Many important events took place during 1964 as Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, "Beatlemania" spread across the United States, and the world was introduced to Buffalo Wings along with the Ford Mustang. In sports, 22-year-old boxer Muhammed Ali captured the heavyweight title by defeating Sonny Liston and the St. Louis Cardinals topped the New York Yankees in seven games to win the World Series. The baseball card hobby also experienced an exciting year. Check out some of the top 1964 baseball cards to collect.
The Topps flagship set was the most important release of 1964, but some collectors did not like the design due to the large team name at the top of the card, which, in the opinion of many, took up too much space. The set also had a sparse quantity of important rookie cards on the checklist. Still, there are some positives to collecting 1964 Topps Baseball. A limited number of printing errors with the majority not being corrected eliminated some of the hard-to-find variations that appear in other Topps releases from this era. Topps also printed the different series in equal quantities, making it easier to find the high-number cards, which were typically short-printed. All of these factors make the 1964 Topps set one of the most affordable from the decade, as well as being one of the easiest to complete.
In addition, a few different oddball and regional card sets were produced in 1964. Several of these were food-based products while others were created by Topps in an effort to branch out into other card products. Sets such as Topps Stand-Ups and Topps Giants are easy to find and generally inexpensive. However, other 1964 card products, like Meadowgold and Penafiel, can be costly on the secondary market due to scarcity.
Also appealing to collectors, there are plenty of Hall of Fame players included on the 1964 checklists. While the year is not generally known for a strong group of rookie cards, there are still a few first-year editions worthy of consideration. This list of great cards from 1964 includes difficult-to-find regional products, plus food-based and other oddball issues, along with several cards from the flagship Topps MLB set.
Top 1964 Baseball Cards to Collect
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10. 1964 Penafiel Babe Ruth #119
The 1964 Penafiel cards are difficult to find but highly sought after by many collectors from this era. For those unfamiliar with the brand, Peñafiel is a Mexican mineral water and soft drink company. The set consisted of Mexican League players, all-time greats, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were popular at the time due to their barnstorming tour in Mexico City to play the Diablos Rojos de México. The cards have sticker backs and were meant to be placed in an album, making the Penafiel cards extremely condition-sensitive. The majority of the Mexican and Dodgers players are affordable and can be found for reasonable amounts, but the all-time great players included in the set are in high demand, especially the card of Babe Ruth.
Following his retirement in 1935, there were few Babe Ruth cards produced until the early 1960s when he appeared in 1961 and 1962 Topps, along with 1960 and 1961 Fleer. The majority of these 1960s Babe Ruth cards do not hold the same value as those from his playing days and are easy to find on the secondary market. However, the 1964 Penafiel Babe Ruth is different. This card is one of his most challenging post-World War II cards to locate, especially in good condition.
9. 1964 Meadowgold Dairy Mickey Mantle/Willie Mays/Sandy Koufax/Bill Mazeroski Side Panel
If you collected baseball cards in the mid-1980s, you probably ran across a Meadowgold Dairy card at some point. They were amongst a long list of food companies from that era that attached cards of players like Mike Schmidt, Wade Boggs, and Ryne Sandberg to the side panels of their dairy products. While most of the 1980s Meadowgold cards can now be found in the nickel and dime boxes at local card shows, not many collectors are familiar with the company's first attempt at baseball cards in 1964.
Meadowgold Dairy attached a set of four blue- or green-tinted baseball cards to the backs of milk cartons that year, featuring Mickey Mantle, Willie Ways, Sandy Koufax, and Bill Mazeroski. Collectors could cut out the cards individually, as was most common, or cut out the whole panel. These cards can also be found in pairs with the panels being cut both vertically and horizontally. Due to the fact that they were hand-cut, the 1964 Meadowgold cards are condition-sensitive. They have become very tough to find over the years, but are a favorite in many collecting circles from this era.
T8. 1964 Topps Phil Niekro RC #541 (with Gene Roof)
There were not many important rookies produced in 1964, but collectors can find at least two first-year issues of note in the flagship Topps set. The most important rookie card belongs to Hall of Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro. "Knucksie" may lack the popularity of other Hall of Fame pitchers from the 1960s and 1970s, but this is a rookie card of a player with 300 career wins and more than 3,000 strikeouts. The 1964 Topps Niekro has earned a spot in more than a few baseball card collections and represents one of the best values for collectors looking at Hall of Fame rookie cards from the '60s. Raw copies can be found for a fraction of what it costs collectors to buy the first-year issues of Niekro's peers, such as Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, and Nolan Ryan.
T8. 1964 Topps Richie Allen RC #243 (with John Herrnstein)
Richie Allen cards have grown in popularity, gaining appeal across a broad segment of the hobby in recent years as his Hall of Fame candidacy has gained momentum. This Dick Allen rookie card is plentiful and generally inexpensive, in spite of the fact that it has increasingly been considered an important rookie card from the mid-1960s. Collectors with a larger budget can find high-end graded copies of the card, which naturally have a larger price tag. The Niekro has long been considered the lone standout rookie card in the 1964 set, but for many, the Allen rookie is also a must-own.
7. 1964 Topps Roberto Clemente #440
Roberto Clemente had been in the Major Leagues for almost a decade by the time the 1964 season started, and he was still in the prime of his career. Not only was he one of the best players in the game during this time, but Clemente was also one of the most popular players in the baseball card hobby. His 1964 Topps card offers considerable aesthetic appeal.
