Collectors hunting this first-ever card set will find the 1952 Topps red backs vs. black to be one element that stands out. Card numbers 1-80 were released with either a red or black back variation. That means when you turn over one of these cards the background on the flipside was either predominantly one of two colors-red or black. A Phil Rizzuto card, for instance, might have white print for his name with a black background at the top. A Warren Spahn card might have white print at the top with a red background and border-but black stats below that with an additional red Topps Baseball logo.
Both the red and black back cards feature a white baseball with the number of the player in black print in the upper left hand corner. The first 80 cards in the set have also proven to be very difficult to find in high grade. There are a several cards that have fewer than 50 examples graded at a ‘7’ level or higher across all three major grading and authentication company population reports. That means competition is often fierce at auction.
The black backs featured white print with a black background at the top with black statistics and a black Topps logo featured at the bottom. Red backs are considered more common than the red backs. That makes the black back cards more valuable for the most part.
Much like the rest of the 1952 Topps set, these cards were well ahead of their time.
The red back and black back cards included players like Spahn, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider and Phil Rizzuto.
Like the rest of the 1952 set, the production by Topps wasn’t perfect. In fact, it was far from it. The cards for Johnny Sain and Joe Page were actually flip-flopped and you can find the details of their respective statistics on the wrong card.
The variations are hunted by most serious collectors of the 1952 set. The cards for Lou Kretlow and Ray Boone also sport different variations on the front side. A baseball jersey might actually look lighter with a red back. Virgil Stallcup’s card actually shows Virgil with a white jersey on his red back card. His black back depicts a much darker Cubs jersey.
The first card in the red and black back series features Andy Pafko. Although Pafko isn’t exactly a household name like some of the other players in the set, his card has greater worth because of the number of youngsters who kept their cards rubber-banded together back in the 1950’s and if they kept them sorted numerically, Pafko was often on top. There are plenty of lower grade Pafkos, but only ten grading 8 or better on PSA’s Population Report. Little did anyone at Topps probably realize they would create such a stir about a little know player named Andy Pafko for decades to come.
Ironically enough, Hall of Famer Eddie Matthews, not part of the first 80 cards, was the last card in the overall set and also suffered an equivalent amount of damage because of rubber banding.
These days, collectors who want a challenge but don’t have a huge bankroll might opt for trying to tackle the 1952 Topps red vs. black variations for their personal sets and skip out on the ultra-expensive high numbers.
Click here to see the red and black back variations on eBay.