1953 Topps Baseball Cards – Up Close and Personal
The 1953 Topps baseball card set is considered the most personal set of the 1950s. Everything from the hand drawn sketches on the front, to the signature, biographical paragraph and thorough statistics on the back demonstrates that Topps had hit its stride with the 1952 set and now was ready to push the envelope with the 1953 set. While these cards did not live up to the popularity of the 1952 Topps set, they have their own special place in sports card history.
With the exciting success of the 1952 Topps baseball card set, Sy Berger and Topps wanted to refine what they had already done so well in 1952. Instead of colorizing black and white photographs as they did for the 1952 set, Topps went to the expense of paying artist Gerry Dvorak $25 per card to sketch and paint the players. Although the 1953 Topps baseball card set contains some attractive actions shots, the set is primarily noted for its carefully drawn expressions, which are chronicled on the head shot cards.
The major drawback of the 1952 Topps set was that many of the players depicted in it inaccurately look very similar, particularly in terms of hair and skin color. The 1953 Topps set rectifies this flaw, especially on the head shots. The color paintings of the player’s faces have warm, relaxed and friendly expressions and completely dominate the large cards. The 1953 Topps cards showcase more “flesh” than any other set ever made.
And, remember, the 1953 Topps cards were the only way a baseball fan could actually see players “up close and personal,” since they were produced before TV became widespread and when newspaper photos were black and white and grainy.
A perfect example of a detailed head shot is card #220, Satchel Paige. The Topps artist captures the 47 year old Negro League star perfectly. He looks like the wise, well-travelled pitcher that was playing for the St. Louis Browns in 1953. The only imperfection with the card however is that Topps misspelled his first name as “Satchell”, by adding an extra “L,” making it the only real error card in the set.
The 1953 Topps baseball card set is a challenge for set builders
The 1953 Topps baseball card set still ranks as “moderately difficult” to build and complete even though there were many “double print” cards in the set. We rank the 1953 Topps set as the third-hardest Topps set of the 1950s to build in low to mid-grade conditions, behind only the 1952 and 1957 sets.
Jackie, Mickey and Willie
Another challenge to building a 1953 Topps set is that the value is so heavily influenced by three high-dollar star cards: #1 Jackie Robinson, #82 Mickey Mantle and #244 Willie Mays. The 1953 Topps “big three” represent about half of the set’s total value. The first card, Robinson is condition sensitive, Mays is a “high-number” and Mickey Mantle is a baseball card god whose cards are always in high demand.
Finding the 1953 Topps “big three” in the same particular condition, at the same time and at a fair price, is usually a challenge. Once accomplished, you then have to locate the scarce high number cards. This makes it very difficult to build an affordable 1953 Topps set in a condition higher than “Very Good” and nearly impossible in a condition above “Excellent”.
Dean’s Cards has built more mid to high-grade 1952 Topps sets than 1953 sets in the same conditions. A 1952 Topps complete set is 10 times the price of 1953 Topps in “Very Good” condition – however, the1953 Topps set can be much tougher to find in very high grades.