An Autographed 1965 Topps Buffalo Bills Team Set

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After defeating the San Diego Chargers by a score of 20-7 in the 1964 AFL Championship Game, the Buffalo Bills made a few changes to their roster.  The most significant adjustment was trading away star running back, Cookie Gilchrist, to the Denver Broncos in exchange for fullback, Billy Joe.  With their retooling complete, the Bills began the 1965 season right where they had left off the season before.  Led by star quarterback, Jack Kemp, Buffalo moved through the league at rapid pace and finished the regular season with a 10-3-1 record.  They again faced the Chargers in the AFL Championship Game, this time shutting out the western division champs, 23-0, in San Diego’s Balboa Stadium.

Topps, the company that produced trading cards of the AFL players in 1965, changed things up a bit when they issued a larger card than they had in years past.  The 1965 Topps issue, commonly referred to as “tallboys” by collectors, measure 2 1/2″ x 4 11/16″, a jump up from the standard 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ cards made in years before and since.

In terms of collecting a fully autographed team set, the 1965 Buffalo Bills provide collectors with a fair number of challenges.  At the time of this writing, there are four deceased players from the 1965 Bills set – Tom Day, Jack Kemp, Tom Sestak and John Tracey.  While none would be considered easy to find, Kemp (deceased 2009) would likely be the easier, though possibly most expensive.  An example in nice condition will likely run close to $200.  Tracey will probably prove the most difficult to find, as he passed away in 1978.  Sestak (deceased 1987) and Day (deceased 2000) were both popular players, and while their signed cards are available, they still provide a challenge and are highly sought by Bills collectors.

Of the players that are still living, Pete Gogolak, Billy Joe and Tom Keating are typically the most difficult to get.  Gogolak and Joe are intermittent signers through the mail.  Keating, an oenophile, spends a great deal of time in France each year.  Daryle Lamonica seems to be a streaky signer through the mail, but usually does a couple of paid signings each year, and Billy Shaw requires a small donation which he turns over to one of his favorite charities.  The remainders are rather reliable signers, typically returning requests within a week or two.

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Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.



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7 Responses to An Autographed 1965 Topps Buffalo Bills Team Set

  1. Mark Palczewski says:

    Todd, where did you find a John Tracey auto’d 65 Topps? Wow. LOL, you also made me lookup “oenophile”…I had no idea what that meant.

  2. Todd Tobias says:

    Mark… I take pride in the fact that I made you break out your Webster’s!

    I got the Tracey froma dealer about five years ago. Mine, and one other, are the only ones that I have ever seen, though I have seen him on a 3×5 at one time or another. I think that I have him in game programs as well. But not an easy signature, for sure!

  3. […] Competition was modest, no other linebackers to speak of, being that Buffalo was coming off of two AFL Championships and had six proven linebackers.  As the training camp weeks went by, and the red message light on […]

  4. Michael N says:

    You got great stuff. I have every living 1965 and 1964 Bill . I was fortunate enough to get them through ttm. Billy Joe signed when I enclosed $5 and Lamonica signed two cards for $10. Keating was tricky and I had to get through a signing in the Bay Area. He relocated from DC to California. Pete Gogolak is signed 1965 Topps and it looks crappy. I would love and upgrade sent another 1965 and am waiting on it I am 1 for 3 with Gogolak. Everybody else is not too bad. I hope none of your Sestak and Traceys and Tom Day and Gilchrist come from a seller named ukredskins on ebay. Great stuff

    • Todd Tobias says:

      Thanks for the kinds words. I got Billy Joe as well with $5 or $10, I don’t recall. The toughest of the still-living, in my opinion, is Dave Behrman. I have him on a ’66 Topps, but still need his ’64 Topps. I was able to meet with Keating, and he signed for me then. Gogolak was TTM. The others were a mixture of TTM, trades, and purchases from multiple dealers/collectors, some PSA/DNA that I broke out of cases, and others not. I have a fairly large collection of AFL signatures in 1960s game programs that I got from the original owner, so I have a good exemplar database from which I can make comparisons and such.

  5. Michael N says:

    Dave Behrman is tough. I was actually thinking of calling him or enclosing $.
    I tried Dave Behrman twice and have got nothing back. It was two and three years ago. How did you get the 1964 Topps Cookie Gilchrist? What did that cost.
    I am truly impressed.

    • Todd Tobias says:

      I got my ’66 Behrman in a trade with another ’66 collector. He said that he had to call Behrman several times to get his cards signed. Still, he only signed initials.

      I got the ’64 Gilchrist through Chris Garbarino, the guy who wrote the recent book about Cookie. I sent him some photos to use for Cookie, and he got the ’64 signed for me. I was fortunate in that it was a favor-for-favor kind of thing. I also have a ’64 Bills team card signed by Cookie that I got in a collection I purchased several years ago from a guy who used to get autographs on cards and game programs at Balboa Stadium back in the 1960s.

      With the exception of the ’68, ’69, and ’70 Topps AFL-only compilations, I haven’t yet completed a set. I am very close on a few, and hope to soon. We’ll see!

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