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The 1960s are a significant era if you’re looking for valuable baseball cards. There were five World Series winners and a strong franchise that dominated during the first half of the decade.
The Yankees won everything in the early ‘60s, with Mickey Mantle still going strong, but that all changed in 1965 as a new generation of players took over from the old guard.
Here’s a list with 10 of the most valuable ‘60s baseball cards, featuring some of the biggest stars from the decade.
Topps dominated the collectible landscape during the 1960s, so this list is filled with some of their top baseball sets and the biggest and best stars from the era. Most of the cards are reasonably understated, leading on from designs perfected in the ‘50s, but a couple of unique options stand out from the crowd.
The majority are reasonably plentiful, and you’ll be able to grab low graded versions for next to nothing. As we’re looking at the most valuable vintage cards, high PSA grades are the name of the game. (After all, many of the cards are close to their 60th year, so they’d be close to drawing a pension.) They’re listed in order of release, so let’s start with an option from 1961.
1961 Hank Aaron Topps #415
Seen as one of the greatest power hitters in baseball, Hank Aaron is a 25-time All-Star and he was the NL MVP when the Milwaukee Braves won the World Series in ‘57. Aaron held the MLB record for career home runs for 33 years, and he still holds several MLB offensive records to this day.
The first card on our list is from the 1961 Topps set, which features an image of the player as he gets ready to throw a baseball. As one of the older cards on the list it’s extremely difficult to find in decent condition, with no gem mint versions found in the PSA registry. It’s still one of the more valuable options from ‘61, and from the decade overall.
1962 Lou Brock Topps RC #387
Arguably best known for breaking Ty Cobb’s all-time major league stolen base record in 1977, Lou Brock won two World Series championships with the St. Louis Cardinals and is a six-time All-Star and a Hall of Famer since ‘85.
You can tell that Brock’s 1962 RC was released early during the decade, as it looks similar to many iconic ‘50s options. It has a wood effect background, with a profile shot of the player in a Cubs hat. The background is a deep orange, while there’s a Star Rookie logo in the top left corner. It has a sticker effect, so it looks like the image is peeling up to reveal his team name and position at the bottom. All in all, it’s a great card.
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As one of the better players from the era, Brock’s RC is extremely valuable, while the strong colors make it difficult to find in good condition. Options from the 1962 Topps Baseball set are particularly hard to find in higher-grade conditions due to frequent chipping around the edges.
1962 Mickey Mantle Topps #200
As a seven-time World Series champion and a 20-time All-Star, Mickey Mantle was baseball for many fans. Mantle won it all in the ‘50s and continued his fine form with the Yankees through the first half of the decade. Of course, his RC is seen as ‘the holy grail’ for some collectors, although it was released in 1952 so it doesn’t make the list! Sadly, he passed away from liver failure in 1995.
The first of three Mantle cards to feature, it’s from the same set as the Lou Brock RC above. This means that it has the wood effect background, with a profile shot of the player in a Yankees hat as he looks off-camera.
Given Mantle’s reputation, it’s more expensive than Brock’s card, while it’s susceptible to the same issues in terms of condition. ‘The Mick’ always put up big numbers, and his cards are no different.
1962 Mickey Mantle Topps ALL-STAR #471
1962 Topps Baseball was printed and distributed in seven different series, with a set size that ‘topped’ previous releases with 598 cards. The second Mantle card from the ‘62 set was released as part of Series 5, (#371-446) focusing on The Mick making it into the All-Star team.
It features the same wood effect background, but there’s a different profile shot of Mantle, and you can spot his bat in the left corner amidst a blue sky. Text found at the top reads; “The Sporting News American League All-Star’.
Each of his ‘62 Topps cards is comparable in price, so it depends on personal preference if you’re torn between the two.
1963 Pete Rose Topps RC with Pedro Gonzalez, Ken McMullen, and Al Weis #537
Pete Rose is the all-time MLB leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), singles (3,215), and outs (10,328), making 17 All-Star appearances in five positions as well as picking up a trio of World Series rings. He later went on to manage the Cincinnati Reds. However, his career ended badly following accusations that he gambled on baseball games during his time as a player and a coach.
