While Yankee fans loved Mickey and Giants fans thought Willie was the best, Duke Snider baseball cards are what Dodger fans wanted in the golden era of 1950s New York baseball. In Brooklyn, he was known simply as the Duke, or the Duke of Flatbush. Edwin Donald “Duke” Snider was a mainstay for the Dodgers, a power-hitting center fielder who helped the franchise win five pennants in Brooklyn and two in Los Angeles.
His left-handed, uppercut swing was perfect for the right-field wall at Ebbets Field, only 297 feet away. Snider, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980, hit 407 career homers, but one wonders how many he might have hit if the team had remained in Brooklyn. The vast confines of the Los Angeles Coliseum from 1958 to 1962 dramatically curtailed Snider’s home run production.
The Duke would have turned 90 on Monday. Snider was depicted on some of the nicest cards of the 1950s, and also made appearances in the 1940s and ’60s. Here is a look at 10 cards that quintessentially portray the Duke.
1949 Bowman No. 226 (RC)
This was the second set put out by Bowman, and Snider’s card is second only to Satchel Paige’s rookie card that year in terms of value. The 1949 Bowmans measured 2 1/16 inches by 2 ½ inches and used black-and-white photographs, which were overprinted with team uniform colors with a background of solid pastel colors.
Snider appears late in the 240-card set. As of this writing, there have been 582 cards sent to PSA for grading, and only one card has come back gem mint. Twelve are PSA 9s and there are 78 registered PSA 8s. One of those PSA 8s is among the 25 different cards for sale on eBay.
1953 Bowman Color No. 117
The 1953 Bowman set is one of the most attractive sets of the 1950s. Its beauty is in its simplicity — the card front depicts a simple shot of Snider holding a bat over his shoulder against a backdrop of a beautiful blue sky. It’s Snider’s full-color debut and it is part of the 160-card set’s high number series. It’s an uncluttered card, with no name, team name or position on the front. Bowman had increased its card size to 2 ½ inches by 3 ¾ inches, which makes for a nice overall look.
Duke’s ’53 Bowman is a bit hard to find above an “8” but you can own a respectable example of one of his nicest cards for a relatively modest price.
1957 Topps Dodgers Sluggers No. 400
If you’ve never read Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer — or plan to read it again soon — just hold this card while you reminisce about baseball in Brooklyn during the 1950s. This card has two Hall of Famers (Snider and Roy Campanella), one who probably should be enshrined in Cooperstown (Gil Hodges) and an outfielder who had one of the best arms in baseball (Carl Furillo).
This card was part of the 1957 Topps’ high numbered series and it holds up well. It’s an affordable card, whether graded or raw, and the card gets plenty of action on eBay.
1958 Topps Rival Fence Busters No. 436
Put two of the National League’s top sluggers from the 1950s on one card, and it’s quite a collectible. Willie Mays was Snider’s rival, patrolling center field at the Polo Grounds for the New York Giants. The debate raged in New York during the 1950s about who the better center fielder was — Snider, Mays or Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees. All three were great, and even inspired a song by Terry Cashman in 1981 (“Willie, Mickey and the Duke”). Snider and Mantle went to more World Series, but be honest — the best center fielder of that era was Mays.
This particular card shows Snider and Mays in their new West Coast uniforms, as the Dodgers and Giants had bolted to California after the 1957 season. Snider had plenty of muscle, as Mays seems to be implying in the photo, but a lot of his power was sapped by the wide open right-field expanses of the Los Angeles Coliseum.
You can buy a nice raw example for under $50, making it one of the best bargains of the 1950s.
1955 Red Man No. 19N
What the 1953 Bowman Color cards are to mainstream sets, the Red Man series of the 1950s are to tobacco/food sets. The colors are vibrant and full, and the cards measure 3 ½ inches by 4 inches. The toughest part about collecting this set is finding card with the tabs still attached at the bottom of the card. Snider is one of 25 National League all-stars in the set, and there are 25 from the American League, too.
A total of 113 Snider cards (with tabs) have been sent to PSA for grading. Only one grades as high as PSA 9, although there are 22 PSA cards out there. Of the over three dozen cards currently available on eBay, 17 have tabs — and of seven of them are graded, one as high as PSA 7.
1951 Topps Red Back No. 38
Snider was part of one of the first Topps set of the 1950s, and his playing card was a “single.” When you’re a kid and playing these card-generated games, players with hits are like gold. The 1951 Red Backs came two to a pack and sold for a penny apiece. They are tiny, at 2 inches by 2 5/8 inches, and the card backs display red on white printing. Snider is one of the more valuable cards in the set (the most valuable is card No. 1 of Yogi Berra), and his card prices are comparable to those of fellow Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Phil Rizzuto.
Finding a 1951 Red Back Snider in high-grade is not as daunting as it might be in other issues. You can own a pretty respectable example for $75-$150.
1958 Hires Root Beer No. 61
One of the cooler looking issues of the 1950s, and one of the tougher ones to find with its tab intact. The Hires set consisted of 66 cards, and Snider was a short-printed card. Unlike the tabs on the Red Man cards, the Hires tabs were more than just stubs. They measured 3 ½ inches long. The backs of the tabs were used for filling in a mail-away address form to join the Hires Baseball Club. Simply detach and mail them in. Those who managed to leave the tabs intact had far more valuable cards.
As a regional issue, this is one of Snider’s toughest cards and prices reflect it but it’s also one of his first cards following the Dodgers’ move west and his “LA” cap is evidence of that. If you’re OK owning it without a tab, you can usually find a solid one for around $150.
1954 Bowman No. 170
Most modern cards of Snider that feature an autograph always had “Duke Snider” as the signature. I found a Snider autographed baseball at a yard sale in my area (complete with a certificate of authenticity), and it also was signed “Duke.” The 1954 Bowman set, which employed facsimile autographs, went with Snider’s real name — “Edwin D. Snider.”
The signature on the Bowman cards was a distinctive feature of the 1954 Bowman set and shows Snider standing with a blue background behind him. This card may not be as breathtaking as the 1953 Bowman Color cards, but they are still beautiful in their own right, not to mention affordable.
1954 Dan-Dee Potato Chips
Snider was one of 29 players that were part of a set that featured cards in bags of potato chips. The set was unnumbered, and cards were hard to find in high-grade condition because many cards were subject to grease stains from the potato chips. The cards were coated with wax to protect them from the grease, and there also were versions issued without the wax.
Only two unwaxed Snider cards have been graded, and the highest was a PSA 3. The cards with wax covering fared better; of the 139 submitted for grading, seven have come back as high as PSA 9 (there are no gem mints). The oddity of the Dan-Dee set is that most of the players were from the Cleveland Indians and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Predictably, however, the presence of Mickey Mantle in the set has made it the most valuable card in the set. Expect to spend at least $100 for a respectable example.
1964 Topps No. 155
Snider’s final regular-season baseball card issue has him back in New York, playing for the Mets. In a twist of irony, after Snider played for the Mets in 1963, he was traded to the Giants in 1964. While in San Francisco he played against the Dodgers in 10 games, batting .250 with a homer and two RBIs. That was far better than the .210 season average he wound up with in 1964. But that one homer was a sweet one — a two-run shot at Dodger Stadium off Joe Moeller in the top of the ninth on May 2 that tied that game. The Giants would win 5-4 in 12 innings.
This one is definitely budget friendly with many ungraded examples available for the price of a restaurant meal.