This month, Heritage Auctions will unveil a remarkable collection of baseball cards that captures the essence of a bygone era. Consigned by a South American collector, this trove consists of 117 lots of Venezuelan Topps baseball cards spanning the years 1959 to 1968. What makes this collection truly special is not only its vastness, with over 1,200 cards, but also its exceptional standard of preservation, setting it apart from its contemporaries.
This collection is a testament to the growing popularity of baseball in the years following World War II and Topps’ astute response to the rise of Latin stars in the Major Leagues. The Venezuelan Topps cards were produced in partnership with Benco, a South American printing company. Today, these cards are considered rare gems among collectors. Most surviving examples bear the scars of time, but this collection defies the norm with its superior condition.
The inaugural Venezuelan issue of Topps cards, released in 1959, mirrored the first two series of their regular set. However, these cards were produced exclusively for the South American audience in limited quantities. This decade-long initiative culminated in the 1968 Venezuelan series, which yielded some of the most elusive and coveted baseball cards in Topps’ storied history.
The Venezuelan Topps cards are immediately distinguishable from their regular counterparts due to noticeable differences in cardstock and print quality. The absence of a glossy finish and the use of coarse, inexpensive cardboard meant these cards were prone to rapid deterioration, presenting a significant challenge to collectors seeking well-preserved specimens. Moreover, their scarcity is compounded by limited production and distribution, coupled with a trend among local collectors to affix cards into specially designed albums. As a result, finding Venezuelan Topps cards in near-mint or better condition is exceptionally rare – PSA, the card grading authority, has never bestowed a “GEM MINT” 10 rating on any Venezuelan Topps card.
However, this summer, Heritage Auctions was thrilled to receive a collection that defied the odds, containing cards that stand as the highest-graded examples known. Among the highlights are a 1959 Mickey Mantle (graded PSA 5), a 1960 Carl Yastrzemski rookie card (graded PSA 5.5), a 1964 Ernie Banks (graded PSA 8), and a 1964 Mantle (graded PSA 6). Heritage Auctions hailed this collection as “the culmination of decades of steadfast commitment to the art of collecting.”
The later issues of the Venezuelan Topps cards are particularly noteworthy, as they feature players who never graced an MLB card. These sets introduced future stars like Dave Concepcion, who made their first appearance on Topps cards in Venezuela before being featured on any U.S.-issued Topps rookie cards. One of the lots up for auction is the 1967 Venezuelan Concepcion, graded 6. The same set also paid homage to “Retirado” (retired) legends, including Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, and Sandy Koufax, who had recently ended his career after the 1966 season.
The auction will also include a host of other high-grade cards, such as a PSA 8 1967 Mantle, a PSA 7 1967 Mantle, a PSA 6 1968 Johnny Bench rookie, a PSA 5 1964 Pete Rose, a PSA 6 1964 Willie Mays, a PSA 4 1964 Hank Aaron, and additional cards of luminaries like Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Roger Maris, and other stars and Hall of Famers from the era.
The bidding for these pieces of baseball history is scheduled to conclude on November 16th in the Heritage Fall Sports Collectibles Auction. This event promises to be a landmark occasion, offering collectors the chance to own a piece of baseball’s international legacy and celebrate the storied past of the sport’s memorabilia. Each card, a fragment of history, represents the global reach of America’s pastime and the enduring allure of collecting. For those who value the heritage of the game and the artistry of card collecting, this auction presents an unmissable opportunity to acquire a slice of baseball card lore.