Although Topps came out with their first full set in 1952, it would be a while before we would see another one that large. The 1955 Topps baseball set checks in at just 206 cards, but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for with the first of what would be two classic horizontal designs.
Again, the cards were a bit larger (2 5/8” x 3 ¾”) than the standard size we know today.
1955 Topps Baseball Nuts and Bolts
The 1955 set features something Topps utilized a lot– facsimile autographs of each player. The set is actually numbered to 210 meaning that four numbers that were slated to run in the original set do not exist. Cards 175, 186, 203, 209 never made it to the market due to some contract battles with Bowman. There are four double printed cards to make up for the four unissued numbers. Even though Topps lost the battle, they won the war and bought out their rival in December, 1955. This set would be the last time the two went head-to-head over players–and pack sales.
The set has only two series, with cards #1-160 less expensive than their high numbered counterparts.
Among the stars who had no ’55 Topps card were Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Whitey Ford and Bob Feller. Mantle, Ford and Feller were in the ‘55 Bowman issue.
On the back of the cards, plenty of information was packed into a tight space. In addition to stats from the 1954 season, a brief bio on each player is featured on the back as is a trivia question and cartoon that does not pertain to the depicted player.
Cards were sold in penny and nickel wax packs as well as larger cello packs, all of which are very difficult to locate today.
1955 Topps Rookie Cards
The pride and joy of the set are the two most popular rookie cards: Sandy Koufax (#123) and Roberto Clemente (# 164).
One of the top pitchers in the height of his career, Koufax would win three Cy Young awards and earn pitching Triple Crowns in all of those years. Not to mention he threw four no-hitters in his 12-year career. The Koufax rookie card ranges in price from around $250 for a VG example to $10,000 or more for higher end examples.
Clemente’s rookie card made headlines a few years ago when the only PSA 10 sold at auction for $432,690. Even a near mint 7 will run $7,000 and up and a VG example can fetch $700 or more. An icon for parts of three decades before losing his life on the final day of 1972, Clemente’s first card is one of the most important post-War baseball issues.
Harmon Killebrew’s first card also arrived in 1955. It’s much more affordable with very nice examples available for $250-350. As always, graded, high-end examples will be much more.
1955 Topps Stars
Depicting one of the greatest power hitters of all-time, the 1955 Hank Aaron (#47) represents the second card of his career. Ungraded versions of the card can be found for about $100 in very good condition, with a near mint 7 at around $500, an 8 at $2,000 and a 9 at $8,000-9,000.
Other than Clemente, Killebrew and Koufax, the set features a bounty of golden era Hall of Famers including Ted Williams (#2), Al Kaline (#4), Ernie Banks (#28), Warren Spahn (#31), Jackie Robinson (#50), Monte Irvin (#100), Eddie Mathews (#154), Phil Rizzuto (#189), Willie Mays (#194), Yogi Berra (#198) and Duke Snider (#210). In all, 15 Hall of Famers are in the set. The lack of a Mantle card keeps the overall set price lower than other sets of the era.
The Golden Greek
A very popular card in ’55 comes with a tragic story as it features Harry Agganis (#152), a rising young star who died after his first and only card was issued. Originally from Lynn, Massachusetts, Agganis was a football star at Boston University (whose hockey rink is name Agganis Arena in his honor) and even turned down an offer from the Cleveland Browns in order to pursue a career in baseball.
A favorite among fans, Agganis who was the Red Sox starting first baseman, came down with pneumonia early in the season and was hospitalized. He joined the team a week later, but things only got worse from there as he ended up dying of a Pulmonary Embolism in June. It was a tragedy for the Boston sports community. Their local star had passed on at just 26 years old.
While an ungraded Agganis in average condition can usually be obtained for $25 or $30, high grade examples sell for much more since they are hard to come by in such great condition.
1955 Topps Complete Set Prices
The 1955 Topps set is a hard one to find in high grade. PSA has only awarded 57 grades of gem mint 10 with only 1,140 of 118,935 total cards examined rating a 9 (less than 1%).
Buying a complete set might be the way to go. Piecing together a set card-by-card often requires a greater outlay based on recent selling prices than simply purchasing the full set. There are currently a few dozen complete and partial sets available on eBay.