The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle dominates the totem pole of 1950s baseball cards. The player, the lore, the set and the history have all combined to make it one of the most desirable cards in the hobby.
The company will hand out three Mantle cards as part of its Million Card Giveaway promotion in 2010 packs. High grade copies sell for tens of thousands of dollars. In terms of value, nothing really comes close.
But what if you can't own--or win--a Mantle? What other 1950s cards deserve the attention of collectors and investors?
Everyone has their favorites. Dealers have certain cards they can't keep in stock. Here's a list of ten that make our list.
- 1952 Topps Jackie Robinson. There are plenty of 1952 Topps cards worth having that don't say "Mickey Mantle" on the front, but Robinson's first-ever Topps cards is clearly at the top of this list. He appeared on Leaf cards in the late 1940s, but this card is as big as Jackie's impact on the game. A stunning piece of history and it's #312--Mantle and Robinson were back-to-back in the scarce final series of Topps' inaugural issue.
- 1952 Topps Andy Pafko. Now starring in the new movie, "Cop Out" starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, this card's legend has reached pop culture for the first time. For years, collectors have known how tough it is to find in even respectable condition. Some might say it's even a little overpriced, but put one up for auction and you'll probably change your mind.
- 1953 Topps Satchel Paige. Even after finally arriving in the Major Leagues, this Negro Leagues legend couldn't get any respect. Topps spelled his name with two "Ls". This is the only Topps card of one of the game's most legendary figures. He wasn't in the '52 Topps set and Satch retired after the '53 season.
- 1954 Topps Ernie Banks. Mr. Cub's rookie card will be in demand as long as there is baseball in Chicago. One of the most beloved players of all time was a gangly teenager when this picture was taken. Little did we know he was just launching a Hall of Fame, 500-home run career.
- 1954 Topps Hank Aaron. For post-War collectors, owning an Aaron rookie card is like owning a Babe Ruth card. Aaron, too, was just a kid when Topps added him to the set. He lifted the Milwaukee Braves onto his shoulders and carried them to a Series title in '57, then became the all-time home run king. No vintage collection is complete without this one.
- 1955 Topps Sandy Koufax. Like the '52 Mantle, this card is a perfect storm of greatness. The '55 Brooklyn Dodgers are a team of legend and their young star was new on the scene. His biggest fame would come once the Dodgers left for LA, but it all started at Ebbets Field. Tremendous demand for this makes it a challenge to buy in decent shape.
- 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente. Revered in Latin America and respected around the world, Clemente's rookie card is special. Beyond the early 50s Mantle and Mays cards, this is one of the most expensive post-War trading cards.
- 1957 Topps Brooks Robinson. Another rookie card that has frustrated collectors for decades. Resting in the scarce series, the Robinson rookie card is on the list of most Orioles' collectors, but it's also sought by those who are chasing the difficult and pricey '57 set. You have to love the pleasant expression on Brooks' face. He still exudes the same kind of feeling for fans around the country.
- 1958 Topps Ted Williams. For the second straight year, Topps made Teddy Ballgame its #1 card. Thus, he's often found with rubber band marks and other such love from sitting on the top of the stack when that's what you did with your cards. "9" graded '58 Williams cards have sold in recent years for $20-30,000.
- 1958 Topps Roger Maris. He's not a Hall of Famer, but Maris is still an icon, especially after the backlash against the steroid era. Just three years after he appeared on this card, the pride of North Dakota would be the single-season home run king. You can't own a Mantle without having a Maris and despite heavy demand, you can afford the rookie card.