He became the “new home run champion” as announcer Milo Hamilton called him, on April 8, 1974. If you’re old enough to remember it, chances are you haven’t forgotten that night in Atlanta when the world watched the seemingly indomitable career home run record of Babe Ruth finally fall.
Of the 755 he belted during his long career, only one of Hank Aaron’s home runs was of the inside-the-park variety. It came off Jim Bunning on May 10, 1967. Odd as it may have been to see Hammerin’ Hank flying around the bases instead of trotting around them, collectors know the feeling of digging up something unusual.
When it comes to Hank Aaron baseball cards there are plenty to choose from and not all of them carry the words “Topps” or “Bowman” on the back. If you’re putting together a collection, here are five cool old Hank Aaron baseball cards you might want to think about adding to your collection.
He didn’t have just one rookie card. The 1954 Topps Hank Aaron may get all of the attention and we believe it’s still underrated even if it’s not rare. Yet his appearance on a Wisconsin cookie maker’s trading cards that same year will keep collectors hunting. Aaron’s card is number 5 in the 1954 Johnston’s Cookies set, which was numbered in accordance with the player’s uniform number. When Aaron arrived in Milwaukee, 5 is the number he originally wore. He’s freakishly young in the photo.
Of course, it’s the key card in the set. They aren’t common but you can find them on eBay with prices ranging from around $500 up to $2,000 for nicer versions. Can’t swing it? You can buy reprints for less than five bucks. Check them out here.
How much did Milwaukee love its Braves? Enough to pour out a boatload of regional sets throughout the 1950’s that were used as product or service incentives.
The Spin and Span Cleaners sets are among the most challenging. There were five different sets issued by the company between 1953 and ’55 with some issued over parts of all three of those years.
Aaron appears in the 3 1/4″ x 5 1/2″ 1953-55 set, in the 1945-56 postcard-sized set of 18 and again in the ’55 die-cut set–the rarest of all Spic ‘n Span sets. Either of the first two sets will be easier to find and also represent the dawn of Aaron’s big league career. A few singles and complete Braves sets are usually offered for sale online. There’s something pretty great about the fact that they were issued right where the buzz was happening.
Aaron had regular issue cards from 1954 through 1976, so why this one? First, it was issued in the year of the Braves’ only Milwaukee World Series championship. Five years after the move from Boston, the club that had been knocking on the door, finally broke it down and won the National League pennant and then beat the Yankees in the World Series. Secondly, this card was printed backwards, essentially turning Aaron into a lefty. Besides, the colors are gorgeous. Just a classic set from collecting’s golden era. How many freckle-faced kids in Wisconsin went wild when they pulled this from a pack? No Aaron baseball card worth its’ salt is cheap but they’re not hard to find. Take your pick.
The inaugural set of what would be an ongoing issue throughout the 1960’s for Topps, the 1959 Bazooka cards took up the entire back panel of those boxes of Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum. Aaron is the first card in the set and comes with two variations. One shows his name in yellow letters and the other in white. The latter is more common.
This is another beauty that has a little hobby history behind it. They’re not plentiful and many simply carry the ‘authentic’ grade because of being hand cut but you can find a nice one, graded or ungraded, for a few hundred dollars.
1974 Topps #1
How big was the home run chase as 1973 turned to 1974? Topps made Hank Aaron’s regular issue card completely different from everyone else’s. It was, of course, the #1 card in the set. When it was printed, the “All-Time Home Run King” wasn’t actually there yet, but it only took a few games in April of ’74 to bypass the Babe.
Topps also honored Aaron by showcasing his cards throughout the years with a subset numbered 2-6.
The fact that the Aaron card led off the set (and was subsequently rubber-banded by many youngsters) makes it hard to find in high-grade. There are only 73 PSA 9’s out of more than 1,600 graded.
More importantly, it dates to the year when the ‘unbreakable’ home run record finally fell. An important card from an important time in baseball history that’s also unique in the history of Topps. They are readily available online with even PSA 8’s available for around $100.
Check out a real-time list of the hottest Hank Aaron baseball cards on eBay.