Yesterday I posted about recently completing an autographed 1966 Topps set. Oddly, I completed a second set as well last week, and I received the card in the mail yesterday to seal the deal. The 1963 Fleer set has always been my favorite AFL set. I was fortunate seven years ago when I was able to purchase a large lot of vintage signed 1963 Fleer cards, and it was that purchase that inspired me to build autographed AFL sets.
While the ’63 Fleer set only contains 88 cards (89 if you consider the unnumbered checklist), but that does not make this set any easier to collect either raw, or in an autographed format. Still, as with with any other set, there are certain cards that are particularly troublesome to find. While short prints and such have a bit of bearing on the difficulty of finding signed cards, more often that not, it is a player’s early death, or post-football habits that have the most effect. To complete an autographed ’63 Fleer set, a collector will have to dig under every rock to drag out the following signed cards.
Card #6 – Charles Long – The Long card is one of two noted short-prints in the 1963 Fleer set, meaning that it was distributed in quantities lesser than the other cards in the set. Add the fact that Long passed away in 1989, and the you come up with a very difficult signed card. This was the final card that I needed to complete my set.
Card #14 – Dick Christy – Christy was a talented halfback and special teams player while in the AFL. In 1966, just two years after his retirement, Christy was killed in an automobile accident. The effect on 1963 Fleer cards is that Christy had only three years in which he could have signed these cards.
Card #23 – Cookie Gilchrist – As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Cookie Gilchrist’s withdrawal from society kept him away from autograph-seeking fans for nearly 40 years prior to his passing. This particular Gilchrist card is his American rookie card (he has previous Canadian issues), and is difficult to find even unsigned.
Card #64 – Bob Dougherty – Along with Long and the checklist, the Bob Dougherty card is the third and final short-print in this set. The Raiders linebacker died more recently than Long (2006), but these cards, even unsigned, are still rare.
Card #75 – Emil Karas – Karas was a longtime fan-favorite in San Diego, and had moved into the announcer’s booth in the years after his playing career, as part of the radio team that broadcasted the Chargers games. He held that position with the team when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and ultimately passed away in 1974.
As with the 1966 set yesterday, there are plenty of second-tier difficulties in the ’63 Fleer set. These include Jim Colclough, Alex Kroll, Lee Riley, Hubert Bobo, Tom Sestak, Doug Cline, Don Floyd, Mel Branch, Bo Roberson, Bob Coolbaugh, Chuck McMurtry, Charlie McNeil, and Tobin Rote. Kroll and Stone are the only two still living from that list, but their infrequent signing habits make them particularly difficult signatures to obtain.
While not necessarily difficult to find, the Lance Alworth, Nick Buoniconti, Len Dawson and Jack Kemp cards will be pricey, should you come across them. Alwoth, Buoniconti and Dawson are all rookie cards, while the 1963 Kemp is the first card to show the quarterback as a member of the Buffalo Bills.