Eddie Mathews may bring up the rear in the 1952 Topps set but it’s got a lofty place in Topps’ debut series for several reasons.
First, card #407 represents Mathews’ rookie card. Second, it’s in the ultra-tough last series. Third, as the last card in the set, it was often at the bottom of the pile. Many kids kept these cards in rubber bands which took its toll. High grade examples are especially tough because of that and the fact that the Mathews card is rarely found well centered.
Many of the players whose ’52 Topps cards are their designated ‘rookie cards’ actually appeared much earlier on Bowman brands or never had a card despite playing in the big leagues for a few years. The 1952 Topps Mathews is a true rookie card. While the Braves had moved to Milwaukee by the time Topps got its first big set into wax packs, Mathews and his mates are still pictured wearing the ‘B’ for Boston on their caps.
Of course, the Mathews rookie is in the last series of Topps’ first major set, which means hundreds of Eddies joined Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Hoyt Wilhelm at the bottom of the ocean after Topps couldn’t even sell them to carnival owners by the late 1950s. Hence, the scarcity…and keep in mind that unlike Mantle, the Mathews card wasn’t double printed on those production sheets. In fact, PSA has graded about half as many Mathews cards as Mantles.
Values have stayed strong. Collectors often pay more than $2,000 even for a low grade example of the 1952 Topps Mathews. At the other end of the scale, one of the few PSA 8 (NM/MT) examples sold at auction for $62,671 in March of 2015. Those graded 7 (near mint) have nearly doubled in value over the last several years and even those in middle grades sell for $4,000-6,000.
The Mathews card has generally been a good investment, partly because of its scarcity and partly because of his status as one of the game’s all-time greats.
Mathews was the first player ever to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He belted 512 home runs in his Hall of Fame career. He was a lefty at the plate who used his wrists to create power while knocking the cover off the ball. He collected two World Series victories in his time while having 30 plus home runs in nine straight seasons.
With values of Hall of Fame rookie cards continuing to rise, don’t expect prices on this elusive piece of history to recede anytime soon. You can see prices on the few currently available on eBay here.
The 1952 Topps Eddie Mathews is one of those sports collectibles for which there is simply more demand than supply, whether you’re a set collector, Hall of Fame collector or investor.