The posed photo of Clemente in his sleeveless, home Pirates uniform is one of the best photographs in the set, showing off the follow-through to his swing. Combine the image with the bold nameplate in red at the bottom of the card and it is easy to see why this classic card is a favorite in the collecting world.
6. 1964 Topps Giants Sandy Koufax #3 SP
An oversized favorite, 1964 Topps Giants is one of the most affordable sets of the 1960s. The 60-card checklist is full of Hall of Famers and many collectors enjoy the simple design with the white border and full-color photo on a postcard-style card (3 1/8" x 5 1/4"). While Topps Giants is often a target of set builders due to the reasonable prices and star-studded lineup, there are a few cards in the set that were short-printed. Dodgers Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax is the most notable card in this group. Luckily, this Koufax is still fairly easy to find, it is just more expensive.
Although the 1964 Topps Giants Koufax breaks the pricing mold in respect to the rest of the product, it is still very much in line with the values of his other cards from the 1960s. Furthermore, many collectors prefer the design and photograph on this Koufax card over his Topps flagship issue from 1964, which just featured a portrait-style headshot.
5. 1964 Kahn's Wieners Pete Rose
As many collectors know, Kahn's Wieners produced baseball cards between 1955 and 1969. The checklists were regional, focusing on the teams within the company's footprint. That meant that the checklists generally featured players from the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 1964 Kahn's cards were slightly larger than the standard baseball cards, measuring 3" x 3 1/2", with a border-to-border color photo of the player. The set featured a few Hall of Famers including Reds outfielder Frank Robinson, Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente, and the Reds young second baseman Pete Rose.
While Rose's rookie card appeared in 1963 Topps, any early card of the all-time hits leader is highly collectible. There are several early Rose cards in addition to the Topps releases. Similar to Kahn's, most were regional issues, and many of those are very difficult to find. This second-year Kahn's Wieners card of Pete Rose can be one of his less expensive early-'60s cards, but it is not usually available in great numbers.
4. 1964 Topps Photo Tattoos Mickey Mantle
Topps first dabbled with tattoos in 1960 and tried the concept again in 1964. The 75-card Topps Photo Tattoos set featured 55 players and 20 team logos. The cards came in one-cent packs with a stick of gum. However, the product did not sell so Topps scrapped the tattoo cards and would not revisit the concept until 1971. Although the Photo Tattoos were not popular at the time of its release, the set has become one of the most sought-after oddball sets in the hobby over the years.
1964 Topps Photo Tattoos features numerous Hall of Famers with the top card in the set belonging to Mickey Mantle. The tattoos were printed on very thin paper, making them condition-sensitive. There are also two different versions of the Mantle, adding to its collectability. The red triangle background is far more common than the yellow band, but can still be difficult to find and expensive even compared to other Mantle cards from this period. The yellow band is extraordinarily rare with a large price tag.
3. 1964 Topps Stand-Ups Mickey Mantle
The Stand-Ups line was another one-time offering issued by Topps in 1964. One of the more distinct-looking card designs of the 1960s with the yellow-and-green backgrounds, the cards were partially die-cut and meant to be folded into a stand-up figure. The die-cut aspect has made these cards condition-sensitive and difficult to find in good condition. Even cards that were not punched out have condition issues around the die-cut lines.
While there are several short-prints in Topps Stand-Ups, including Carl Yastrzemski, the Mickey Mantle is the most important card. Copies of the Stand-Up Mantle with wear and condition issues are still very expensive, with cleaner cards being a high-end purchase for vintage collectors. The Topps base cards will always be the most popular Mantle cards from this decade, but the 1964 Stand-Up is one of the best choices for those looking beyond the flagship set.
2. 1964 Topps Pete Rose #125
Pete Rose's rookie card appeared in 1963 Topps, but he was on a Rookie Stars card along with three other players. Charlie Hustle's earliest single-player Topps card came in the 1964 set and is one of the most treasured cards for the Reds' all-time great. The portrait image of Rose is a solid feature given it is his first solo Topps card. However, many collectors also love the aesthetics of the Topps All-Star Rookie trophy in the corner.
Topps first introduced the trophy graphic in the 1960 set, which featured the rookie card of Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. Still, in its infancy, the All-Star Rookie cards were very popular, and remain so today. While copies of Rose's rookie card have become steep for many collectors, his 1964 Topps card offers a great alternative at a much more affordable price.
1. 1964 Topps Mickey Mantle #50
Mickey Mantle reached iconic status by 1964 both on and off the field. Of course, "The Mick" is easily one of the most popular players in the hobby world since World War II and his cards have enjoyed an extraordinarily strong market. Again, you can never go wrong with adding a Topps base card of Mickey Mantle from his time as an active player. This 1964 Topps card is no different.
While it is not his most valuable, nor most popular, there are some really good reasons to add his card to your collection. The #50 card is one of the most affordable and plentiful Mantle cards on the secondary market. The 1964 Topps cards also had few printing and production problems, making this Mantle easier to find in good condition. One common condition issue that collectors often worry about with the 1964 Topps set is the rub-off trivia answer on the back. However, this was not an issue with the Mickey Mantle card because his playing statistics took up the entire back, eliminating that feature and possible condition issue.
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