By Doug Koztoski
Give Topps credit, for about a decade starting in the early 1960s the cardmaker often gave collectors of oddball items excellent choices, whether it be through pack inserts or separate issues. Sometimes, in fact, Topps tried a product in both locales, such as with the Stand-Ups.
In the 1968 second series football five-cent wax packs, for instance, sports hobbyists found one of 22 different Stand-Ups in with some regular cards and a piece of gum. The die-cut football Stand-Ups feature close ups of the unhelmeted players that could be detached from their solid colored backgrounds and a pair of hinged “wings” or “legs” at the base of each were then easily bent to help give the inserts the ability to stand alone.
Joe Henninger collected every mainstream set Topps put out in the sports card arena in 1968: baseball, football, hockey and basketball.
“I got hooked on it right away,” Henninger said. “I had a newspaper route to pay for the packs and continued like that through 1970.”
Some of Henninger’s 1968 Football cards, that he bought as an adult, have earned high grades and live in PSA holders, including the 12th ranked Current Finest Stand-Up collection on the PSA Set Registry.
“I really like the picture on there, that was separate from their (regular) card,” he noted. “I like the head shot, with the little legs the Stand-Ups could stand on, I liked that as a kid.”
When Henninger returned to the hobby about 20 years ago, he developed an appreciation for non “punched-out” Stand-Ups, too.
“There are a lot of printing miscues that happened with those (inserts), which makes for a tougher find for a high end example,” he said.
Henninger’s top picks from the unnumbered ’68 issue involve quarterbacks Joe Namath (the key to the set) and Roman Gabriel, plus Alex Karras, since he was a Detroit Lion. A demon on defense, Karras later announced games for a few seasons on “Monday Night Football” and cobbled together a career as an actor, too, most notably for many as Mongo in the in 1974 movie “Blazing Saddles” and on the 1980s sitcom “Webster.”
“The cards are not hard to find in general terms, up to mid-range examples,” Henninger said of the ’68 football inserts, “but higher end samples are another story.”
Among the most challenging to track down in high grade?
“Billy Kilmer and Don Meredith, with only 11 each in PSA 8,” he said. “And there are no (PSA) 9s for Meredith, so that is an even tougher one.”
A ball card brother
Other than being in insert form, the idea of a collector of the era getting a Stand-Up was not new to several in 1968 since Topps put out a separate baseball issue of these, in their own penny and nickel packs in 1964.
About five years ago Allen Lindstrom purchased his first ’64 Stand-Up: Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline, a Detroit legend.
“I am a Detroit Tigers fanatic,” Lindstrom said, “and I found a raw one at a National Sports Collectors Convention. It was extremely sharp and beautiful and PSA (later) graded it 8.5 (Near Mint-Mint).”
Samples of the issues’ other Tigers soon found their way into Lindstrom’s collection.
The hobbyist also likes the 77-card offering’s solid Cooperstown connection.
“There are so many Hall of Famers (21) in the set, which, after the Detroit Tigers attraction, led me to collect the set,” he said.
Twenty-two short or single prints (SP) and lower population higher condition graded cards also fueled his interest.
Among his favorite non-Tigers stars in the issue: Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax and Carl Yastrzemski. Yaz is one of eight Hall of Famers that doubles as a ’64 Stand-Up SP, a list that also includes Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Warren Spahn and Billy Williams.
A pair of the most difficult for Lindstrom, #18 for the issue on the Set Registry, to find for his set quest: Cincinnati Reds Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson.
“Those are tough for me, at least in the condition and price I desire,” he said.
But one never knows just when an opportunity to obtain items for a collection might surface, case in point Lindstrom’s ’64 specialty set.
“I obtained the ’64 Stand-Ups of Clemente, Koufax and a group of commons through a trade with another (PSA) Set Registry member for a large lot of ’63 Topps Baseball.”
Of course the Stand-Ups from either set have been floating about the hobby universe for decades, but in the last 25 years many have become professionally graded. About a decade ago some 7,200 1964 Stand-Ups were tallied in the PSA Population Report, these days that number is around 15,800. The ’68 Stand-Ups, however, show up in the same form about ten times less frequently. Yes, the ’64 Stand-Ups currently outnumber the ’68s, in PSA slabs anyway, by a little over 10-to-1.
In the ’64 set, Mantle shows up in PSA holders the most in the two sets with about 630 samples, Clemente a little over 500 times and Hank Aaron and Koufax not too far behind that. Some of the toughest of the tough SPs, meantime, turn up only about 130 to 140 times in the same way.
For the ’68 Football insert collection, Namath is most prevalent in PSA holders at around 240 samples, about five times easier to find than the toughest on that gridiron roster.
Complete sets of these issues pop up on eBay on occasion; a recent auction saw a complete ’68 Stand-Up set, overall in PSA 4 to 5 shape, sell for about $140. The ’64 issue, however, with so many stars and single prints, often brings a lot more, maybe thousands more, in comparable condition.
Looking down the road
Perhaps Lindstrom put it best with respect to the long-term popularity of the 1964 Stand-Ups, but it could also hold true for the ’68 football inserts of a similar design.
“As long as we are able to maintain the history of the more popular players throughout the years, then this would be a great set to maintain or increase in value over the next decade,” he noted.
And the extra oddball nature of the cards adds to their appeal, too. And that, of course, stands for something.
Doug Koztoski is a longtime contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He welcomes comments and questions related to this article at email@example.com.