Harmon Killebrew put together a long and storied career in Major League Baseball, one that produced 573 home runs, an MVP award, countless golden memories, and a plaque in the Hall of Fame.

But long before Killebrew finished stamping his ticket to Cooperstown, he had already staked his claim to another sort of plaque … a Topps “Plak.”

Plaks were one of the those exotic test issues that Topps rolled out in the 1960s as they throwing ideas against the cardboard wall in a fairly public way to see what would stick. Evidently, Plaks didn’t (stick, that is) since we never saw them again.

But these were a pretty cool concept …

Each pack featured two sticks of gum, a checklist card (more on that in a second), and three bronze-colored plastic player busts joined together in a sprue of the same material — think about the model car pieces you have to snap/twist apart, and you’ll have a pretty good idea.

Find 1968 Topps Plaks on eBay (affiliate link)

Find 1968 Topps Plaks on Amazon (affiliate link)

Based on the two checklists, there seem to be 24 players involved, though there has been some debate about the existence of some over the years. Regardless, the two dozen on the checklists are:

Checklist #1:

  • Max Alvis
  • Dean Chance
  • Jim Fregosi
  • Frank Howard
  • Jim Hunter
  • Al Kaline
  • Harmon Killebrew
  • Jim Lonborg
  • Mickey Mantle
  • Gary Peters
  • Frank Robinson
  • Carl Yastrzemski

Checklist #2:

  • Hank Aaron
  • Richie Allen
  • Orlando Cepeda
  • Roberto Clemente
  • Tommy Davis
  • Don Drysdale
  • Willie Mays
  • Tim McCarver
  • Ron Santo
  • Rusty Staub
  • Pete Rose
  • Jim Wynn

Pretty solid lineup there, huh?

But …

Just about all of these are just about impossible to find, though you will very occasionally find a sprue or individual player listed on eBay (affiliate link).

What you can find are the checklist cards (affiliate link) — including the one that shows Killer on the “back” … really, these babies just have two fronts.

The checklists are pretty interesting because they show headshots of six guys on each side, and they feature black borders with red banners at the top. Not only does that color combination make the cards tough from a condition standpoint, but it gives them a striking resemblance to the 1971 Topps set.

So, I guess part of this test issue did stick, after all.

But, why, you may ask, is this an article about Harmon Killebrew rather than any of the other Hall of Famers and superstars? Well, it all comes down to timing.

See, as I hunkered down to write this, I realized today — June 29 — would have been Killer’s 84th birthday.

And that’s worthy of a Plak.

#2 is #1 …

The Killer checklist is super cool, but the top Plaks item on eBay as of this writing is a copy of that loaded #2, listed for a stout $6000. Even if you don’t see yourself ponying up that sort of cashage for a baseball card, you don’t come across many of these … definitely worth a look for historical purposes if nothing else. Check it out right here (affiliate link).