The 1955 Topps Baseball Set was a turning point in the history of the hobby.
If your grandfather or father ever talked about The Bubble Gum War in the early 1950s, they were talking about the fight between Bowman and Topps for dominance in the baseball card market. It started in 1951 when Topps decided to start selling baseball cards to go with their chewing gum. Bowman had no idea just how much Topps wanted to own the market. But they would soon find out.
The 1955 Topps set has become one of their most iconic sets ever because it was not only the one that ended the war and took the crown away from Bowman forever; it was also the smallest set Topps would ever produce with just 206 cards.
The set also contains one of the best rookie card classes of all time. Can you think of a better bunch than Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, and Harmon Killebrew?
Topps decided to go with a horizontal design for the first time, making the cards look bigger and less cluttered. The other added feature to the design for the 1955 set was adding color to the action shot of each player. It turned a baseball card into a work of art while reflecting a time in America where the economy was booming, people were happy, and “Rock N Roll” was freeing our minds.
The back of the cards, thanks to the horizontal design, had enough space to feature key stats, player description, short bio, and cartoon drawing combined with a trivia question about the player. It remains one of the features fans of the 1955 set love the most about it.
It is fair to say that the changes were successful. After all, the 1955 Topps set would deal the final blow to Bowman.
It wasn’t only the design that saw the Topps victory. They also did a better job of recognizing the quality of the rookie class. For example, Bowman failed to sign a contract with Roberto Clemente, while Topps did.
The Topps set had two series, with the higher number series (#161-210) becoming extremely difficult to find today.
Just like the impact he left on the world of baseball, Roberto Clemente’s rookie card from the 1955 Topps set has also become quite a legend. It is one of the most sought-after rookie cards from the Post War Topps era and recently sold for $1,107,000, making it one of the most expensive sports cards ever sold.
Although it would take another five years after this card debuted before he was named to his first All-Star team, his legacy was not just on the field; it was also his humanitarian side that made him even more of a legend.
Sandy Koufax had possibly the best four-season stretch by any pitcher in 1963-1966. Unfortunately, the streak ended when Sandy blew out his elbow and ended his career. Early in his career, the southpaw had issues with control. So, his peak years were limited.
However, the impact of those four Koufax seasons was so substantial that he remains an all-time great. So when a PSA 9 version sold for $369,000 in May of 2021, it turned the challenge into finding one of the PSA 10’s, which has yet to surface.
Even with 1955 being Jackie Robinson’s second to last season, it was one of the most important because it was the year the Brooklyn Dodgers won their first-ever World Series. The victory was all the sweeter since it involved beating the Yankees in seven games.
The beauty and importance of this card have made the 1955 Topps #50 card one of Jackie’s most valuable. A PSA 9 version sold in May of 2021 for $93,000. There is a PSA 10 out there, but the owner is unknown.
With his 573 career home runs, Harmon Killebrew was one of the premier true power hitters. He was not known for his fielding or defensive prowess but would hammer the ball so hard that it would scare off the birds in the stadium.
A PSA 9 recently went for a solid $37,200. The 1955 Topps remains the top rookie card for the Hall-of-Famer slugger.
After winning the MVP award in 1954, Willie Mays kept up the momentum the following year. The centerfielder hit 51 home runs with 127 RBIs in one of the best offensive seasons of his career. Indeed, 1955 was the season wherein “The Say Hey Kid” solidified his status as a superstar.
The last PSA 9 sold was one of the cleanest versions of the 1955 Topps Willie Mays ever found, so it sold for $25,776 in July of 2019.
Regardless of the set or the year, Ted Williams cards come with a hefty price tag. But this one, in particular, remains one of the best as it features his legendary batting swing.
A PSA 9 of this card was bought at auction for $22,785 in May 2020.
The 1955 Topps #205 Gene Freese is an excellent example of how important the 1955 Topps set is to baseball card collectors. However, Gene Freese still manages to garner more money for his rookie card when this PSA 9 version, the only one ever found, is sold in a set that features tons of legends and icons like Hank Aaron and Yogi Berra May of 2021 for $18,450.
If you still don’t know who this is, he played 1,115 games over 12 seasons for six teams and was a journeyman prototype.
Just one year removed from his rookie season in 1954, the 1955 Topps #47 Hank Aaron remains one of his most coveted.
Since this PSA 9 version sold in February 2020 for $15,600, it has risen in value. The death of the legendary player contributed significantly to an increase in “Hammerin’ Hank” card value.
After his 1953 Rookie of the Year season, Jim Gilliam would play for the Dodgers for 14 seasons. Al in all, Gilliam played in nearly 2,000 career games with 220 stolen bases.
The 1955 Topps #5 Jim Gilliam card sold for $15,600 in May of 2021 after this PSA 9 version was made available, only the second-ever graded that high.
The value of this Roebuck card has significantly benefitted from the 1955 Dodgers world series title. As a rookie pitcher, Ed played an essential role in the Dodger bullpen and went on to have a solid career.
The 1955 Topps #195 Ed Roebuck was sold in May of 2021 for $12,600; that version of the card, a PSA Mint 9, is one of only four in existence. Indeed, these cards have very low pop numbers, which also contributes to their high value.
As is often the case, the pop numbers have a notable influence on the value of cards. That is particularly notable in inflating prices for Roebuck and Gilliam. Nonetheless, rookies for superstar Hall-of-Famers command great values even when their pops are relatively high. The most obvious case here is the Sandy rookie, which tops the value charts and the population numbers.
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Without access to Topp’s internal database, it isn’t easy to get the exact print run. However, we do know that it can be a difficult set to complete. The scarcity of the higher numbered cards in the series (#161-210) means they are nearly impossible to find in decent condition.
However, we were able to find out that in 1993, at an auction, a full sheet of cards was sold. It revealed that one printed sheet of the 1955 Topps cards featured 110 cards broken down by 11 columns with 10 cards on each column.
Ultimately, the best numbers we can provide regarding the 1955 Topps print run are from the PSA registry. As of October of 2021, 177,738 cards from the 1955 Topps set were graded.
With the Roberto Clemente RC #164 and the Sandy Koufax RC #123 being two of the most important rookie cards in sports trading card history, making the pick of the 1955 Topps set was not as easy as we initially thought.
That said, there is simply no way to eliminate the Roberto Clemente RC from consideration. The importance of his legacy in the game is considerable. In addition, the card’s green background, iconic action shot, and vintage Pirates team logo are also key factors in earning the pick of the set.
You cannot go wrong with any of the early 1950’s Topps baseball sets to invest in because of how many talented superstars and rookie cards it contains. However, the 1955 Topps set has an exceptionally high upside due to its tremendous rookie class.
The set is also distinct since it is pretty small, with just 206 cards. 1955 is also the last year before Topps won the baseball card war against Bowman and became a veritable monopoly.
The value, as shown above, will continue to rise, and you probably should have bought into this set ten years ago too.