In August, I wrote an article called “5 Jim Brown Football Cards for the Master Collector“. After I posted a link to it on Twitter, a collector posted that Larry Fritsch once told him that the 1959 Bazooka Charlie Conerly was impossible for him to find (The 1959 Bazooka Jim Brown was one of the five cards I shared). He noted that search was before eBay, auctions, etc., but Larry had considered the 1959 Bazooka Charlie Conerly one of the very few cards he chased unsuccessfully. Based on the collector’s suggestion, I decided to research the 1959 Bazooka set and the Charlie Conerly card, in particular, a bit more.
The 1959 Bazooka Football set is one of the rarest and most attractive Topps ever made (Topps has owned the brand since its introduction in 1947). The set has 18 cards plus one variation. That variation is a Charlie (Chuck/Charles) Conerly that says he played for the Baltimore Colts (he played for the New York Giants). The football cards are mostly mid-range, oversized portraits with logos on the bottom.
Topps printed the cards on the bottom of boxes of Bazooka bubble gum, which meant that cards had to be hand-cut from the box. The cards are about 5 inches tall with blank backs.
From a printing perspective, these Bazooka gum boxes first had baseball players on them; football players came later in the fall. The belief is that the Conerly’s, Groza, and Tracy are short prints. That’s mostly a conclusion related to the baseball cards and then football card availability. A user on a forum wrote that “In early 1959 Topps released a nine card Bazooka baseball card set on the bottom of 25 piece Bazooka gum boxes. The promotion was so popular that they added 14 additional baseball players to the set later in the season. These 14 are short prints. Late in the year, Topps replaced the baseball players on Bazooka boxes with football players. The SP’s are likely ones added later just like the SP’s in the baseball set.” Since there is a Conerly correction, there was undoubtedly a second printing of some kind, and it’s reasonable to think they may have added more players.
The 1959 Bazooka football cards are scarce and condition sensitive (due to hand cutting). PSA has only graded 225 of them, with 163 receiving an authentic grade. You can see the dotted lines around the cards; PSA automatically encapsulates them as authentic if they got compromised in the cut. Of those 225 total cards, there are only 4 Chuck Conerly Baltimore Colts errors and 6 Chuck Conerly New York cards in total – Tom Tracy is the toughest in the set with only four graded copies. But if you want to get both Conerly’s today, that’s probably a more challenging effort. Part of the scarcity has to do with Topps, historically, printing far fewer football products than baseball, and that these Bazooka boxes aren’t a flagship product (like the base set from wax packs) and kids had to buy an entire box of gum to get a single card.
There isn’t much historical data from a sales perspective since the cards are so rare, and you won’t even see many of these at The National. A lot of a Tobin Rote and Chuck Conerly (Giants) graded by SGC sold for $2100 back in 2009 at Huggins and Scott.
Robert Edwards Auction sold a nearly complete set of 17, plus the Conerly variation (missing Joe Perry) for $6500 in 2013. And Mile High Card Company sold the lot pictured below with the raw Unitas in December 2014 for $7122.
Today, it’s easy to see why the 1959 Bazooka Charlie Conerly cards were so tough for Larry Fritsch to track down; there just aren’t that many on the market.
The scarcity and look of the 1959 Bazooka football cards will continue to bring hobby eyes whenever one comes to the market. And while not for the budget collector, they’re a significant vintage football set.