As Topps began producing cards for their 1954 set, the baseball card war was in full force. For Topps, the decision was to continue with the larger sized cards, then what we consider today's standard-sized cards. Those cards allowed Topps to have any even more room to feature player photos. For their 1954 set, the decision was made to include two photos on the front. One was a larger portrait, much as there had been in the previous two years but a background 'action" shot was also to be used in this set. For the kid collectors of the time, seeing more photos probably made them feel closer to the player and even provided them more poses to imitate when playing with their friends. Depending on where you were, Topps gave you the option of either purchasing penny packs which had one card included or four-card packs which cost off a nickel.
Another innovative twist was these cards don't have a traditional top border so many cards can appear to be off-centered even if they are perfectly centered. This is the last time Topps ever experimented with the bottom having a white border with no such border for the top of the card. However, the most important part of this or any other set are the players featured and because Topps had to dig deeper because of the completion with Bowman they took more chances on unproven players and that decision paid off with many rookie cards, of whom four ended up as Hall of Famers. Three made the Hall based on their playing career while one became famous as a manager. Of course there are other players such as Memo Luna, Angel Scull and Leroy Wheat who all received their moment of cardboard immortality and then were never heard from again.
All of these were featured in the 250 card set as Topps continued to issue fewer cards with each set after their groundbreaking 1952 issue. This set was released in several series and we can confirm the earliest series of cards 1-50, which were issued in both white and grey backs. The grey backed cards were believed to have been released in Canada and are precursors to the O-Pee-Chee sets which began in 1965. The next series of cards 51-75 are considered the most difficult cards in the set while the rest of the set are cards 76-250. That longer last series also features the four Hall of Famers Rookie Cards: Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Al Kaline, and Tommy Lasorda (as a manager). The key of these four rookie cards is Hank Aaron (Card #128) of which nearly 3,000 have been graded according to the PSA Population Report. Out of those nearly 3000 cards, fewer then 25 have been honored with the grade of mint (without qualifications) or gem mt. The other key cards also have similar grading tendencies as both Ernie Banks (#94) and Al Kaline (#201) each have had approximately 2000 cards graded with less than 20 mint or better cards for each of those as well. Tom Lasorda (#132), the fourth Hall of Famer, does have the highest percentage of these Hall of Fame rookie cards with nearly 20 cards graded mint or better in approximately 1,100 cards.
However, these conditions pale in comparison to the other key cards in the 1954 Topps set. Topps was able to secure Ted Williams to join them for their release, which Topps was able to contractually get him pulled from their 1954 Bowman set causing one of the most famed scarcity in the post-war era. Meanwhile Topps used Williams to bookend their set and had him featured on card #1 and card #250. While both cards are very condition sensitive because of their placement at the beginning and end of this set, card number 1 has proven to be far more difficult in mint or better as only five cards out of more than 2,200 have reached that premium condition. Meanwhile for card #250, 11 of those cards have been graded the mint or better designation in just about 2000 cards issued.
Other interesting features of the 1954 set include the first time Topps placed two players on the same card as the famed (at the time) multi-sport O'Brien twins, who were the first pair of twins to play for the same team in the same game are featured on card #139. With that distinction, that card has always been a very popular card among collectors. Most of the star players of the time, including Yogi Berra, Jackie Robinson and Warren Spahn are all featured in the first 50 cards. In fact, there are 11 future Hall of Famers in the first 50 cards and a paucity of star players in the rest of the set. The biggest name in the rest of the set is WIllie Mays (#90) and he is there because no one was quite sure how he would play after missing most of the 1952 and the full 1953 season to military service.
However, even with all the deeper digging Topps had to do to fill out their set their set size was still larger then their Bowman counterpart and dong that deeper digging helped to make this set more important because of the Hall of Fame rookies included.Return to See More Just Collect Sets