Looking to Build an Attractive Vintage Baseball Set Without Breaking the Bank?

In this market, people often think vintage sets are too expensive to complete. Part of the reason for that is that folks tend to highlight the upper-tail of the hobby – namely high-grade, high-end sales. But the vintage sports card market can be affordable, even for vintage set collectors, particularly those willing to show a little patience. Low to mid-grade graded cards are readily available and comparatively inexpensive, and there are tons of ungraded cards available if you look around. This article will cover the 1968 Topps baseball set because I consider it one of the best-looking low-grade vintage sets.

1968 Topps Baseball is a 598 card set with color photographs and a light-colored wood-frame border. The key cards are the Nolan Ryan and Johnny Bench rookies. 

1968 Topps #177 Mets Rookies
1968 Topps #247 Johnny Bench

The set also features a great Mickey Mantle card (his 2nd to last) and All-Star Rookies of Tom Seaver and Rod Carew.

1968 Topps #280 Mickey Mantle
1968 Topps #45 Tom Seaver
1968 Topps #80 Rod Carew

The set’s popular subsets include League Leaders cards, World Series cards, and All-Star cards.

1968 Topps #1 NL Batting Leaders
1968 Topps #373 Frank Robinson All-Star

Lastly, the 1968 Topps Super Stars Killebrew/Mays/Mantle is an absolute hobby monster.

1968 Topps #490 Super Stars

PSA writes that “the uniquely styled borders are highly susceptible to chipping and displaying evidence of wear.” But I disagree entirely; the coloring means that the problems low-grade cards have don’t stand out the way they would on a 1971 Topps black-bordered card, for example. The color of 1968 Topps baseball cards means they don’t show the dings and corner scuffs as prominently. Look at all the star cards I pictured in this article; they all have great eye-appeal in low-grade.

There are low-grade examples with excellent eye appeal, but how available are they? In terms of PSA graded availability, there are almost 310k graded cards in the total population, and >25k are PSA 4 or lower. The stars are pretty available and liquid on places like eBay. COMC has almost 4k cards in its inventory and a search for “1968 Topps” on eBay, sorted by the sport of baseball, and the set of 1968 Topps Baseball results in 8054 listings. Sportlots has a vast inventory as well; if you want a 1968 Topps Ted Davidson card, well, there are 61 of them there.

In terms of price, a collector can start by searching for lower-grade complete sets. A few recent sales include:

  • A Vg complete set in June 2021 for $1630.
1968 Topps Baseball Complete Set
  • A Vg-VgEx set for $2125 in May 2021.
1968 Topps Baseball Complete Set
  • A near set of 588/598 for $848 in July 2021. 
1968 Topps Baseball Nearly Complete Set

That’s still a lot of money, so collectors have another option to buy smaller lots and slowly build a set. A 317 card lot of 1968 Topps baseball cards which included high numbers, recently sold for $299.99.

1968 Topps Baseball Lot

And this 36 card lot in Gd condition sold for $26.

1968 Topps Baseball Lot

Individual cards will be in dollar boxes (or lower) at shows, and most are well under $1 on COMC or Sportlots.

The bottom line is that if you want to get into collecting a vintage set that won’t break the bank but still looks great, and you’re willing to take your time, I can’t recommend 1968 Topps enough. The set has tons of star power, and it’s one of the better-looking low-grade sets in the vintage market.

Let me know what other sets you would recommend for vintage set collectors down in the comments.

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