As a long-time purveyor of baseball cards both old and new, it is still a great adventure when a unique collection comes across the counter at the baseball card shop. Last week was one of those times when a very nice gentleman walked in with a half dozen shoe boxes filled with cards.
These were the cards he collected as a youngster and being that he’s 74 years-old, the math isn’t complicated. Each battered shoe box contained a particular year of cards and the range was 1953-1958. As with most kids of the 50’s, he played with the cards extensively and the condition showed some significant wear. Not surprisingly, the condition of the early cards was much worse than the later pieces of cardboard and the 57’s & 58’s were the best.
For this visit, we’re going to feature one of the most underrated sets of the era and focus on 1957 Topps. This set was a significant departure from the first five that Topps produced. First, they returned to a vertical look and adopted what is now called the standard card size. As with many of the offerings during this era, it also featured a particular run (#265-#352) that was scarcer. The real change was the simple, uncluttered color photograph of the player. The full color images have stood the test of time and continue to be hugely popular with collectors.
Let’s review some of the Hall of Famers in the set and the values will be based on cards in “EX” (PSA 5) condition. A complete set (411 cards) would be valued at $7,500.
- #1 Ted Williams ($200) – Still iconic in the twilight of his career, he hit .388 at age 38.
- #10 Willie Mays ($150) – His last season before the Giants moved to San Francisco, he led the NL with 20 Triples and 38 SB’s
- #18 Don Drysdale ($100) – This is Big D’s Rookie Card and he won 17 games for Brooklyn at age 20.
- #20 Hank Aaron ($150) – Produced 44 HR’s & 132 RBI’s on his way to the NL MVP.
- #35 Frank Robinson ($220) – He won the NL Rookie of the Year in ’56, but this is his first card.
- #76 Roberto Clemente ($125) – This is his 3rd-year card and it continues to have a high demand factor.
- #95 Mickey Mantle ($650) – Still the most popular player of the time, he was coming off a Triple Crown season in ’56.
- #302 Sandy Koufax ($175) – Only won five games in ’57 but his meteoric career took off once the Dodgers moved to L.A.
- #328 Brooks Robinson ($365) – This is his Rookie Card and he didn’t become an everyday player until ’58, but 16 consecutive Gold Gloves followed.
- $407 Yankee Power Hitters ($215) – This was the first time that Topps added cards with multiple players and they became extremely popular. This one features Mantle along with Yogi Berra.
Other Hall of Fame members you’ll find in the set include Berra, Whitey Ford, Pee Wee Reese, Ernie Banks, Warren Spahn, Al Kaline, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Jim Bunning and others. And, let’s not forget the history attached to these pieces of cardboard, as they’re the last cards featuring the “Brooklyn” Dodgers and “New York” Giants.