The 1952 Topps Willie Mays represents Topps’ first issue of the immortal Giants outfielder. Although not Mays’ true rookie—that honor belongs to the 1951 Bowman—this second-year issue is one of the most collectible 1952 Topps cards outside the 1952 Topps high numbers. It’s also his first appearance on a Topps card.
Mays is #261 of the 1952 Topps 5th series, the “semi-high numbers” (#251-310). It’s fairly hard to find in high-grade with just 81 PSA 7 (NM) copies in existence as of this writing. There are 55 cards graded 8, nine PSA 9s and just one 10. SGC has graded just 32 cards as NM or better.
When the card hit packs that summer, Mays was coming off his NL Rookie of the Year 1951 season but would play only 34 games in 1952 as he joined the U.S. Army in May. This fact is noted on the back of the 1952 Topps card.
Mays would miss the rest of 1952 season and all of 1953. In 1954, he would roar back into the Polo Grounds outfield, hitting 41 home runs and leading the league with a .345 average—not to mention making “the catch” off Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series. He would go on to establish himself as one of the greatest outfielders in baseball history.
Low grade 1952 Topps Willie Mays cards can be purchased for around $400-$500; higher grade cards quickly move into the low thousands but it lags far behind the double-printed 1952 Topps Mantle card. The disparity in value is rather striking considering there are only about one-third more Mays cards rated near mint or better in the graded marketplace.
The 1952 Topps Willie Mays is truly a classic and worth the purchase price to the serious collector who sees it as perhaps an undervalued card given the current hot market. You can see them on eBay here.