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Regular Cards, Pictures Better than Gimmicks

Bill Wagner - Babe Waxpak by Bill Wagner, "Babe Waxpak"
November 2, 2005

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Dear Babe: I have a complete set of the 1965 Topps Embossed insert set. These cards were one of the original insert cards issued. It was a 72-card set for the previous year all stars. The cards are gold with blue backgrounds for the American League and red for the National League with a raised imprint of a player's likeness. My question is why are they not more valuable given the fact that they have all of the top stars of the day - Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Carl Yastrzemski, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente and Henry Aaron among others?
Jim Martin, Goffstown, N.H.

Take one look at these embossed foil cards and a collector realizes right away that condition is the key. The foil with a raised portrait of the player is easily scratched or marred. Topps inserted cards for 36 National League stars and the same amount for their AL counterparts in 1965 packs. The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards from the editors of Sports Collectors Digest lists the set at $400, while Beckett's Almanac of Baseball Cards has it at $200. That's for cards in near-mint condition. Interestingly, even though Beckett's set value is lower, it has Mantle as the top card at $75, while the Standard Catalog has him at $55. Roberto Clemente is next in line at $30-$35. The basic difference between the two guides is that the Standard Catalog lists commons at $3, while the Almanac has them at just $1.50.

Topps produced a number of these insert and oddball sets in the 1960s and '70s. They're a great way to get cards of Hall of Famers for a fraction of what their regular cards would cost. Therein lies the answer - collectors are more willing to pay big bucks for regular cards as opposed to these inserts. It's pretty much that way across the board. It is even more so for this embossed set, because the cards don't have a photo of the player. The pseudo etchings aren't that attractive.

Dear Babe: I have "The Vest-Pocket Encyclopedia of Baseball" from Gillette. It's the 1956 edition with a few loose pages. I also have a copy of the "1957 Baseball Rules" published by The National Baseball Congress. Both are frayed from use over the years, settling a lot of arguments.
Joseph Sudick, Saltsburg, Pa.

The encyclopedia is a premium that dates from the 1950s when Gillette sponsored The Game of the Week. I don't think either book is of great value because of their condition. In the past, I've put the encyclopedias at $25-$50 for mint versions. Generally, there isn't a lot of interest in the old rule books, unless they are the ones from the very early days of baseball. The fact that your books have been used heavily over the years will have a negative effect on value, but that's more than covered by all the use they gave you and all the memories they provided.

Dear Babe: I have a baseball signed by Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson, Warren Spahn, Stan Musial, Ray Herbert, Dick Groat and Tommy Davis.
K.V. Jordan, Roswell, Ga.

Mantle is the only thing that saves this conglomeration of signatures that have nothing in common except that they're all ballplayers. It's worth $100 thanks to Mantle, said Mike Gutierrez, owner of in Arizona.

Dear Babe: I have a 1949 St. Louis Cardinals program signed by Enos Slaughter over the blank scorecard in the center. I also have a St. Louis Browns "heads up" card signed by Bill Jennings.
W. Edward Harriss, Riverside, Calif.

It's a nice Slaughter signature that is hurt by the fact it is signed over all the little boxes for scoring. Slaughter was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985. He died in 2002, which means he was around for 17 years, signing at shows after being enshrined in Cooperstown. I'd say the signature and problem combo is worth $10-$25. As for Jennings, he played just one year in the majors - 1951. The signed card, created to look like a 1938 Goudey Heads Up, is from a 1998 set that the St. Louis Browns historical society issued to honor then living Alumni of the Browns, according to Beckett's Almanac of Baseball Cards. Unless I am missing something, I don't think it's of much value with or without a signature. I would note that in looking over the checklist in the Almanac, I see Stan Musial listed. As far as I know, he was always a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, so the set might honor both teams or they just threw in Musial to give the set some substance.

About the author
Bill Wagner is a veteran journalist with 37 years in the newspaper business as well as being a former Army combat correspondent in Vietnam. He developed the Babe Waxpak sports card column in the 1980s and took over authorship in 1993, expanding into sports memorabilia and autographs as well as answering questions on cards.

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