most expensive hank aaron baseball card list rookie topps bowman psa graded
Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on twitter

Hank Aaron Memorabilia

Hank Aaron memorabilia runs deeps after his epic 23-year career. You can find everything from Bazooka gum-wrappers to Milk Dud boxes bearing the superstar’s name. What’s more, these unique collectibles check out with the most reputable authorities around. And yet, nothing quite deserves the attention of authenticity experts like the long list of baseball cards left in the wake of Aaron’s spectacular career.
Coming up out of the “deep south” in Mobile, Alabama in the early-20th century, Henry “Hank” Louis Aaron endured hardship and discrimination to become one of the greatest players in the history of baseball. Tellingly, he helped pave the way for African American athletes in all professional sports.

Hank Aaron consistently produced at the plate

Spending most of his time in the game as an outfielder for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, Hank was no stranger to home plate. With his unique, cross-handed batting style and thunderous power, Hank Aaron consistently produced at the plate, as well as in the field. During his career, his batting average (BA) hit the .300 mark for fourteen seasons. Not to mention, he swatted 30 homers a season fifteen times, snagged a few Gold Glove Awards, and made a magnificent 25 All-Star appearances! Yet…
Our business here today is baseball cards. So, if you happen to be a baseball card collector, you’re in for a real treat. At the same time, if you’re just a massive baseball fan interested in America’s Pastime, you won’t be disappointed anytime soon. Together, we’ll look at a comprehensive list of the most valuable collectible Hank Aaron cards, and find out which ones make the cut when it comes to price and popularity.
So, let’s get down to it.

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”

Similar to Aaron’s “Mini” card (not on this list because it’s value does not exceed $1,000), the collectability of the 1964 Topps Giants Hank Aaron #49 originates, at least in part, from its’ size. Measuring 3 1/8” x 5 ¼”, cards out of the Topps Giants series dwarf your run-of-the-mill, 2 ½” x 3 ½” trading card.

Reverse side

Roughly about the size of a postcard, Aaron’s card is no different from the rest of the set. His large, colorful photograph fills the obverse of the trading-card, leaving nothing but a thin, white trim along the outside edge and an image of a baseball bearing Hank’s position, name, and team.
The card’s reverse has a newspaper-like feel and recounts Aaron’s second National League titles earned in ’56 and ’59. Various other career highlights appear on this “big boy” edition’s back-side as well. The headline reads: “AARON WINS N.L. BATTING TITLE.” Meanwhile, a smaller caption states: “HANK’S THE CHAMP.”

Scarcity of the '64 Giants Edition

You also may have recognized this card is significantly more common than the cards to come. Together with the 20 PSA 10’s in circulation, there are 149 prints with a PSA grade of 9. Of course, that’s not to say there is an overabundance of high-grade specimens of this card either. While discussing matters of scarcity, an interesting fact about the card-set is the way in which it was published. More precisely, the ’64 Giants editions weren’t printed in equal quantities. So, some of the cards out of this series are significantly harder to find than others.

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.

Part of a 598-card issue which often receives mixed reviews from collectors, the Hank Aaron #370 All-Star card fits snugly in the middle of the 1968 Topps ensemble. In-line with the rest of the cards, #370 dons burlap-textured borders. Together with this unique border pattern, Aaron’s ’68 All-Star card also denotes his name, position, and team.

Blank backs

Unlike Hank’s regular card in this series, #110, the back of his All-Star card is barren. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and dig through the archives. I promise you’ll come up empty-handed. In spite of this defect, the backs of other “tickets” in exhibit an upright layout filled out with player info, stats, and an animated graphic.
Now, although card #370 sold at auction for almost $1,700 somewhat recently, there hasn’t been a great deal of activity since then. To be honest, the collectability of this Hank Aaron card goes somehow overlooked—especially when you consider 1968 was “The Year of the Tigers.” As the owner of the second-best basic set of the 1968 Topps series, T.A. Bergquist, states, “Some people are willing to pay anything for the Tiger cards.”

PSA population report

Regardless of the Tiger mania taking place around this set, The Hammer’s All-Star card still deserves some attention. After all, with only around 1,318 accounted for by PSA, and the number of mint-condition PSA 10’s in the teens, there’s no question about the card’s rarity and value.
Similar to Hank’s pint-sized #660, the standard-sized card is exceptionally rare. Therefore, it should be no surprise to hear there are nearly three times more graded prints of the regular 1975 Topps Hank Aaron #660’s circulating among collectors paralleled to its’ sawn-off twin. Still, no PSA authenticated cards exist with a grade of 10, and only 38 class 9 PSA cards stay documented.

