On October 23, 1945, baseball changed forever. World War II had ended just months earlier and a new era was coming. Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey believed it was time to integrate baseball. The Kansas City Monarchs shortstop he’d been watching was the man he’d been looking for. Just three years later, kids were about to find an African-American player in packs of bubble gum and trading cards.
Collectors have been chasing Jackie Robinson’s best rookie cards for years. His big league career was short and there only a small number of cards from his playing days on the market. He first appeared in a set issued with loaves of regionally issued Bond Bread in his rookie season of 1947 but it wasn’t until 1948 that Robinson appeared in a mainstream, nationally distributed set. His 1948-49 Leaf and 1949 Bowman rookie cards are both popular with collectors. He’s also in the 1948 ‘Blue Tint’ set, with his cards hand cut from a sheet and in cards issued by Swell (Sport Thrills) and Old Gold Cigarettes.
His 1950 Bowman card was his first full-color card and in 1952, his first Topps card arrived—issued in the same scarce series that also includes the iconic Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays cards from their first full seasons in the big leagues.
Early Robinson cards always run well into the hundreds of dollars with high grade examples fetching much more. In November of 2013, a PSA 8 graded Leaf rookie sold for $13,129 via Goldin Auctions. In May of 2013, an SGC-rated Leaf rookie brought $13,035 at Robert Edward Auctions and in 2012, an SGC 92 1952 Topps card sold for $11,950 via Heritage Auctions.
There are also some valuable modern era Robinson cards that include a cut signature and/or a piece of memorabilia.