Roger Maris might very well be the most well-known and sought after non-Baseball Hall of Famer there is. His relatively short career saw several fantastic seasons and one legendary one that made him a household name then and a favorite among collectors to this day.
Maris is not Mantle – something he said often in 1961. Roger’s cards are affordable but limited in number compared to those of The Mick. Between regular issues, All-Stars, league leader, World Series cards and others, Topps produced just 22 cards of Maris during his 12 year career. There are 39 Topps cards featuring Mantle as a player.
So of the relatively few out there from which to choose, which are the best Roger Maris cards to own–the ones that best commemorate his place in the game? In the completely subjective list below, we’ll take a look at Maris’ Topps issues primarily because virtually no other card companies produced cards in this era (with apologies to Post Cereal, Exhibit, Nu Card and Salada). Click the links to see examples of each card for sale on eBay.
1961 Topps No. 2: For baseball card collectors, when you think of Roger Maris you think of this card. This classic card from one of the hobby’s most popular sets is a symbol of the home run chase that transcended baseball and transfixed the nation. Maris was coming off an MVP campaign in 1960 following a trade to the Yankees in December 1959 so expectations for Maris and the Yankees were already high going into 1961. Both answered the call. The Yanks won 109 games and the World Series while Rog hit 61 homers and broke the most hallowed record in sports while under immense pressure. If you don’t have this card or want to upgrade the one you’ve got, nice examples can be found for $50 or less.
1962 Topps No. 1: Maris’ 1961 Topps issue has become his signature card, but it was Maris’ 1962 card that every kid in America was after that year. With his popularity at its peak, Topps responded to the demand with four cards depicting Maris in its ’62 set including card No. 313 which shows Maris connecting for No. 61 the year before. But it was the first card in the set that every kid had to have and the one that remains popular with collectors. 1962 Topps’ wood grain borders are notoriously tough to find in good shape and really nice examples will run anywhere from $50-$100.
1962 Topps No. 53: It’s probably not the prettiest card on this list – leader cards seldom are – but it may be the most notable. This is one of only three cards that feature Maris and Mantle together (1961 Topps Home Run Leaders and 1964 Topps A.L. Bombers with Norm Cash and Al Kaline are the others.) Topps never issued a card that featured Mantle and Maris exclusively but in lieu of what would have been the most sought after combo card ever, this leader card has the M & M boys’ familiar homer totals of 61 and 54 on the front. As a bonus, Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew is also featured, as is Jim Gentile whose 46 homers and status as the AL’s co-RBI leader with Maris is a prime example of 1961’s crazy offensive statistics. Nice examples of this card are readily available for $25-$35.
1958 Topps No. 47: Maris’ rookie card probably doesn’t reach the level of the truly elite rookies of the 1950s – your Aarons, your Mays, your Mantles and other HOFers – but it is certainly one of the more valuable cards of the latter half of the decade. Maris’ early years in baseball were unremarkable. He played in the minors for four seasons and was traded twice before his career took off in New York in 1960. Maris’ rookie card – pictured with the Indians – is plentiful but can be difficult to locate in good shape in a ’58 set notorious for printing issues. If you’re patient, you can eventually find an appealing one in the $120-$175 range.
1960 Topps All Star No. 565: Maris was an All Star four times and featured on Topps All Star issues three times (there were no All Star cards in ’63 to reflect his selection in ’62.) 1960 and ’61 All Star cards are high number short prints and thus pricey and hard to find. Maris’ 1960 All Star stands out among his other All Star issues simply because Topps’ 1960 All Star cards are so darn cool (why get objective now?) 1960 All Star cards aren’t quite as expensive as their 1961 counterparts but they’re close. You can get a pretty nice one in the $40-$50 range.
Roger Maris’ short career didn’t allow him to accumulate the type of numbers that will land him in Cooperstown and many historians will tell you he benefitted from thin pitching, expansion and eight extra games in 1961. But none of that changes the fact that Maris’ put together a season that will forever keep him mentioned among baseball’s all time greats.