Maybe it’s because his contemporaries were named Aaron, Mays and Mantle, or maybe it’s because he spent the majority of his career tucked away in Minnesota, whatever the reason, Harmon Killebrew baseball cards are, in many cases, vastly undervalued.
When he retired at the end of the 1975 season, Killebrew’s 573 career homers were the most ever for an American League right-handed hitter and second only to Babe Ruth among all AL players. He led the Junior Circuit in homers six times, in RBI three times and was named MVP in 1969.
Despite clearly ranking among baseball’s all-time best power hitters, Killer simply doesn’t garner the respect he deserves – it even took four years before he was finally voted into the Hall of Fame in 1984 (you can watch his induction speech here.) For baseball card collectors however, this means that putting together a collection of Killebrew’s best cards is a relatively simple and affordable task. Here’s my list of his best cards starting with No. 1…
1955 Topps No. 124: No card better exemplifies Killebrew’s status as underappreciated than his rookie card. Is there another Hall of Famer of Killebrew’s stature that has a rookie card in the 1950s that can be bought for well under $100? Killebrew’s first baseball card features him as a 19-year-old, fresh off signing a bonus baby contract the year before. Killebrew showed glimpses of the power that would make him a Hall of Famer in those early years, but mostly he struggled and spent a good amount of time bouncing back and forth between the majors and the minors.
His rookie can be yours for an almost unbelievably low price. Even this gorgeous PSA 5 sold for just $113. If you’re looking for a little more of a challenge, Killebrew is also featured on Topps’ ’55 Double Headers issue with Johnny Podres. This card is a little harder to find but can still be had for under $100.
1959 Topps No. 515: When Killebrew did finally break out he did it in a big way. After hitting just 11 homers in his first five years, Harmon hammered 42 in 1959 alone to lead the AL and earn his first of 11 All Star appearances. His 1959 card comes from that set’s high series, but while 1959 high numbers are a little more expensive, they’re not ultra-rare or much more expensive than their low number counterparts. Killebrew’s bright red ’59 can easily be found even in solid shape for under $50.
1962 Topps No. 316: If there’s one thing Killebrew is best known for it’s his propensity for the moon shot as Killer collected numerous tape measure tatters during his 22 year career. He hit a 520 foot homer at Minnesota’s old Metropolitan Stadium in 1967, a 471 foot shot at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium in 1964 and was the first of four players to ever hit a ball over the left field roof at Tiger Stadium. His power was prolific for being just 5-foot-11 and his ’62 Topps card entitled, “Killebrew Sends One Into Orbit” pays tribute to that ability. It’s a crime that this card can be found for less than $10.
1965 Topps No. 400: During his 22 years in baseball, Killebrew not only played mostly out of the spotlight with the Washington/Minnesota franchise, many of the years he was there the Senators/Twins weren’t very good. The franchise had just nine seasons at or above .500 during his tenure, but in 1965 Harmon would play in his only World Series. Unfortunately for the Twinkies, they ran into a Dodger team that included Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and lost in seven games. Killebrew homered off Drysdale and hit .286 in his only postseason appearance. His 1965 Topps card is a ridiculously cheap $10-$20.
1969 Topps No. 375: Killebrew’s best statistical season came as his career was beginning to wind down. In 1969 he tied his career high in homers (49) and set his career-high in RBI (140). Both numbers led all of baseball that year. Like most Killebrew cards, his 1969 card can be found for next to nothing. Even this PSA 8 sold for just $45. Ungraded examples are equally affordable and range from $5-$12.
Honorable mentions: Since most of Killer’s cards, even his rookie and early issues, are affordable, Killebrew collectors must venture deep into the obscure to find new challenges. This team issued 1957-58 photo of Killebrew in his minor league days with the Chattanooga Lookouts carries a $400 asking price.
1968 Topps Plaks are just as rare as they are bizarre. Every plak is expensive and Killebrew’s is no exception. A seller is looking for $665 for this one.
There are many other scarce and valuable Killebrew issues among some of the odd ball Topps issues of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Killebrew can be found in the 1968 Action Stickers set, numerous Bazooka issues and in the gorgeous 1971 Greatest Moments set to name a few.
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