We continue our series on classic sports card sets with an overview of the Topps 1954 Set Cards. This is a landmark release. It is mainly known for the three Hall-Of-Fame rookies in the set. The presence of an Ernie Banks, Al Kaline, and above all, Hank Aaron rookie make up for Mickey Mantle’s glaring exclusion from the set.
The set is star-studded, as it is full of hall of fame rookies. However, it does not have the biggest star of all. While Topps and their then-rival, Bowman, were fighting to secure exclusive contracts with the players, Bowman was able to hold on to Mantle, thus his absence in the series.
However, Topps did manage to pull off a massive feat by signing the legendary Ted Williams. The “Splendid Splinter” was coming off his tenure in the Marines during the Korean War.
This was especially important because Williams wasn’t just the fans’ favorite. He was also one of the greatest players in baseball history. Therefore, adding him to the 1954 Topps set was a coup for the appeal of the set.
The 1954 Topps isn’t your typical painting artistic design of 1953 and 1952, featuring baseball stars in colored photo portraits. That is the first time a Topps set would include two photographs. A larger color one and a smaller black and white snap. In addition, the front background comes colors. It is an excellent design though not quite as iconic as the 1951 and 1952 sets.
The 1954 Topps set has all the trappings of a successful baseball card. Loaded with the rookie cards for some hall of fame talents such as Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, and Ernie Banks. It is a unique blend of rookie and star power, number #3 on the All-Vintage rating of Topps.
Therefore, the cards are valuable, and the buy-in is significant. So, where should you start when planning to invest in the series?
Top on the list is the rookie card of Hank Aaron (nicknamed Hammer or Hammerin’ Hank). It is one of the most sought-after cards in the collection of baseball cards. Hank has long been an icon, but his role in the sport has appreciated demonstrably since Aaron’s death in 2021.
The card itself is pretty appealing to the eye, with its background in orange and a fabulous image of the young slugger. A recent PSA 7 of the card went for about $26,745.
Ernie Banks (nicknamed Mr. Cubs or Mr. Sunshine) was a household favorite and the face of one of the most loved franchises in sports.
If not for Hank Aaron, the 14 times All-Star and Chicago Cubs legend Banks would have been the star of the set. Despite this, the card is highly desirable and valuable.
A PSA 7 of this rookie card went for $10,054 on eBay recently.
Williams was one of the baseball icons, and getting him on the Topps team was no easy feat. He had always been a Bowman before Topps signed him in a 5-year contract.
To celebrate getting the big star, Topps placed him at both ends of the set (#1 and #250). Since kids had the unfortunate habit of keeping their sets together with rubber bands, the first and last cards tend to take a beating. Therefore, getting a Ted Ballgame in decent condition is quite the feat.
A PSA 7 of this card recently sold for $3,150 on eBay.
Jackie Robinson has to be one of the most important and impressive icons in baseball history. His original cards are always quite valuable. However, this card came late in his career, somewhat diminishing the value. The yellow background of the card gives just the right angle to his smile and his black and white contrast.
The most recent PSA 7 sale was a $2,550 transaction on eBay.
Mays was absent from the baseball scene all of 1952 and 1953 because he was busy rendering his services during the Korean war. So you’d expect his return to the game in 1954 to be musty. But luckily, he spent most of his service playing exhibition games. So the “Say Hey Kid” was in fine form when he returned to civilian life, winning the batting title and the MVP. Indeed, 1954 was the year that set him on the path to immortal greatness.
This card had a recent PSA 7 sale of $2,280 on Heritage Auctions.
The first and last cards of a set are usually prone to damage from exposure to wear and tear. In addition, the rarity of finding them in top condition and the iconic nature of the featured star makes it a pricey one.
Here’s the other version of the 1954 set that sold on eBay recently for $2,220 on Heritage Auctions.
Al Kaline, just like Banks, was also nicknamed after his team’s moniker. He was one of the few players to hold that honor, known as “Mr. Tiger” after his team, of course. The 50s produced so many iconic Hall-Of-Famers that Al is sometimes unjustly forgotten. But keep in mind that he is a member of the elite 3,000 hit club and 18-time All-Star.
A PSA 7 of this card recently went for $1,955 on eBay.
This close-up shot of Yogi Berra posing as a catcher beside his portrait presents a realistic picture of the star. Unfortunately, there are few cards of Yogi in action behind the plate. This fact is surprising, considering that he is one of the most legendary backstops in the game’s history.
A PSA 7 most recently sold for $370 on eBay.
Ben Wade making the list ahead of Warren Spahn, Yogi Berra, and Duke Snider puts quite a twist to this set. Wade was a typical journeyman player, moving through the Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, and Pirates.
He made more of a mark as a scout for the Dodgers. Wade helped secure the pipeline of talent for the Dodgers in their best years and was instrumental in getting 16 National League titles and 4 World Series Championships. This alone is enough to have him on the top spot in the set.
This card is a prime example of rarity, setting the standard for the price rather than how big a name the player had in the game. This Wade card had a recent PSA 7 sale of $296 on eBay.
Larry Doby made history by becoming the first black player to play in the American League on the 5th of July 1947. This came nearly four months after Jackie Robinson had his historic debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Dobby was a 7-time All-Star from 1949 through 1955, as a member of the Cleveland Indians.
Comps for Doby cards are all over the place. However, a PSA 7 recently went for $318, and that is probably a fair price.
Before investing in any card, it is always good to know what the population reports are.
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Sure, we could try to be iconoclastic and pick another card. But it would just be for show. The Hank Aaron rookie card is one of the most iconic rookie cards in the entire hobby. The combination of a player who is routinely ranked among the top 5 all-time performers and the gorgeous iconic look of the card is inarguable.
Keep in mind that now is not the time to invest in Hank Aaron. The average sale price for a PSA 7 went up from an average of $12,000 in late 2020 to a current average of $20,686. The cause is Aaron’s death in January 2021. There are signs that the price is starting to go down. We would wait until 2022 or 2023 before investing in this spectacular card.
The Topps 1954 baseball cards pack quite a punch in star power and vital rookie cards, although they are slightly larger in size. The contrasting image of a colored portrait and a full-body black and white action picture stand this series out as one of the best of the vintage era.
Finally, it is safe to say all the factors involved have been explained for the best cards in the set. But, of course, having Mantle on the set would have made it an absolute delight too. Either way, It is still in the top echelons of the Topps series and worth an investment.