What’s the Deal with the 1968 Jack in the Box San Diego Rockets Short Prints?

I wrote a high-level overview of the 1968 Jack in the Box San Diego Rockets basketball set on the Oddball Archive a few months ago. I mentioned that the Harry Barnes and Henry Finkel cards were short prints in a version of the set that Jack in the Box released in 1968. Jack in the Box was then believed to have substantially reissued the set in 1969, replacing Barnes and Finkel with Bobby Smith and Bernie Williams. Because so little is written about vintage basketball sets, I thought the short prints warranted a deeper look.

1968 Jack in the Box San Diego Rocket Short Prints – Barnes and Finkel

The question I had when I started researching the short prints was if Barnes and Finkel were actually short-printed in 1968. There is the possibility that the 1969 reissue was just so large, compared to 1968, that the fact that Jack in the Box omitted them made them seem like short prints, relatively. 

The fact that Jack in the Box could have reissued the set in 1969 requires inspection. But it makes sense when you consider that:

  • Finkel was on the Rocket’s roster for the 1968-69 season but was traded to the Celtics on August 22, 1969, for cash and played for the Celtics during the 1969-70 season.
  • Barnes’ only season with the San Diego Rockets was 1968-69 (it was his only season of NBA basketball)
  • Bobby Smith was a rookie out of Tulsa for the 1969-70 San Diego Rockets. The Cleveland Cavaliers then drafted Smith in the NBA expansion draft on May 11, 1970.
  • Bernie Williams was a rookie out of La Salle for the 1969-70 San Diego Rockets.

Next, back in August, Huggins and Scott sold four giant lots of 1968 Jack in the Box basketball cards:

  • 2350+ Elvin Hayes cards sold for $7200.
  • 1725+ Rick Adelman cards sold for $850.
  • 1350+ Pat Riley cards sold for $3200.
  • 21k+ cards of Barnett, Block, Kimball, Kojis, Lantz, B. Smith, Trapp, A. Williams, and B. Williams sold for $550.
1968 Jack in the Box San Diego Rockets Elvin Hayes Lot
1968 Jack in the Box San Diego Rockets Rick Adelman Lot
1968 Jack in the Box San Diego Rockets Pat Riley Lot
1968 Jack in the Box San Diego Rockets Lot

It’s anecdotal, but you’ll notice these hoards of Rockets cards didn’t include Finkel or Barnes. But it still helps support the belief that Jack in the Box did a significant reissue in 1969.

Next, Heritage Auctions sold a unique Jack in the Box San Diego Rockets display sheet in February 2010 (for only $65!).

1968-69 Jack in the Box San Diego Rockets Display Sheet

The sheet, when completed, was good for one ticket to a Rockets basketball game. Kids had to obtain one of the player card sheets from San Diego area Jack in the Box stores. Then they had to collect all 12 player cards and paste them on the sheet. They had to bring the completed sheet to the Rockets ticket office to collect a ticket to the game of their choice.

You’ll notice that the Barnes and Finkel cards are on the sheet. I wish we could see what Jack in the Box printed on the raw sheet, but how could the Rockets possibly have included spaces for Smith or Williams on an offer for the 1968-69 season when they were still in college?

It’s also interesting that in the auction description, Heritage wrote, “To keep prizes from being collected, the old tradition of short printing two players was instituted.” I don’t know how Heritage drew that reference, but if true, the Barnes and Finkel cards could almost be called double short-prints (short-printed in 1968-69 and not included in the 1969-70 reissue).

Unfortunately, we don’t have any ticket promotion sheet for the 1969-70 season. But it’s rational to think that Barnes and Finkel wouldn’t have been included in a 1969-70 reissue when they were no longer on the team, and Smith and Williams were rookies.

Next, we can look at PSA’s pop report and auction sale data. First, though, remember that this was the first set to have pro cards for Pat Riley and Elvin Hayes, which skews the data a bit. Collectors also grade short-printed cards more often since they command higher prices. However, the data is still pretty telling.

PSA has graded 1591 1968 Jack in the Box San Diego Rockets cards, including 288 for Pat Riley and 284 for Elvin Hayes. The two least-graded cards are the short prints; Harry Barnes only has 37 PSA-graded cards, and Henry Finkel has 64. 

1968 Jack in the Box San Diego Rockets Complete Graded Set – Fronts
1968 Jack in the Box San Diego Rockets Complete Graded Set – Backs

What’s interesting is that Barnes has just a single PSA 10, and Finkel has just 3, by far the lowest in the set; the next closest is Toby Kimball, who has 15 PSA 10s. However, their replacements, Bernie Williams and Bobb Smith, have the 3rd and 4th most PSA 10s in the set (next to Riley and Hayes, of course) with 50 and 41, respectively. I’m not exactly sure what to make of this, other than that maybe a lot of them were hoarded at the time, like the Huggins & Scott auction shows.

Also, from a sales perspective, the Barnes and Finkel PSA 10s are the 3rd and 4th most expensive cards in the set, behind Hayes and Riley, because of the low populations and demand from set collectors.

The short prints are hard to find on eBay, too. A search for “jack in the box san diego rockets” returns 107 results but just one Henry Finkel and zero Harry Barnes cards.

Ultimately, I doubt we will ever know what happened in the late 60s concerning these cards, but I think it’s logical that Barnes and Finkel were short-printed in 1968-69 and then not included in the substantial 1969-70 reissue. No matter what, the Barnes and Finkel are hard to come by and two of the most challenging cards to find across all vintage basketball. Happy collecting!

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