His RC is arguably the most recognizable and influential baseball card of the 1960s, and it’s a unique design that hasn’t been replicated since. It has a vertical layout despite featuring four players, with Ken McMullen of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Yankees’ Pedro Gonzalez, and Al Weis of the Chicago White Sox joining Rose on the front of the card. It has a bright yellow background, with players’ heads found in red circles.
The cards are rife with print defects and poor centering, while it also has a blue-colored border along the top that is prone to chipping. You’ll have to keep an eye out for counterfeit Rose rookies as there were many doing the rounds in the 1980s.
1965 Pete Mikkelsen Topps #177
Compared to the others, it’s clear that Pete Mikklesen had a quieter career overall. The relief pitcher was only around for eight seasons, although he featured for the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers respectively in that time, reaching the majors in 1964 with the Yankees. He passed away in 2006.
So, how does his 1965 Topps card manage to make a list? There’s just one gem mint Pete Mikklesen RC on the market, and its status as a one-of-one makes it an attractive addition for potential collectors. It features an action shot after Mikklesen threw a baseball, with his thick glasses causing his eyes to be magnified. It also has a deep pink borderline, which is another reason why it’s tough to find flawless copies at auction.
1966 Mickey Mantle Topps #50
The final Mantle card to make a list is his ‘66 Topps. It’s another strong option, featuring an image of the Yankees legend with a bat held ready in both hands. Team logos are on show, while his name and position are in a small red box at the bottom.
As with almost every Mantle card from the ‘60s, you can expect prices to be pretty high, especially when looking at copies that have achieved a good grade. Adding a strong image in the ‘66 set is enough to help it stand out, while it normally suffers from centering issues that plague most Topps cards from the era.
1967 Rod Carew Topps Set Break #569
A legend for both the Minnesota Twins and the California Angels, Rod Carew played in 18 straight All-Star Games (1967–1984) and led the AL in hits three times. He indeed achieved most of his success in the ‘70s, but Carew’s baseball card appearances stretch from the mid-1960s to the junk wax era in the mid-1980s.
The 1967 Set is a twin card featuring Hank Allen along with Carew, with a couple of printed signatures found next to the profile pictures of each player. The combination of a yellow background and red writing make it one of the more recognizable options from the era, while the players are noted as A-League Rookie Stars. As with the others, PSA 9 grades are valuable, regularly selling for a four-figure fee.
1968 Nolan Ryan Topps RC #177
Nolan Ryan is a former pitcher who had a record 27-year career for the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers, respectively. He’s an eight-time All-Star, while he won the World Series in ‘69.
His RC makes it onto the list as one of the better options from the latter half of the decade. In fact, it’s one of the most valuable overall, with mint versions selling for over $25,000 at auction. As with the card above, it’s a duo rookie, with pitcher Jerry Koosman featured alongside Ryan in several profile shots.
This is typically the most valuable edition, but it’s worth mentioning that three other versions were produced. Milton Bradley, O-Pee-Chee, and Venezuelan Topps issued their own Ryan rookies, with subtle differences found between each one. It’s one of the reasons why it’s worth getting a graded card. It also comes with a unique background, which is why it’s so hard to find in mint condition.
1968 Roberto Clemente Topps 3-D #1
Rob Clemente was a right fielder who spent 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. A 15-time All-Star, he became a World Series Champion for the second time 11 years after he won the first. He passed away in a plane crash at the age of 38, while on his way to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
The Topps 3D was part of an experimental set. The images of the players were set against blurred backgrounds on the plastic fronts, creating a revolutionary 3D effect that is still recognizable today. It features a large profile image of Clemente, who appears to pop out of the card depending on which angle you look at it from. His name is Bob Clemente, found in yellow text at the top. As a 3D card, it’s typically prone to chipping and surface damage.
So there you have it. Despite being dominated by Mickey Mantle cards in the early years, you’re actually spoiled for choice regarding the most valuable ‘60s editions. There’s a range of styles on offer, while duo rookies also allow you to pick up a real piece of history for half the price.
The most expensive options do include several RCs and unique pieces, but most make a list due to a combination of scarcity at mint level, along with their skills as a player. Considering the values of the cards listed above, it’s fair to say that ‘60s cards aren’t too overpriced, while copies that achieve a high grade could provide a decent ROI if you’re willing to sit on them for a while.