Rookie cards of star players are some of the most popular and desirable baseball cards ever produced. Unfortunately this also makes these cards some of the most expensive and unaffordable. Second year cards of these same players can offer a significant discount for simply being produced one year later. In addition, a player’s second year card might be the first time they were pictured on a card by themselves.
Here is a look at ten of the best bargain second year cards based on values from Sportscard Market Report (SMR) for PSA 7 graded examples.
The word ‘bargain’ seldom accompanies the name Mickey Mantle – particularly when discussing an early 1950s issue. However, when comparing the price of a 1951 Bowman and 1952 Bowman in PSA 7 the second year issue commands just 11% the price as of now.
Mantle is one of the most popular players of the post-war era and the value of his 1952 Topps issue – a second year card itself – played a large role in the growth of the baseball card industry. While not a ‘cheap’ card, the 1952 Bowman remains an affordable option to collectors unable or unwilling to spring for Mantle’s rookie card.
The conversation concerning the greatest baseball player of all time will always include Willie Mays. Not only was Mays a prolific hitter with more than 600 home runs and 3,000 hits, but he was also a prolific base stealer and a phenomenal defensive center fielder, performing perhaps the greatest catch in history during Game 1 of the 1954 World Series.
His 1951 Bowman rookie card is a ‘must have’ for collectors making it one of the most expensive cards of the 1950s. His 1952 card by comparison is a relative bargain at just 11% of the value of his rookie card in PSA 7. A second year card of perhaps the game’s greatest player at the fraction of the cost of his rookie card makes a 1952 Bowman Willie Mays one of the best buys on this list.
Al Kaline was one of the most consistent hitters of the 1950s and 60s and retired with over 3,000 hits and nearly a .300 batting average. A fifteen time All-Star and ten time Gold Glove winners, Kaline led the Detroit Tigers to the 1968 World Series.
Although there have been fewer graded examples of his second year card from 1955 – 312 to 376 – it still can be obtained for just 14% of the price in PSA 7.
Ernie Banks will always be ‘Mr. Cub’ for providing Chicago’s rabid fan base with enthusiastic play for nearly 20 years. A two-time MVP with more than 500 home runs, Banks’ 1954 Topps rookie card has found its way onto most lists of key cards for Hall of Fame and vintage baseball card collectors.
You can purchase a PSA 7 example of Ernie Banks’ second year card from 1955 for just 10% the cost of his rookie card in the same grade as of now. There are slightly more graded examples of his second year card (326) than his second year card (257). This comparative bargain will have you saying, “let’s buy two!”
For many purists Hank Aaron remains baseball’s true home run king, which makes his 1954 Topps rookie card one of the most in demand cards of the era.
For just 9% of what you would expect to pay for a PSA 7 example Aaron’s rookie card you can have his second year card. The 1955 second year card is also more plentiful with 505 PSA graded examples to 363 examples.
Roberto Clemente remains the most popular Latin American player more than four decades after his tragic death while performing humanitarian work. Forever a legend in Pittsburgh for delivering two World Series championships for the Pirates, his 1955 Topps rookie card is one of the most sought after cards of the 1950s.
The same cannot be said for Clemente’s second year card released in 1956, which can be had for just 7.7% the cost of his rookie card. This makes it the second best value on the list and a more readily available one as there are more than twice as many PSA graded examples of 1956 (675) than 1955 (323).
Between 1963 and ’66 Sandy Koufax won an MVP and three Cy Young awards while leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to three National League pennants and two World Series pennants. That brief flash of dominance has led Koufax into the discussion about the greatest pitchers of all time despite retiring at the age of 30.
This has led to Koufax’ 1955 Topps rookie card to being highly sought after, but his second year issue from 1956 can be had for just 14% of the cost when comparing two PSA 7 specimens.
After the 1968 season Major League Baseball lowered the height of the pitcher’s mound from fifteen inches down to ten inches. The reason? In 1968 Bob Gibson won the MVP and Cy Young awards with an unheard of ERA of 1.12 while throwing thirteen shutouts and fanning 268 batters. His big game competitiveness that led his Cardinals to two World Series titles makes his 1959 Topps card a ‘must have’.
A second year card of Gibson from 1960 would cost just 15% of his rookie card in PSA 7 making it an attractive alternative for collectors on a budget.
Tom Seaver won more than 300 games in his 20-year career, but it was his role as staff ace on the 1969 ‘Miracle’ Mets cemented his legacy with collectors. His 1967 Topps rookie card pictures him alongside Bill Denehy, which makes 1968 the first card where Seaver was pictured by himself.
A PSA 7 example of Seaver’s 1968 card has a value of just 6% of the PSA 7 card of Seaver/Denehy issued the year prior. As vintage card collectors know, the reason for this is that the 1967 card was a high number–and a single print, produced in less quantity than other high numbers. While that skews prices for the rookie card to higher than normal rookie card levels, Seaver’s 1968 second year card with the Topps “All-Star Rookie” trophy is super easy to find, not expensive and easily the best second year value play on the list.
Reggie Jackson remains one of the most clutch World Series performers of all time. He hit ten home runs in the World Series including three in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series earning him the moniker ‘Mr. October’. Reggie’s 1969 Topps rookie card is one of the most popular cards of the late 1960s, but once again his second year card from 1970 offers an affordable alternative.
For just 11% of the price of Reggie’s rookie card in near mint 7, you can purchase his second year card in the same grade making it one of the best values on the list.
On the other side of the equation there are several players whose second year cards are not quite a bargain. Leading the pack are Warren Spahn whose 1949 Bowman card is valued at 52.5% of his 1948 Bowman rookie and Johnny Bench whose 1969 Topps card sells for 51.3% of his 1968 Topps rookie card. Early Bowman cards make up some of the other high percentage second year cards including 37% for Yogi Berra (’48/’49 Bowman), Roy Campanella (’49/’50 Bowman), and Stan Musial (’48/’49 Bowman). One surprise is Harmon Killebrew whose 1956 Topps example commands 30% of the value of his 1955 Topps rookie card.