The 1953 Topps set is considered one of the absolute best sets ever released in hobby history. For example, All-Vintage Cards rates the #2 Topps set of all time (after the 1952 Topps set). So is the set overrated, or does it live up to the expectations? Let’s take a look at the Topps 1953 Set cards and find out.
The designs of Woody Gelman and Sy Berger in those early Topps sets have a unique aesthetic sensibility. The mystique of those early days in Brooklyn, designing masterpiece cards at the kitchen table, continues to inspire generations of collectors.
In their early years, Topps was involved in an all-out struggle with Bowman for dominance over the market. In addition, Bowman had exclusive contracts with some of the players. Therefore, Topps hoped to avoid a lawsuit by using paintings of the players instead of photos.
Artists like Gary Dvorak painted lifelike images of the players. Gelman and Berger took quality control very seriously and reportedly rejected many paintings, demanding better ones. The results are nothing short of gorgeous. However, they are also uneven. Some images capture the essence of their subjects and are visually stunning.
Meanwhile, others are just so-so. However, Topps certainly got their value for money. Each painting cost them $25.
The most valuable cards in the series are not always the ones you would expect. 1953 was a strange year, with few notable rookies. However, the set is highly coveted for its artwork and historical importance. Therefore, many collectors want a complete set. This places a premium on cards with low populations.
This card is not the famous 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, nor is it the 1951 Bowman card (the actual Mantle rookie). Still, it is the most valuable card in the set and one of the most iconic cards of the Yankee’s center fielder.
The most recent price for a PSA 8 of this card is $101,110 on eBay.
Like Mickey, Willie had already appeared in the 1952 set (and 1951 Bowman). So this card ranks a bit lower in terms of “Say Hey Kid” folklore. I vastly prefer this forlorn and artistic card to the more straightforward Mantle design. But maybe that is a matter of personal taste.
The most recent non-OC PSA 8 sale of the 1953 Mays was $32,400 on Robert Edwards Auctions.
In what is a bit of a repeated mantra in this article, Jackie appeared in the previous Topps series as well. Unfortunately, there is also something lacking in this card. The artwork doesn’t capture the essence of the fierce competitiveness of No. 42.
However, aside from being a top-notch Hall-Of-Famer, the second baseman’s cultural importance increases all the time. Therefore, any of his early cards are an excellent investment.
A PSA 8 of this card recently sold for $26,400 at Goldin Auctions.
The Paige card is an absolute diamond. It is the only Topps card of the legendary pitcher ever released (at least while playing). Part of Paige’s absence from many earlier sets was due to segregation keeping the pitcher out of the Major Leagues. However, in 1948 he became the first African-American pitcher in the American League at age 42.
A PSA 8 sold for $7,500 in June 2021 on eBay.
Milt is not exactly a household name today and probably wasn’t in 1953 either. Though, without a doubt, a good-looking dude, Milt had an uninspiring .241 career average with 19 home runs.
However, the #280 is a rookie short print card and, therefore, surprisingly valuable. Apparently, kids would keep these cards in order and hold them together with rubber bands. You can imagine what this did to the last card, which happened to be Milts.
Therefore, the few PSA 8’s out there go for a good price. The most recent one sold in 2020 for $4,080 on Robert Edward Auctions.
Tommy was a bit of a bust back in the day. His batting average was not great, and he had little power. Today, Glaviano would have been better appreciated for his solid on-base percentage and impressive career 109 OPS+.
However, it is purely population driving the high value of Tommy’s card. It is the last card of his career and not a particularly special-looking card. One of his PSA 8’s recently sold for $3,674 at Memory Lane, Inc. auction house.
Harvey made an excellent case for Rookie of the Year in 1953. Honestly, I can’t see why he lost out. His 20-9 record with a 3.06 ERA was remarkable for anyone, never mind a first entire season.
But the high-point of Haddix’s career came six years later. Baseball historians consider the perfect game Harvey threw against the Braves on May 26, 1959, to be the ultimate pitching performance. First, the southpaw masterfully dominated against Hank Aaron and co. for 12 innings. Then, in the ultimate case of a blown save, Harvey’s Pirates lost in 13.
The most recent PSA 8 sale of a Haddix 1953 card was at Heritage Auctions for $3,120.
Though not a Hall-Of-Famer, Dick was an excellent player. The shortstop was the 1960 MVP and an eight-time All-Star. This super-athlete was even a two-time All-American guard for Duke. However, he did not make the HOF, and his numbers are indeed a bit thin for Cooperstown.
What seems to be driving the high value of the card is more its low pop than the quality of his career. A PSA 8 went for $3,139 this year on eBay.
This is Gilliam’s true MLB rookie card. And what a rookie season it was for Jim. He became an integral part of the legendary Dodger team of the era, winning Rookie of the Year honors and leading the league in triples.
Though Gilliam didn’t fully live up to his promise (he also lost some prime years to segregation), he was a three-time Negro League All-Star, two-time MLB All-Star, and won 4 titles with the Dodgers. His card is also a raving beauty.
A PSA 8 recently sold for $2,760 on Heritage Auctions.
Yogi is one of the most memorable characters in baseball history. Whether you are into witty epithets or three-time MVPs, this catcher is your guy. However, by the time this card came out, he was a grizzled veteran. If you want Yogi’s rookie card, look for the 1948 Bowman.
Nonetheless, this is a great card. A PSA 8 last went for $2,499 on eBay.
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Topps did not release numbers back then, and it still doesn’t. However, several vintage card enthusiasts have tried to figure out the print run of this legendary series.
The cards were printed on two sheets of 100 cards, known as the “A” and “B” sheets. So, naturally, some cards were printed more than others. However, the nomenclature of single-prints and double prints you may hear thrown around is misleading. We don’t know the exact proportions of the prints, and it is improbable that the more common cards were printed anywhere near twice as often.
The best estimate I could find was made by George Vrecheck. His best guess is that Topps printed about 219,200 cards.
This is a remarkably easy call. The Satchel Paige card dwarfs all the others in its historical significance and has the aesthetic beauty to back it up. Willie, Mickey, and Jackie all have better cards out there. Satchel does not.
The story of Paige, one of the greatest pitchers of all time, as a victim of prejudice and segregation will resonate through the generations. Moreover, his MLB rookie card is a poignant reminder of the career that could have, nay should have, been.
Its value will only increase over the years, and they aren’t making new ones. Even President Joe Biden has one, and that man knows a thing or two about the good old days.
In investing terms, putting money into sets like the 1953 Topps set is as close as our hobby gets to blue-chip stock. It will continue to be one of the most coveted complete sets out there. The historical importance of the set means it is unlikely to lose much value in the short term, and it will only appreciate in the long term.
Nonetheless, it doesn’t have any spectacular rookies (aside from Satchel Paige), and its top cards are, therefore, not the most valuable of the era. Nevertheless, Topps 1953 is a solid investment without much prospect of dramatic price changes.