Sunday, August 9, 2015
Where'd you get your cards in 1965?
Where did you get your baseball cards in 1965? Assuming, of course, that you were around in 1965.
For me, the answer is, "I didn't." For the first time in more than a decade, in 1965 I don't believe that I bought a single baseball, football or non-sports card. My card collecting had given way to hobby electronics.
If I had been collecting cards in '65, however, my options for acquisition would have been significantly more limited than they would be in coming decades. There was no internet, no card shops, no card shows, no collectors' magazines on newsstands.
Other than buying packs at the corner market, the only other card venue was the ads that appeared in The Sporting News, Baseball Digest, Street & Smith, Boy's Life and other general circulation sports titles.
Recently when I began reading microfilm of back issues of TSN from 1965, I made some notes about what was available, when, from whom and for how much. Each issue, between one and six mail-order card dealers ran 1" or 2" box ads offering mostly the current year's cards.
Card sales of 1965 Topps started right out in the first TSN issue of the year, with a Jan. 2 cover date.
An ad by one of the hobby's pioneering dealers, Bruce Yeko, operating as Wholesale Card Co., N.Y., offered the 1965 Topps baseball card set at $12.95.
"You get a card picture in color of almost every major league ball player . . . totaling about 600 cards," read the ad. Those who ordered by Feb. 15 were entitled to a "free set of Fleer Baseball Greats or the Ted Williams set of 79 cards." While the ad didn't specify whether the Fleer set was the 1960 or 1961, I'd bet that it was the single-series 1960 set of 79, rather than the 1961 issue of 154. And, of course, the free Fleer Ted Williams set didn't include card #68, "Ted Signs for 1959."
In that same issue of TSN, The Trading Card Co. of Farmington, Mich., was selling 1964 football and hockey sets.
Featured in the ad was the 1964-65 hockey set, including "All six NHL teams" in "larger card size (2-1/2" x 4-3/4")." The buyer could select either of the 55-card series at $2 each, or get the entire 110-card set for $3.75.
The ad offered the Philadelphia Gum Co., set of 198 NFL cards for $4.25, the Topps AFL set of 176 cards for $3.75, and the 88-card Topps Canadian Football League set at $2.50.
In the Jan. 9 issue of TSN, Wholesale Card Co,, matched The Trading Card Company's offerings of 1964 hockey and football sets, at prices about 25-50 cents higher than the Michigan dealer, but also offered the football and hockey cards individually at three cents each, with a 50-cent minimum.
In that same ad, Wholesale offered the previous year's Topps baseball card sets. The 587-card regular set was $12,80. Also for sale were the Topps Stand-Ups and Giants. Designated as "limited supply" the 77-card Stand-Ups set was priced at $2.95, or five cents apiece. The "rare" Giant All-Stars" set of 60 was $4.95, or 10 cents per individual card.
By the Jan. 16 issue, Woody Gelman's Card Collectors Co., had entered the card wars in the pages of TSN, offering the 1965 baseball set at $12.50.
The Feb. 6 issue had the year's first ad from Stan Martucci of Brooklyn. Martucci later operated Stan's Sports World and Stan's Sports Bar virtually in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. When I was publishing Sports Collector's Digest in the 1980s-1990s, Martucci was a regular advertiser, later operating out of Las Vegas.
Martucci's ad undercut both Yeko and Gelman, offering the 1965 Topps baseball set for $12. Free with all orders was "25 Topps color baseball stamps." Those were likely a selection of leftovers from the 200-piece 1962 Topps stamp set. "Early bird orders" could also receive their choice of "1964 Topps All Star baseball buttons set (44)" or the 1945 Sporting News Baseball Register (serviceman's edition."
The "buttons" are better known to collectors today as Topps Baseball Coins. The 44 All-Star coins were a subset from the 164-coin issue.
In the Feb. 20 TSN, Hobby Cards of Long Island City put further price pressure on the other advertisers by offering the 1965 set at $11.50, or three cents apiece with a $1 minimum.
The Trading Card Co. ad in the March 6 issue didn't attempt to get into a pricing war with the other advertisers, offering its 1965 Topps baseball set at $12,95. As an incentive, though, the company offered "36 5x7 pictures of 1965 major league stars." These were probably selections from contemporary Jay Publishing Co, team picture packs. Until April 1, the buyer could specify three teams of his choice (Jay team sets were 12 players each); after April 1, the advertiser made the team choices.
Also offered in that ad was a complete set of the checklists for 1965 Topps baseball for 35 cents "when available." Like the baseball cards themselves, the checklists were issued in series from about the first of the new year through mid-season.
An innovation in Sporting News' March 13 issue was the grouping of all the card dealers' ads in one place, under the heading "HOBBY CORNER".
In the March 20 issue, New York dealer Marshall Oreck (yes, the same vacuum cleaner maker whose ads run on TV) was selling the 1965 baseball set for $11.95 plus 50 cents postage. He also offered for 25 cents the "most complete catalog ever published. Over 30 fascinating pages, big 8 x 10 size fully illustrated showing thousands of sports and non-sports cards."
By the April Sporting News issues, most of the advertisers were offering the 1965 cards in series, generally around $2.25 to $2.50.
Martucci was back in the June 5 issue offering vintage cards in a "BASEBALL CARD COMPLETE SET SELLOUT". This was the only ad I saw that mentioned condition. According to Martucci, all of the obsolete sets he was selling were in "A-1 Condition."
The advertised prices were . . .
1953 (color) 18.00
I find it interesting that Martucci didn't offer the 1953 Bowman black-and-white set. Either the 64-card set was too small to deal with, or the cards were too hard to find to build sets.
The first ads for 1965 football cards appeared in the July 3 issue. Card Collectors Co, offered the 176-card Topps AFL set at $3.95, the Philadelphia NFL set of 198 for $4.95 and the newly expanded 132-card Topps CFL set at $5. Singles were three cents each for the NFL, four cents for AFL and CFL.
The number of ads in TSN's "Hobby Corner" dwindled as the baseball season came to a close.
In the paper's Oct. 9 issue, however, there was a spike in the number of ads, as sellers took advantage of presumed increased circulation of the World's Series edition. (TSN circulation, by the way, as attested to by a mailing permit statement around that time, was based on a print run of nearly 290,000 copies.
That special issue was the first time I noticed an ad from Larry Fritsch of Stevens Point, Wis.
The headline on his box ad read, "HEY KIDS!! WHY PAY MORE?" The offered Topps baseball and football cards "1958 thru 1965--all years, all numbers" at two cents apiece and a nickel postage for each 20 cards ordered. Fritsch asked that second choices be provided. He also offered a price list of "thousands of other cards in stock" for a nickel.