Sunday, September 3, 2017
Building an affordable '50s-'60s vintage baseball card set
Unless money isn't an issue for you, buying complete sets from the '50s-'60s really isn't an option for many people. The oldest complete set I ever purchased was the 1974 Topps set (although my 1973 Topps set was purchased nearly complete). From 1972 back, I had to piecemeal my sets, mostly individually, but with a few small lots. Instead of just working on one set at a time like I did for newer sets, I expanded into collecting 2-3 sets at a time in order to take advantage of the best card deals in a high-priced market. When I finally finished off the '70s decade, the world of '50s-'60s vintage finally opened up to me.
My experience is that if you focus on only one set at a time, you'll end up greatly overpaying for cards in order to complete each set. Short-printed high-number cards really become an issue from 1967 back. Unless there are specific years that really appeal to you, trying to work in reverse chronological order becomes really tough prior to the 1968 Topps set. There actually were 2 sets that appealed to me, which really started my out-of-order vintage collecting: 1954 Topps and 1962 Topps. Anytime I could find a good deal on cards from my favorite 2 sets, I bought them. Other than that, I began focusing on cards that were selling much lower than book value without much regard for specific sets.
Some vintage sets seemed relatively easier to find good deals on than other sets, so I continued buying as many of those as I could get, like '69T, '68T, '65T, '64T, '60T, '59T, '55T, '53T, and '51T. Other sets seemed to cost relatively higher than others, so I tended to focus less on those like '67T, '66T, '63T, '61T, '58T, '57T, '56T, and '52T. The number of strategies are really endless--specific set, lowest cost, or collect them all, etc.
The 1951 Topps set is not as obscure as it was at the start of the 2010's decade, and has greatly risen in price despite the lower listed book values. Most people seemed to focus on the 1952 Topps set, which is significantly more expensive. The same goes for the 1957 Topps set, which was the first set to feature standard sized cards like we're used to today--and you're going to pay for it too. The 1955-1956 sets have half the number of cards, and cost about the same as the 1957 set, so I bought some 8-pocket pages and bought some of those.
Some other key factors to consider are the cost of key star cards, the cost of short-printed cards, and the number of cards in the set. I actually just went for the deals, and eventually I started to compile what started to look like a partial set, which would motivate me to focus getting more cards from that set. The statistics on my "set completion" tab shows where I was able to see progress. I still try to focus somewhat on reverse chronological order, but it's the deals that ultimately attract my dollars.
As of today, I've managed to complete 5051 of the 5991 total base cards from the 1960's (84.3%), and 1366 of the 3057 total base cards from the 1950's (44.6%). Those total numbers consider 2 variations from the 1969 set and 2 variations from the 1951 set.