For real collectors of vintage baseball cards, being able to open an album and look through the collectibles is the real fun. To enjoy your collection, putting the cards in protective pages gives you the best of both worlds…with the pleasure of viewing the cards while also maintaining the condition. Depending on the era (card sizes changed slightly over the years), these pages had either eight (8) or nine (9) slots and every page has stories to tell.
One of the crown jewels of my personal collection is the 1954 Topps set, which consists of 250 cards that include a large team logo, a facsimile autograph of the player and two pictures…a bright color photo with a smaller likeness of the player in an action pose. If you were to visit the “Duck Pond”, a few minutes looking through the binder that holds this set would bring back baseball memories of players you might have seen…or just heard about from your Dad or Grandfather. It is one of the most beautiful sets ever produced and was the third entry for Topps in its legacy of modern baseball cards. For purposes of valuation, we’ll assume a graded condition of “EX” (5) which is about the average for my set.
Topps was embroiled with the Bowman Card Company over contract licensing of players during this time and it had consequences with regard to this historic set. On the negative side, Topps no longer had the rights to produce a Mickey Mantle card and he is conspicuous by his absence. And Stan Musial, another great of the time, was found only in Bowman issues. The flip side is that, for the first time, Ted Williams was no longer under exclusive contract to Bowman and Topps jumped on the opportunity. His iconic status in the game is evident, as Topps decided to have him be on the first (#1) and last (#250) card in the set…the only time a player has had this honor. His stat line on the back of the card is astonishing…after returning from his military service in Korea at the end of the ’53 season, he played in only 37 games and hit .407! These cards are valued at $300 each.
The number of Hall of Fame players in the set is amazing…
> #3 Monte Irvin, Giants OF ($30) – One of the many outstanding Negro league players to enter the Majors in the mid-50’s, he hit .329 in ’53
> #10 Jackie Robinson, Dodgers OF ($275) – The player who changed the face of the game in 1947
> #17 Phil Rizzuto, Yankees SS ($45) – The “Scooter” followed his career with decades in the broadcast booth…including saying “Holy Cow” when Roger Maris hit #61
> #20 Warren Spahn, Braves P ($50) – The most Wins of any LH Pitcher in history
> #30 Eddie Mathews, Braves 3B ($50) – ’54 was also the year Sports Illustrated magazine debuted and Eddie was on the first cover
> #32 Duke Snider, Dodgers OF ($60) – The “Duke of Flatbush” had 42 HR’s, 126 RBI’s and a .336 BA in ’53
> #36 Hoyt Wilhelm, Giants P ($30) – Possibly the greatest Knuckleball Pitcher of all time, he led the NL in appearances in both ’52 & ’53
> #37 Whitey Ford, Yankees P ($70) – Was the 1950 AL Rookie of the Year before going into the service…returned in ’53 to post a record of 18-6
> #45 Richie Ashburn, Phillies OF ($40) – The 1948 NL Rookie of the Year led the NL with 205 hits in ’53
> #50 Yogi Berra, Yankees C ($90) – Known for his quotes and commercials, let’s not forget that he was a 3-time AL MVP…”It’s Deja Vu all over again”
> #70 Larry Doby, Indians OF ($35) – One of the great Negro League stars, he followed Jackie Robinson to the majors in ’47 and broke the color barrier in the American League
> #90 Willie Mays, Giants OF ($290) – Arguably the greatest all-around player in history, the “Say Hey Kid” made the most famous catch in baseball history in the ’54 World Series
In addition to these legends, four other Hall of Famers had their “Rookie Card” in this set…
> #94 Ernie Banks, Cubs SS ($1,200) – “Mr. Cub”, his career was just getting started in ’54…512 Home Runs and two MVP’s later, he is one of the most popular players of the era…”Let’s play two”
> #128 Hank Aaron, Braves OF ($3,300) – The first card of “Hammerin’ Hank” and easily the most valuable card in the set…755 Home Runs later, he retired after the 1976 season
> #132 Tom Lasorda, Dodgers P ($75) – The first (and last) baseball card of him as a player…his story is that he was sent to the Minor Leagues to make room for Sandy Koufax on the roster
> #201 Al Kaline, Tigers OF ($400) – He was only 18 years old when he debuted in ’53 (Trout-Like) and had 3,007 lifetime hits
In a future blog, we’ll re-visit the ’54 set and look at other players…famous, infamous and unusual.