), Multi-player specials (10 cards throughout), Team Cards (19 cards throughout), Managers (22 cards throughout), Topps All-Star Rookies (9 cards throughout), Rookie Stars (57 cards throughout).  This was quite an increase in the number of the Rookie Stars cards from 1963.
  • 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 10 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 #523-587
  • Rookies: Phil Niekro is the most notable rookie card, as do Tommy John and Mickey Lolich.  Future HOF managers Tony LaRussa and Lou Piniella has a RC in this set as well.
  • Hall of Fame: There are 35 (or 38 – depending if you count the broadcasters) Hall of Famers in this set.  Factoring the addition of Niekro, that’s a net 2 decrease.  Stan Musial, Richie Ashburn, and Whitey Herzog were gone.  Berra in the set, but as a manager
    • Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks, Casey Stengel, Eddie Mathews, Orlando Cepeda, Brooks Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Warren Spahn, Al Kaline, Gaylord Perry, Mickey Mantle, 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, Bob Gibson, Willie McCovey, Hoyt Wilhelm, Ron Santo, Willie Stargell, Phil Niekro.
    • 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 #247 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.  He pitched 2 seasons (only one of which he saw significant time), yet he got 3 separate Topps cards (1963 to 1965).
  • Last Active player: Tommy John was the last active player from this set – he played his final game on May 25, 1989.  There wasn’t a player who played in the 90’s until the 1968 set (Nolan Ryan).
  • Variations: There are only a couple of variations in the 1964 set.  Card #4, a pitching leaders card, has an apostrophe on the back in an incorrect place that was later corrected.  Checklist #517 has a numbering error that was later corrected as well.  There are a few more uncorrected errors.  Pete Rose, Don Mossi, Hector Lopez, Vic Power and Minnie Minosa all have their birth year incorrect on the card back.  Joe Koppe has his glove on the wrong hand.  Roberto Clemente’s card back for #440 spells Pittsburgh incorrectly (Pittsburfh).  Lew Burdette’s name is misspelled and he tricked the photographer by posing as a left-hander.  Bud Bloomfield’s photo is actually of Jay Ward, and Dave Bennett’s Rookie Stars card lists his age incorrectly.

1964 Topps wax box

The wax box is a little less colorful than the previous year – with a white background and a catcher, umpire and batter following through on a swing. The box has the Topps in a red oval at the top with “Baseball” in green block letters below that. I can’t tell if there’s a player the batters designed after – that looks like it could have been Frank Robinson, but he was number 20.

Parallel Set

Topps issued a parallel set of 390 cards in Venezuela (creatively referred to as Topps Venezuelan).  This was the first four series of the base set.  This year, the text was completely in English, with the only difference in the cards being a black back as opposed to the orange card backs.

1964 topps Zimmer venezuelan

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 a mock-up of Mickey Mantle’s card plus an advertisement on the backs.

1964 Topps Ad panel

1964 Topps Ad panel back 2

Insert set

  • 164-coin set – Topps inserted coins of 120 players into specially marked packs.  The coins measure 1-1/2″ in diameter.  The last 44 cards are All-Star coins.

1964 Topps Coins mantle


  • 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

There isn’t really anything else (or at least nothing I’m aware of – and I’ve done some “research”) that’s directly associated with the flagship set.  There are a couple of things that Topps has included in Heritage as buybacks, but these don’t qualify as “associated with the flagship” set.

  1. Topps Giants – these came in their own separate packs
  2. Bazooka – this was its own “product” issued as box-bottoms for Bazooka gum

There is also the stand-ups from 1964 – they were also a separate product, but they aren’t included in Heritage in any fashion this year.

I’ll start posting about the 2013 version in my next post – hopefully Wednesday morning as I haven’t had a chance to open anything from the boxes I bought on Sunday.



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