Dec 28, 2011

The Quest for the 1961 Topps Phillies Team Set: High Numbered Glory

There must have been something wrong with kids growing up in the 1960s. Why did no one ever seem to buy the last series of cards in a given year? Is the need to complete a set a relatively new phenomenon? Did kids just get burnt out from buying cards all year and getting tired of seeing the same packs? Were all their favorite players and teams in the lower series so they already got them and now these later series?

Is it actually possible to lose interest from baseball during points in the year? This is something I just can't fathom. Baseball (and its various iterations) was the sport of youth. Wasn't there the MLB network and 24 hour ESPNews and the internet to keep interest in the hot stove during the offseason? Wait, you say there wasn't? You had to get The Sporting News weekly to know what was happening? Now, I see the problem.

Those poor packs of cards sat neglected during the early offseason months as kids and collectors were sidetracked by other pursuits such as football, snowball fighting, and raking leaves. I would still want them all though if I were alive back then. Grocery stores should always have cards and carry all those series.

Now, these high numbers are absolutely difficult and expensive to track down now because of this lack of sense of completeness and diversion from the real purpose in life: to indulge in baseball and baseball-related ideas all the year through. This can't be a solitary idea among the voices in my least they tell me it isn't.

Way back in 2010, I decided to pursue Phillies Topps team sets that corresponded with the Heritage set for that year. For 1961, all that's left is the high numbers of that 7th series. It has been frustrating to track down examples that cost less than $15. Here is the first example of Bobby Malkmus. He has no logo on his cap even though it's not his first card as a Phillie (1960 Topps).  Strange.

Here are the relevant stats:

Years on Phillies: 1960-1962
Best Year as a Phillie: 1961, .231/.276/.327 (61 OPS+), 7 HR, 31 RBI, finished 22nd in MVP voting (the only Phillie with a vote, considering the team was 47-107)
Card Number: 531 (HI number!)

Bring on the rest or build me a time machine to take me back to November 1961....all I would have to do is pack nickels with dates before that one.


Jim said...

I had read somewhere that it wasn't the lack of interest on the part of the baseball card collectors of the day. Rather, the store owners just didn't stock baseball cards once football season had started. That valuable self space went to packs of the newest football issues.

Let me know when you fire up the time machine, and I'll come with you. I'd like to buy a few complete Bowman sets during my visit.

Jim from Downingtown said...

Jim, from personal experience, I know that to be true.

Anonymous said...

It just so happens that this Malkmus card is the last one I need to complete my 1961 team set. These high numbers really are a bitch -- none more so than the '67 Bunning card.

Steve F. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve F. said...

Chiming in late, but I would echo what Jim said. And part of the problem was that the retailers would perhaps fall behind so that they were still selling their first series (maybe the second or third box of it even) when the second series came out. When they placed an order for the second series, the third series was even closer to being available to order. Etc., etc. So that by the time the second to last series box was sold out, it was football season and retailers often passed on ordering any of the final series--hence the scarcity.

And, over time, I think Topps recognized this pattern and started printing fewer cards of the final series. The fact that they had to pay (!) to have all those '52 high numbers (!!) dumped into the ocean (!!!) probably stuck in their minds as well.