Hank Aaron Memorabilia
Hank Aaron consistently produced at the plate
Topps 1964 Hank Aaron #49 is where we start our list of valued cards of the all-time great. Now, for the purists out there who don’t appreciate the novelty cards which began appearing in the middle of Aaron’s career—don’t worry. There are plenty of cards in this compilation with pure, adulterated value.
In the off-chance you didn’t notice, this card doesn’t precisely break-through the price ceiling. However, as the first on our list, setting the bottom-tier of the price-bracket at $1,000 speaks to the inherent value found in all Hank Aaron’s cards.
Measuring 3 1/8” x 5 1/4”
Scarcity of the '64 Giants Edition
On a separate note, 1964 wasn’t Hank Aaron’s best year. Not that it was bad by any means. But, even though the legendary swatter made the All-Star roster, he wasn’t exactly playing his best ball. At the end of the day, Aaron finished 14th on the MVP ballot that year.
PSA population report
First Atlanta Brave over 500 homeruns
In 1968, the well-known, and then-largest game manufacturer in the US, Milton Bradley, released a secondary version of the 598-card set in a game titled “Win-A-Card.” The 1968 singles featured in this version bear a resemblance to the original Topps series, but with a livelier yellow displayed on the back.
A great set to complete
Furthermore, the 1964 series makes for a great “starter set” for several reasons. First, player selection is broad enough to suit every taste. Quite frankly, it’s filled with Hall of Fame super-stars! With 19 of the 77 cards capturing Cooperstown immortals, I don’t think there is any question as to the punch this series packs. Think about it.
A shade under 25% of the cards represent players currently residing in the immortal halls of Cooperstown. Lastly, consider the manageable size of the ’64 set. It’s only 77 cards. Compared to the card-count of other sets, the 1964 Topps set pales in comparison concerning card quantity.
Stand-up card as a standalone figure
Now, this is not some grand vision. But, it makes sense a card constructed to be deconstructed would come apart more easily. That’s the point. This case is a prime example where scarcity does not necessarily dictate sale-price. For crying out loud, it’s the second most difficult Hank Aaron card to get your hands on—bar none! So, it’s important to mention, there are zero PSA 10’s on the radar, and a mere ten PSA 9’s on the official PSA docket.
Measuring 3 1/8” x 5 ¼”
Furthermore, the polychromic border and attention-drawing elements of the full-sized ’75 Hank Aaron #660 are in no way less appealing than its’ “Lilliputian” counterpart. Much less, both of the card’s versions act as the caboose to their respective decks.
Still, this version made the cut for the priciest card, while its’ “little brother” in the mini-series didn’t quite make it here.
Catering to the newer generations
Catering to the newer generations and increased demands, Topps made acquiring Aaron’s #660 much easier. That is to say, for the second year in a row, Topps offered baseball card enthusiasts the chance to get their hands on all 660 cards in one fell swoop. Thus, Topps’ practice of sorting series into separate packages for consumers came to an end.
This change was no secret either. The collectible card company celebrated its new distribution strategy, adorning each set’s box and wrapper with the words: “All 660 Cards in One Series!” In the same fashion, Topps took on a new marketing strategy when constructing the 1975 set. Nowhere is this strategic shift more apparent than in the way Hank Aaron drove this series. Not only is Hammerin’ Hank featured on the first card, but card #660 also closes out the series as the last card in the deck.
PSA Population Reports
In addition to Topps capitalizing on Aaron’s career success on display in this set, Topps use of vibrant colors and eye-catching layout make this card a favorite in the baseball card community.
Despite having a 23-year long career, Hank Aaron ended up earning 25 All-Star picks. The Hammer was not an All-Star for his first season in 1954, nor was he chosen as an All-Star for his final year in 1976. Alternatively, two All-Star games were held every year from 1959 to 1962 in an effort by the League to give the players’ pension fund a shot in the arm. Aaron played in all auxiliary All-Stars games held at the time.
While the American League was expanding in 1961, Topps decided to follow suit and grew their set-size to an unprecedented 587 cards. At the same time, the trading-card company returned to the traditional vertically orientated player pictures. Plus, they added the now-familiar Topps checklist cards.
Lastly, Topps also decided to forego player signatures, team logos, and other design features. Instead, most cards in this set have a basic player photograph with the name and team of the player in an unobtrusive box below the image. But, not the Hank Aaron #577 All-Star card!
