1952 Topps Set: The 900-Pound Gorilla of Post-War Baseball Cards

For baseball card collectors, when the 1952 Topps set is mentioned, dreams of assembling the graded Cadillac of post-war baseball card collecting comes to mind.  There is no doubt that the ’52 Topps set was and is the quintessential set made after World War II.

Why do investors and collectors devote so much attention to this set?  In essence, this issue is packed with everything an investor would dream of including in their portfolio.

1952 Topps Rookie Cards

When Topps made its 1952 baseball set, it was a radical departure from the previous year’s issue.  Instead of 52 cards, like in the 1951 Red Backs set, the ’52 set contains 407 cards.  It was the largest set of its day, by number of cards issued and by size.  They were the biggest bubble gum cards anyone had ever seen.

Dozens of players make their debut for the iconic company.  Legends like Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and others all made their first Topps appearances.  Are they rookie cards?  Well, not really, but for Topps collectors, that first card carries a lot of weight.

Scarcity of 1952 Topps Baseball Cards

At the time the set was issued, Topps was not the dominant baseball card manufacturer.  That title went to Bowman.  One of the residual impacts of this fact was that this issue was not as well-collected as Bowman at the time.

Topps did not publish all 407 cards at once.   Because it was the new kid on the block, demand for Topps' cards was uncertain.  The company's sales were exceptional in the spring and summer as kids discovered this new manufacturer who produced a far better representation of big leaguers than they had ever seen.  The final series, #311-407, which were produced towards the end of the baseball season, were not widely collected by youngsters who were back in school by then.   Stores took delivery but the company wound up taking thousands of cases back.

According to Sy Berger, who spent decades in management at the company,  Topps dumped 300-400 of cases into the Atlantic Ocean years later when they could find no outlet to sell them.

High-Grade Difficulty

Obtaining high-graded cards from this issue is especially challenging.  Children used to regularly trade their cards among each other.  The additional handling made it more difficult to maintain these cards in top grades.

Baseball cards were regularly wrapped with rubber bands and stored in shoe boxes.  The rubber bands damaged the perimeter of the cards, while the shoeboxes caused many corners to be crushed.

In fact, because so few of these cards have been given mint or gem mint grades by PSA, SGC and Beckett Grading, the premiums attached to them are huge and growing.  It is not uncommon for PSA 9 or 10 graded cards to sell for many multiples of PSA 7 or 8 graded cards.  As a result, investment demand is consistent and growing for high-grade issues.  In short, virtually any PSA 8 or 9 1952 Topps card is all but certain to hold its value or increase barring an improbable find of untouched cards.

1952 Topps is a stalwart among serious collectors of vintage cards.  High grade Hall of Famers, bought with an eye on scarcity and eye appeal, are an attractive target.  Go for Mantle if you can, but don't ignore other players or cards in this iconic set.

1952  TOPPS   #261  WILLIE MAYS   GIANTS  HOF  ORIGINAL  PSA APPRAISED  VG+ 3.5
1952 TOPPS #261 WILLIE MAYS GIANTS HOF ORIGINAL PSA APPRAISED VG+ 3.5
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1952 Topps Roy Campanella #314, HOF, PSA VG-EX 4, Dodgers
1952 Topps Roy Campanella #314, HOF, PSA VG-EX 4, Dodgers
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2016 Topps Berger's Best Series 2 1952 Ed Matthews PSA 10 GEM MINT HOF
2016 Topps Berger's Best Series 2 1952 Ed Matthews PSA 10 GEM MINT HOF
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1952 Topps #312 Jackie Robinson psa 6 Ex-Mt  HOF    High Number
1952 Topps #312 Jackie Robinson psa 6 Ex-Mt HOF High Number
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1952 Topps Monty Irvin #26 HOF Grade PSA 6
1952 Topps Monty Irvin #26 HOF Grade PSA 6
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1952 Topps Jackie Robinson #312 HOF PSA 5
1952 Topps Jackie Robinson #312 HOF PSA 5
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1952 TOPPS Richie Ashburn #216 EX PSA 5 HOF
1952 TOPPS Richie Ashburn #216 EX PSA 5 HOF
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1952 Topps PEE WEE REESE Dodgers HOF HIGH #333 PSA 4
1952 Topps PEE WEE REESE Dodgers HOF HIGH #333 PSA 4
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1952 topps #2243 Larry Doby AUTO  psa/dna HOF autographed Indians signed card
1952 topps #2243 Larry Doby AUTO psa/dna HOF autographed Indians signed card
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1952 topps #277 Early Wynn HOF AUTO  psa/dna  autographed Indians signed card
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PSA 6 EX-MT ⚾ RICHIE ASHBURN HOF PHILLIES 1952 TOPPS CARD #216 GRADED CRISP/NICE
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1952 TOPPS #33 WARREN SPAHN PSA 2, GREAT COLORS, BRAVES HOF
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