First Atlanta Brave over 500 homeruns

1968 also marks the year Aaron earned the honor of being the first Atlanta Brave to hit over 500 homers, and the eighth player league-wide to break through the 500 HR barrier.

Fun Fact:

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.

Climbing the price-ladder, the 1964 Topps Stand-Up Hank Aaron card has become conspicuous as it is rare. Thus, collectors continue to covet the Topps Stand-Ups across-the-board. Whether it’s the colorful design, the choice selection of Hall of Famers, or the card’s absolute scarcity, the 77-card set doesn’t disappoint.

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

Unlike the cards discussed thus far, the defining feature of this card is not its’ size or orientation. Instead, the ’64 Aaron Stand-Up card comes with an option to pop Mr. Henry Louis Aaron right out of the card stock as a standalone figure—if you have the green base.

Condition Counts

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.

OK. I know what you’re thinking—a 1975 baseball card isn’t worthy of sharing the page with the most valuable Hank Aaron cards! But, as the price would suggest, you’re dead wrong! In 1975 Topps got off to a flying start by considerably revamping their baseball cards. Also, this was the same year Topps released their “Mini-Series.” Consequently, both sets are identical in every way except in size.

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

Similar to Hank’s pint-sized #660, the standard-sized card is exceptionally rare. Therefore, it should be no surprise to hear there are nearly three times more graded prints of the regular 1975 Topps Hank Aaron #660’s circulating among collectors paralleled to its’ sawn-off twin. Still, no PSA authenticated cards exist with a grade of 10, and only 38 class 9 PSA cards stay documented.

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.

Concerning Hank’s gameplay, 1975 was a “double-play” for the proverbial lumber liquidator. In conjunction with breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time RBI record, Aaron also starred in his 24th, albeit final, All-Star Game.

Fun Fact:

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

In an effort to raise funds for the players’ pension, there were several years where two All-Star games were held. 1961 was one of those years. Hank Aaron played in both! He also finished 8th in the annual MVP running.

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!

In the past, the 1961 Topps series caught flak from many purists in the hobby for having too many different kinds of cards. In addition to the All-Star style cards, the set also includes a subset entitled Baseball Thrills, an MVP series, and even team cards. Now, most collectors consider the ’61 set to be a classic. And, unlike the 1960 and 1962, Topps issued card-sets, cello, and unopened wax packs are practically unattainable.

Fun Fact:

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

Aside from this embarrassing blunder, the ’56 baseball card-set wonderfully mirrors America’s national pastime. With a grand total of 340-cards, this earlier Topps issue differs in size from many other decks featuring Hammerin’ Hank. Each card measures 2 5/8” x 3 ¾”.

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

Regarding Hank’s performance on the diamond in ‘56, his .328 average was enough to earn him the first of his two career NL batting titles. Aaron also secured third-place in the National League’s MVP decision—a spot he held six times throughout his career.

Fun Fact:

An uncut print-sheet of the 1956 set cropped-up some time ago, revealing that year’s cards were printed in batches of 110 to a sheet. What’s more, the magnificent find exposed 20 cards double printed in the ’56 series. The #31 Hank Aaron gray back was one of these duplications, having a twin with a white back in circulation as well (Read below for more details).

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.

Set build-up

Thirty-five, 2” x 3 7/8”, baseball cards make up Johnston’s Braves collection. So, it’s a relatively small set. With attention to the set’s minuscule card-count, the cookie company restricted production solely to the Milwaukee’s ball-club.

PSA population

Thirteen is the ominous number of PSA 9’s floating around, with zero mint gems (PSA 10’s) documented for the cookie creation. Plus, the tiny population-count of 207 officially graded cards make Johnston’s #5 more than mentionable. Guess that’s why the lowest PSA grade on-record, a PSA 1, stills grabs close to $300 at auction.

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.

Fun Fact:

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.

With a simple design, the card features a photograph of Hank near the time of the card’s release. Under his name, the phrase “NEW ALL-TIME HOME RUN KING” speaks to the athlete’s lifetime achievement in all caps.

