By the time 1955 rolled around for Topps, the effects of their baseball card war with Bowman was in full effect. The set they produced that year would only have 206 cards, which is still the smallest set produced by them in the past 60 seasons. There were several changes and some similarities for their effort. One of the most important similarities was not to be known for many years to come. Because of the competition with Bowman, Topps again had to fill out their set with first year cards of unproven players in their first full major league season.
In this case, Topps got very lucky as the key cards in this set include the rookie cards of these future Hall of Famers: Roberto Clemente, Harmon Killebrew and Sandy Koufax. Again, as with the other key cards of the 1950's, very few of them have survived in what today is considered mint (sans qualifiers) or gem mint condition. Of these three cards the most heavily submitted is the Sandy Koufax (#123) with more than 5,000 copies, and fewer than 30 being granted the mint or gem mint grade. Needless to say, strong conditioned Koufax cards are very popular, as is the Roberto Clemente rookie (#164). The Clemente card has had more than 3,000 total cards graded and just a shade over 10 have those mint or gem mint graded. The Harmon Killebrew card is the most available in super high quality condition and is also the least in demand of these three players.
However, almost all collectors love the 1955 design. For 1955, Topps did again place two photos on the front of the cards but for this year created a horizontal design for the first time. That appeared to make the cards even larger then they already were. These cards were issued in both one card penny packs and five cent packs. While this set was issued in various series, the most difficult of the series is the final series of cards, #161 through #210. In an twist from previous years, many stars were included in those high numbers. Among the stars, with the only exception being Roberto Clemente, all of the key players in that high number series were stars on the three New York City teams. The final card in this set is Duke Snider, which comes with the double premium of being both the set finale and a tough high number card. Interestingly, there are four missing cards in the high series and four double printed cards.
Another interesting difference is Ted Williams was relegated to card #2, so Topps could make Dusty Rhodes card #1. The reason for that bump was Rhodes was the hero of the 1954 World Series and the first "official" World Series MVP. Rhodes had a great 1954 season as a part-time player and a pinch-hitter and continued his hot streak during the World Series in which the Giants swept the heavily favored Indians. The Indians had won 111 games in 1954 to displace the Yankees as American League champions.
A special mention should be made of Harry Agannis (#152). Agannis was a multi-sport star who was beloved in the Boston area where he went to college and he would suffer an untimely death during the 1955 season. However, there are some known examples of signed cards which have been authenticated by the major auction houses and any time a signed copy of this copy appears on the secondary market, there is considerable interest drawn to the offering.
What else is interesting about the 1955 set is this would be Topps final issue before winning the baseball card war with Bowman and after this effort, future sets would grow in size to nearly triple this size by the end of the decade. In addition, within a couple of years, Topps would adapt to what is now considered standard-sized (2 1/2 by 3 1/2) issues. But in 1955, that future seemed a long distance off to the kid collectors.Return to See More Just Collect Sets