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1952 Topps Baseball Cards

The Most Famous Set Ever?

One could argue that, with the possible exception of the T206 White Borders, the 1952 Topps baseball card set is the most famous and important of all time. The 407 card set was the first to use large size (2-5/8" by 3-3/4") cards, the first to incorporate colored team logos in the card design, and the first to employ complete statistics for the previous year and the player's lifetime. The set is comprised of hand-colored black and white photographs of most of the game's players from the previous season.

Major stars not included (who were signed exclusively with Bowman at the time) were Ralph Kiner, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Casey Stengel, Ewell Blackwell, Nelson Fox, Sal Maglie, Don Newcombe, Jimmy Piersall, and Vic Raschi. Noted rookies in the set include Billy Martin, Hoyt Wilhelm, Eddie Mathews, Minnie Minoso, Gil McDougald, and Pete Runnels. There are several errors and variations in the set, which include cards numbered 1-80 being printed first with all black backs, and later with black and red backs. The set was issued in 6 different print runs, with the last run of 97 cards (numbers 311-407) being quite scarce. The 6 print runs are broken down as follows:

Can be found with either all black, or black and red type on the back. The red backs are valued higher. Black backs of #42, Lou Kretlow and #55, Ray Boone, are found with murky "gray faces" and with clearer, brighter portraits. Check out the 2 different images of Tommy Glaviano, below. Card #48, Joe Page, and #49, Johnny Sain, can be found with each other's biography on the reverse. These cards are quite scarce. Card #56, Tommy Glaviano (black back), has a white Cardinal logo on front; the red back version has a yellow logo. Card #20, Billy Loes, is identified as a single print (SP) by Beckett. The reason for this is unclear. This card also has the (reverse) baseball stitching running in the opposite direction from all other cards.
Card # 88, Bob Feller, can be found with a clear or hazy background.  Card # 162, Del Crandall, can be found with a deep red or dark orange background.
More commonly printed on white, instead of gray cardboard. Gray backs, in this series, are quite scarce.
Card #307, Frank Campos, can be found with the usual 2 red stars on the back, or a left red star and a right black overprinted star. The black star variety is quite scarce and valuable. One of these cards (SGC 86) sold for $17,000 in the Robert Edwards spring 2007 auction (Lot #497).
First Topps card of Mickey Mantle is #311; Eddie Mathews' rookie card is #407. Card #391, Ben Chapman, is really Sam Chapman. Rumor has it that many cases of the last series were dumped into New York harbor due to late season poor sales.

George Vrechek wrote an exhaustive article on the printing of both the 1952 and 1953 Topps baseball card sets in the xx/xx/xxxx issue of Sports Collector's Digest. Click here to see it.

A 1952 Topps Web site can be found by clicking here. It contains a complete checklist as well as images of all 407 cards. It also contains several "fantasy" cards and images of several partial sheets.

1952 Topps Black Back 1952 Topps Red Back #20 - Billy Loes
#56 - Black Back - White Logo #56 - Red Back - Yellow Logo #149 - White Back
#307 - Frank Campos - Front #307 - 2 Red Stars #307 - Black Star Variation
1952 Topps 5¢ Pack
1952 Topps 1¢ Wrapper
1952 Topps 5¢ Wrapper

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