By Doug Koztoski
The 1962 NFL Championship Game ended much like the 1961 contest, with the Green Bay Packers beating the New York Giants.
Where the ’61 battle was lopsided (37-0), the rematch, however, was quite different. The 16-7 contest took place at Yankee Stadium, with wind often around 35-40 mph and temps in the teens. One broadcaster labeled the game conditions “barbaric.” Bonfires in the dugouts helped TV crews thaw their cameras.
Who knows how successfully fans, players and such at the ballpark tried to stay warm that frigid day, but some at home might have watched the festivities while sipping on a heated cup of Salada Tea. One thing is certain, pro football teamed up that season with Salada Tea and Junket brand desserts for a promotion placing images of gridiron players on metal coins in specially marked boxes of the product.
Ray Bernstein fondly recalled the era of the coin set’s debut. “I was a (New York) Giants fan and a fledgling (Boston) Patriots fan around that time. The coins were definitely a nice product, very colorful,” Bernstein said.
The hobbyist enjoyed the issue so much that years ago he started assembling one of the top-graded collections of ’62 Salada football coins on the PSA Set Registry.
Yet, even though he and some other collectors are Salada “teetotalers,” he feels the issue lacks a certain level of popularity. “The coin set and other sport coin sets are under the radar a little bit.”
The offering, in many respects, does “fly low” in hobby arenas, but the 154-item set starts off with one of the players that put pro football on the radar to stay: Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas. In fact 11 players represent each team in the set, all showing up in a block. Unitas, in this case, is joined by a few other Colts players who would also end up with the legendary signal-caller in Canton, Ohio with a Football Hall of Fame bust: Lenny Moore, Jim Parker, Gino Marchetti and Raymond Berry.
The defending champion Packers follow next with many who earned a permanent hall pass such as Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Henry Jordan, Forrest Gregg, Jim Ringo and 2018 HOF inductee Jerry Kramer. According to the “Standard Catalog of Vintage Football Cards,” the entire Packers team is double-printed in the set, as is about two-thirds of the collection.
The Kramer coin (#20) happens to be one of the favorites in the set of Jeff Forer, another high-ranking collector for the issue on the Set Registry.
“I also like the Y.A. Tittle (#119), his old New York Giants helmet is classic.” Additionally, Forer places the triple-printed Jim Brown coin (#56) in his Top Three. “The pose on the Brown coin is solid, especially when combining Brown’s expression, plus the black (coin) border, it makes the picture pop.”
Fourteen teams appear in the set, three of which, the Patriots, New York Titans (who later became the Jets) and the Buffalo Bills, all came from the American Football League, which started playing in 1960. In a few short years after the Salada set appeared the NFL and AFL reached a merger agreement.
“The complete set is very difficult to acquire since there are some serious short (print) numbers,” Forer noted. “Some teams, like the Colts, Steelers, Redskins, Rams and 49ers, are almost impossible to get.”
I’ve got the need, the need for Snead
The lone coin Bernstein requires to complete his Salada collection falls in the short print category: Redskins quarterback Norm Snead (#93). The Snead coin, at least via the PSA Population Report, appears the least, 15 times. The next toughest is Art Hunter (#55), 18 examples, followed closely by Charlie Krueger (#24) and Jim Phillips (#51) (20 samples each), with Buddy Dial (#68) and Sam Horner (#92) at 21 times in PSA plastic. A handful of others are not far behind.
Generally, 1962 Salada football coins are somewhat plentiful in graded fashion with 30-45 samples minimum for each. From the stars end of it, a few show up often enough with Hornung (60 times), Starr (82) and Jim Brown with 111 examples to lead the pack.
Looking through the lens of time
Bernstein likely best summed up the ’62 Salada football set experience for those so inclined: “It’s a great project. It’s doable and eye-catching, a bit expensive but not prohibitive (even in PSA 7s and 8s). It came out around the Golden Age of Football and for a bit of a football historian it’s not too far back to research and enjoy them, even for young people.”
And when it comes to football historian royalty, by the way, mentioning Ed Sabol in this article is a natural. In 1962 Sabol founded Blair Motion Pictures. Two years later that company became NFL Films, which earned Sabol and his staff dozens of awards for its often epic and visually eloquent coverage. One of BMPs first big projects? Filming the 1962 NFL Championship Game.
Doug Koztoski is a frequent contributor to Sports Colletors Digest. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.