The graceful stride of long ago has been replaced by the guiding hand of an aide. We all wind up in that arena someday, if we’re lucky. But when those legs were toned and those arms could turn a fastball into a missle…
It’s those memories that send collectors in search of vintage Willie Mays cards on eBay or scouring the tables at a card show for more.
In his familiar number 24, Mays amazed baseball fans with dazzling catches and tape measure home runs. A career .302 hitter, Mays hit 660 home runs and drove in more than 1900 runs during his 22 year career. He was an icon to New York Giants fans in the 1950s and San Francisco backers once the team moved west in 1958.
Mays won 12 Gold Gloves as an outfielder during his time with the Giants, tying him for the most ever with Roberto Clemente. Mays’ wizardry in the outfield, turned in a career fielding averaging of .981, to go along with 195 assists from center field.
In 1972, Mays was traded to the New York Mets, bringing his career full circle. In his last two seasons with the Mets, Mays registered as the oldest regular position player in Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, his best hitting years were behind him, although his fielding percentage was still on par with what he had produced years earlier.
His gorgeous 1951 Bowman rookie card is considered among the greatest of all post-War issues. While Mays rookie cards can be found pretty regularly, near mint and better examples aren’t as plentiful and have been rocketing upward in step with other vintage Hall of Famers. A graded NM/MT 8 that you could have bought for under $10,000 five years ago cost one recent bidder $51,875.
Mays was a constant for Topps, once the company produced his 1952 rookie card (#261). He became fast friends with Topps executive Sy Berger, who watched him perform his magic at the Polo Grounds as the bubble gum card maker was becoming a major player in the bubble gum card business.
He regularly appeared in Topps sets from 1952-1973, both as the primary subject, on In Action and multi-player cards and, of course, on some star-packed League Leader cards during his prime.
Both were sensational but Mays’ Bowman rookie card has long lagged behind that of fellow 1951 rookie Mickey Mantle. Currently, Mays rookie cards in near mint (7) grades usually sell for less than half of what Mantle’s rookie cards so. Does that mean Mays rookies are undervalued? Quite possibly. However, there are others to consider, too.
In honor of his 1951 debut season, here’s the list of the 51 hottest Willie Mays cards on eBay right now.