Fun Fact:

The fence Hank Aaron knocked his record-breaking homer over still stands today outside Turner Field at 755 Hank Aaron Way, Atlanta, GA 30315.
The first card in the list to have a $10K+ price-tag at auction, the 1968 Topps Hank Aaron #110 is a diamond in the rough. As previously mentioned, this burlap bordered set has a love-hate relationship with collectors. But, you’d be hard-pressed to find many hobbyists who have disdain for card #110.
Even amid a deck dominated by a season entitled “The Year of the Tiger,” the Hank Aaron still stands out from the crowd. Even better, the solid black outer-border makes for easier grading, at least in terms of foxing and tarnished edges.

Position, detail or lack there of

Different from many earlier versions, #110 doesn’t specify whether Aaron played left or right field. It simply reads: “OUTFIELD.” Plus, the team and position field does not bear the resemblance of a baseball. Rather, a simple, solid purple circle encapsulates these details about the all-time great.
Unlike Aaron’s other 1968 Topps set-card, #370, the back has a vertical design and exhibits player info, key stats, and a small animated cartoon as well.
Regardless of Hank Aaron not having his most spectacular season, he once again made it to the All-Star game and just missed a baker’s dozen making MVP-12 in 1968.

Fun Fact:

The ’68 Aaron #110 is part of the same set featuring Nolan Ryan’s rookie card (#177).

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

It’s funny to note that the card was printed twice. Yet, neither time, could Topps seem to get it right. That is to say, Topps once again placed Willie Mays in place of Hank Aaron in the action shot on the front of the card—just like Aaron’s 1956 Gray Back. How embarrassing!?
Additionally, it doesn’t seem Topps broke the mold making this card, considering they essentially re-packaged Hank’s ’54 and ’55 baseball cards. Think about it. The trading card company not only reused the signature from the previous two years, but they also used the same photograph of the 25-time All-Star.

Hall of fame set

Nevertheless, the star-studded cast of Topps’ 1956 issue includes remarkable players, like Whitey Ford (#240), Roberto Clemente (#33), and Mickey Mantle (#135). Also, don’t forget Hank’s card was not the only single with alternate versions. In fact, the first 180 cards of the set have either white or gray obverses.
After only being in the League for 2-years, Aaron’s greatness quickly became clear. He was two for three in terms of All-Star nominations and nearly took the MVP spot that year. Instead, he finished a respectable 3rd in the running.

Fun Fact:

This set marked the return of Mickey Mantle, Bob Feller, and Whitey Ford to the Topps saga. All three had just fulfilled their baseball cards obligations to other card companies.
Almost tripling the price of the previous card on our list, the ’58 Hank Aaron #30 is where we start to see a drastic increase in value among the treasured cards on this list. Already changing hands 422 times, the desirability of this little gem is undeniable.
On the pristine-side, this card fetched just north of 3,900-bucks at auction. Meanwhile, the lowest graded card is about the price of a tank of gas. Of course, being an earlier installation in the career of Hammerin’ Hank, the #30 White Name has had plenty of time to fully mature.

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

Moreover, there are only 10 PSA graded copies of this card floating around. So, a perfect mint would be a spectacular find. It turns out the majority of the nearly 3,000 cards in circulation are mid-grade examples of Aaron #30 alternate.

Set variations

Above and beyond the 494 standard-sized cards in this series, the set also contains 40 cards with variations. Those 40 varied cards, combined with the 494 cards in the normal production, make up the 534-card master set. Incidentally, Aaron #30 falls into this group of “outliers.” The main differences between the auxiliary prints being color related. For example, they include altered background coloring and assorted border colors.
Distinctly, one 1958 card sees “Hank Aaron” printed in white, while the other odd-card-out features the athlete’s name in yellow. Markedly, the first 110 cards are the only ones bearing this two-faced feature. The back of the card has all the crucial information, along with some great artwork from Topps’ resident cartoonist. The ever-popular image of the baseball received a minor make-over in this series, with a hat animating the symbol’s appearance.

Fun Fact:

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.

Without a doubt, the 1965 Topps deck was a success in terms of print production. The trading card company put out 598 cards on this issue with little to no errors or discrepancies. Each card carries an over-sized photo set in a colored, thinly lined frame with white borders. The bottom of the card features the player’s position and name. Meanwhile, the lower left-hand corner brandishes their team pennant.

