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The Three Original Topps Tall Boy Sets

Variety is the spice of life, and Topps definitely mixed things up with the introduction of tall boy sized cards with their 1964 Hockey set. The cards must have been pretty popular because the following year, in 1965, they released tall boy football cards to stand out against their competition. Then, when they decided to re-enter the basketball card market, their 1969 release was, once again, of the tall boy variety. In this article, I’ll run down these three incredibly popular sets.

1964 Topps Hockey

1964 Topps Hockey #20 Bobby Hull

The first year that Topps didn’t have to compete with Parkhurst in the hockey card market, they released their set in a tall boy format (2-1/2″ x 4-11/16″) for the first time in any sport. From a historical perspective, some collectors think going with larger cards (Topps printed “GIANT SIZE” on the wrappers) was a “triumphalist call,” but no one knows for sure.

1964 Topps Hockey Wrapper

The set has 110 cards of players from all 6 NHL teams and was the first set in 10 years that included all the teams. The set is nearly double the size of previous Topps hockey sets and was released over two series.  Hockey collectors consider 1964 Topps to be one of the greatest hockey sets of all time, and it’s the toughest of these three tall boy sets to complete in high grade.

1964 Topps Hockey #55 Second Checklist

1965 Topps Football

The football market in 1965 was a little different than the hockey market. Philadelphia Gum had the rights to the NFL’s licensing for cards, so Topps, to expand its AFL release (less interesting content) and compete for sales, released their set in the tall boy format to stand out. Remember, the larger size format worked with 1952 Topps baseball in competition with Bowman too.

The 176 card set would end up being the only football card tall boy set Topps made. Maybe tall boys were too expensive to print/machine? It does, however, feature one of the most recognizable football cards in the hobby, Joe Namath’s card #122.

1965 Topps Football #122 Joe Namath

Topps knew they didn’t have the best content because the packs didn’t advertise the AFL specifically, just “Pro Football.”

1965 Topps Football Wrapper

1969 Topps Basketball

Topps returned to the basketball card market in 1969 with their 99-card set. Again, Topps must have been trying to make a splash and have the cards stand out on shelves with their larger size as “10 GIANT CARDS” was printed on the wax boxes.

1969 Topps Basketball Wax Box

1969 Topps basketball is loaded with stars enhancing its popularity. But you may not know that Topps couldn’t use team logos on the cards due to licensing issues, so some players posed for photos wearing their jerseys backward. Still, it’s an incredibly eye-appealing set due to the tall boy format and choice of colors.

1969 Topps Basketball #20 John Havlicek

Topps did follow up the 1969 Topps basketball set with another tall boy set in 1970, but they never did publish a baseball tall boy set (1964 Topps Giant-Size All-Stars being the closest we have). The drawback of the tall boy format is that the cards’ size makes them more condition sensitive since they were tougher to store and more prone to miscuts in the factory.

Regardless of your desire to collect high-end cards or not, a trio of all three original tall boy sets would be a great addition to anyone’s vintage card collection. Let me know down in the comments or over on Twitter which is your favorite, and happy collecting!

4 Comments

  1. Nice overview! These days “Giant Size” cards would be the kiss of death, but I enjoy oversized cards. Of these three I’d go with Hockey, but I’ve only got two cards among these three sets.

    • John John

      Thanks for the feedback! But I have no idea how the “modern” market would react to a giant size cards.

  2. Karl Karl

    1969-0 Topps Basketball

    • John John

      Ditto

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