Hank Aaron All-Star Games
Standing out from the crowd
Aaron’s All-Star card carries a unique newspaper-style design, with Hank’s mug being the main focus. While Hank’s name and abbreviated position comprise the mock headline, his NL All-Star status flanks the newspaper’s title at the top of the card. In-line with the simple design of the rest of the deck, the #577 All-Star card has a unique flare. With only 4 gem mint-condition cards ever graded, and a small amount of PSA 9’s (48), it’s no surprise this card recently went at auction for more than 4-large!
Aaron’s Braves share their team card number, #463, with Jack Fisher’s player card, which is also #463. Moreover, the Braves team-card appears on the checklist as #426.
In 1956, there was a changing of the guards in the trading card industry when Topps beat-out their largest competitor, Bowman Gum Company. So, it’s interesting this was also the year where they arguably made their largest printing error on any Hank Aaron inspired card they ever produced.
Notice anything strange about the action shot of Hank sliding into home? Well, for one thing, it’s not Hank Aaron. As it turns out, Topps mistook fellow-legend Willie Mays, Jr. for Hammerin’ Hank on this one. So, you could state “The Say Hey Kid” made an impromptu appearance on this 1956 production.
The 1956 Topps set
In general, the set has a similar design to the previous year’s card-line, such as colorful artwork and action-shots of the players juxtaposed next to their portraits. Interestingly, many of the player photos in this set are the same ones used in previous years. For instance, Aaron’s headshot is the same one used in 54’ and ’55 by Topps.
An exception to previous builds, the 1956 deck also contains cards of league presidents, Warren Giles, and William Harridge. To boot, other star players, like Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, and Sandy Koufax, join Hank in this publication.
Gray back vs. white back
Every card numbered 1 to 180 has a gray cardboard version back and a white back version. However, baseball card enthusiasts prefer the gray back when “on-the-hunt” for card #’s 1-100. Meanwhile, hobbyists favor the white back on cards #101-180. Currently, zero prints of this card have been graded gem mint and only four PSA 9’s exist. So, to say this card is rare is a bit of an understatement.
National League batting titles
OK. I know what you’re thinking. Who in the heck are Johnston Cookies? To be honest, there’s nothing special about the mid-sized confectioner. They’re just a local, Milwaukee-based company who were big supporters of their community. Apparently, they knew a thing or two about clever marketing too?
In any event, you can quote me on this next one. The 1954 Johnston Cookies Braves Henry Aaron #5 baseball card is the rarest Hank Aaron baseball card in terms of scarcity currently in existence. Flat-out, it’s a killer card with exceptional value. Despite being the single rarest Aaron card around, at the upper end of the price spectrum, the non-Topps produced card does not even hold a light to our top-valued card. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
On a separate note
Johnston’s card numbers correspond to the player’s numbers—a practical production technique absent from Aaron-inspired Topps issues. The cherubic facade of the 20-year-old, then-#5 rookie makes it hard to believe Hank’s later cards depict the same man bearing his more well-known #44. Notably, collectors don’t consider the Johnston Cookies card to be an official rookie card.
The sole rookie card officially recognized is the 1954 Topps #128. In addition to the ’54 Johnston Hank Aaron release being shunned as a certified rookie card, it’s important to remember a few things. For starters, the local, Milwaukee cookie corporation’s run of Braves baseball cards lasted a meager 3-years. Next, Johnston Cookies doesn’t carry as much clout as a reputable card-producer like Topps, or even Bowman. Finally, even though Johnston made it a point to identify Hank as a rookie. In the end, it’s clear the baseball card collecting community will never give this card its’ due-and-proper.
Henry Aaron made the cut in 1954 because of an injury incurred by Bobby Thomson earlier in the season creating an opening on the Braves roster. After catching the eye of the press, a regional sports reporter effectively renamed the future Hall of Famer “Hank” because he thought the name made Aaron seem more agreeable.
OK. I get it. A second card on this list from the ‘70s is borderline blasphemy. However, one glance at the price tag on this puppy and you can see there’s quite a bit of buzz surrounding this card. Of course, the popularity of this late-career card for Aaron is attributable to one thing.
In 1974, Hank Aaron tied Babe Ruth’s long-standing record in the first game of the season. At the Braves home opener later that year, Hammerin’ Hank lived up to his name in front of a record-setting crowd of more than 53,000 fans. Finally swatting HR #715, Hank broke Babe Ruth’s home run record which stood for nearly 40-years.