Two categories

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).

Card details

On card #170, we see Hank’s specific position as a right-fielder go unrecognized. Alternatively, his position simply reads, “OUTFIELD.” His name in yellow bold-faced print complements the wavy Braves pennant. This card is also the last instance we’ll see an “M” embroidered on Hank’s hat until his final season. With only three instances of this card receiving a PSA 10 grading, it’s incredibly rare to find one in perfect condition.
Per usual, The Hammer secured an invitation to the 1965 All-Star Game. The great hitter of all time also placed 7th in the year’s MVP vote.

Fun Fact:

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

There are several reasons behind the scarcity of the ’55 Bowman baseball set. First, the brown borders are exceptionally vulnerable to chipped corners and general wear along the edges. Even a small degree of degradation makes the card significantly less appealing. Virtually undetectable, some prints exhibit a more richly colored brown. In these darker prints, chipping becomes much more apparent.

Big time centering issues

Furthermore, centering issues present themselves in this series. No matter how superhuman Hank Aaron may be, no one escapes the wrath of the tumultuous Topps misprints. Of course, the design itself lends to greater difficulty determining the card’s absolute center. Wrinkles and creases are also a dime-a-dozen with these cards, so don’t get too excited if you find a good deal on one out on the battlefield. Sufficed to say, along with great value, Bowman’s Hank Aaron #179 brings a slew of condition-related issues.

Bowman vs. Topps?

All right. Bowman may not pack as much of a wallop as Topps in the world of baseball cards. But, in the face of all these printing errors, Bowman’s line holds a place amid today’s sea of collectors. Realizing this card demarcates Hank’s first appearance while tacking on the esteemed company of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, and you’ve got yourself a formidable fortune!
1959 ushered in a new era for Topps baseball cards. The trading card company’s new design focused heavily on graphics, bolder, attention-grabbing typeface, and more vibrant color schemes. That’s not to say some earlier sets are not comparable in these areas, as the 1955 Topps release had quite a robust design. But, at least Topps had the sense to go with what worked, and stick with it from here on out.

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

The back-side of the card relies on a more conventional design, listing The Hammer’s name, his hometown, and his most crucial stats in a year-by-year format. Each card also carries a cartoon on the back depicting the respective player’s most memorable moment. Accordingly, Hank’s cartoon is of two policemen escorting a large baseball player as if transporting protecting the valuable player. The caption above reads: “HANK WAS THE ’57 MOST VALUABLE PLAYER.”

Fun Fact:

Harvey Haddix of the ’59 Pirates pitched twelve perfect innings in a game against the Braves when a fielding error at the top of inning #13 put a runner on base. As a result, Haddix had to intentionally walk the next player up at-bat, Mr. Hank Aaron.

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. 

And, finally, the card’s irregular size (2 5/8” x 3 ¾”) likely adds to the shortage of pristine examples because the larger card sticks out when placed next to other cards. This obtrusive characteristic makes the card more vulnerable to foxing and damaged edges. Maybe if Topps knew 1954 was going to be such a significant year in baseball history, they would have put forth a little more effort on this one.

Superior design elements

Regardless of Topps dropping the ball in some ways, they put forth a card with all sorts of design elements to grab your attention. We see the Braves logo in the upper left-hand corner, with Aaron’s name, position, and team name to the right. Unlike the majority of Aaron’s other cards, his rookie card displays Hank’s full name, Henry Aaron. Furthermore, Topps captures Hank fielding a groundball, a clear indication of his role as an outfielder. However, future cards start to focus on Hank holding a bat for obvious reasons.

Reverse side

Topps oriented the card’s reverse-side in a horizontal fashion. Nevertheless, the card-back is filled with a lengthy description, Hank’s personal info, his stats, and a cartoon. Flanked by two admirers, and wearing a flashy red-jacket, the caption reads: “He gave the watches to friends—but the jackets made him the best-dressed player in the league.” The cartoon refers to the 13 watches and 12 sports jackets won by The New Sultan of Swat the previous year outside the League.

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.

Fun Fact:

Even a PSA 9 can fetch between $20,000 and $30,000 at auction. However, with only 2-dozen ever PSA graded, chances of picking up a mint or near-mint instance of this card are slim to none.

What are your thoughts?

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Affiliate Disclaimer

When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network and Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.