Topps released at the start of the year in 74'
The ’74 set has a whopping 660 cards, all with the standard 2 ½” x 3 ½” size. In an unprecedented move by Topps, the company released the entire set at the beginning of the year. For the previous 22-years, they issued separate series throughout the season.
You could say the entirety of the ’74 Topps release was dedicated to Hank. After all, alongside this amazing #1 specialty card, the next 5 cards in the deck commemorate Aaron as well. Plus, the final card also has ball-bashing stud closing out the issue.
Position, detail or lack there of
As you can see, the second of the 1956 Hank Aaron double-prints more than triples the price of its’ gray colored doppelganger. This price increase is interesting because even though both cards are exceedingly scarce, with zero PSA 10’s in existence, the white back version commands significantly more at auction.
Plus, there are only four documented PSA 9’s. At the end of the day, it boils down to collector preference. It seems hobbyist prefer white backs for a significant portion of the varietals included in this deck.
Third time could have been a charm
Hall of fame set
Zero gem mint 10's
Additionally, #30 does not lack in the rarity department by any means. In case you didn’t notice, the top price fetched for this card is not based on a PSA 10 graded card. Why? Because, the PSA 10 population of this card equal a big, fat goose egg. In other words, a gem mint condition copy of this card does not exist.
Catering to the newer generations
Despite not making MVP a second year in a row, The Hammer placed 3rd in the ’58 voting. Hank also brought home his first Gold Glove in that year, coupled with yet another All-Star Game invitation.
Furthermore, Topps divided the 598 cards set into two categories, i.e., Low Numbers (#1 to #506) and High Numbers (#507 to #598). Markedly, the high-numbered cards are somewhat more difficult to find as opposed to the first 506 cards printed.
Ultimately, collectors and enthusiasts alike sanctify this set because of the significant number of baseball greats populate the deck. For example, the ’65 Topps issue stars the likes of Roberto Clemente (#207), Mickey Mantle (#350), Willie Mays (#250), Sandy Koufax (#300), and, of course, Hank Aaron (#170).
1965 marked the last season the Braves played in Milwaukee before relocating to Atlanta.
Surprisingly not a Topps card, Bowman’s 1955 Hank Aaron release is still an odd-duck. However strange, the #179 vintage baseball card from the old-time chewing gum company commands serious respect in elite circles of collectors.
Notwithstanding a hobbyist’s hope and the patience of a collector, if a gem mint PSA 10 hasn’t popped up yet, it’s fair to say, prospects are grim. Negating speculation entirely, an incredibly modest four PSA 9’s exist, while less than one-hundred PSA 8’s are official. So, even settling for a near-mint-condition card will cost you a pretty penny.
1955 Bowman: Condition sensitive
Big time centering issues
Bowman vs. Topps?
1959 Topps design
As we can see in Hank Aaron’s card, instead of a full-body shot, we get only the bust of the prolific player. Moreover, Topps set Aaron’s photograph inside a circular frame, making the bold-faced text pop against the solid yellow background.
And, although Hank’s name is all lowercase, the slight angle of this text adds an interesting flavor to the card. Topps was even kind enough to sport the Milwaukee Braves’ mascot in the lower-left area on the obverse.
Back side design
Now, allow me to introduce the pièce de résistance—the 1954 Hank Aaron rookie card. As far as popularity and authenticity, the 1954 Topps Henry Aaron #128 is the creme of the crop. It is the only officially acknowledged rookie card of Henry Louis Aaron.
The momentous image represents the timeless figure in baseball folklore who continually reminds us how stability, status, and dignity can be achieved on as well as off the field. Interestingly enough, Aaron’s rookie card produced by Topps in 1954 is the only rookie card of Hammerin’ Hank that exists. Even legends like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays are said to have at least two rookie cards in print.
Scarce high grade copies
A significant factor leading to the scarcity of high-grade #128’s was the poor print-quality exhibited by Topps that year. The entire deck is chock-full of defects, e.g., printing dots, misaligning, poor cuts, and even roller marks. On top of all these imperfections, the card’s packaging was prone to staining enclosed prints.
Superior design elements
All things considered
This card is truly one of the hobby’s most cherished classics. Much more, it’s a bonafide rarity. Of the two PSA 10 Gem Mints in circulation, the only one sold at auction shatters the price of all other Hank Aaron cards combined. Sitting pretty with a value over $350,000, the Henry Aaron #128 is one of the few collectible baseball cards ever to reach such a legendary status.