The 1958 Topps set had many memorable images, as well as having some very important distinctions in the long history of Topps producing baseball cards. Some of those distinctions include being the only set issued during the Topps monopoly in which the first series is the most difficult of the various series issued. In fact, the set gets progressively easier as the cards were released with most collectors and dealers having more of the final series in stock then cards from any other series.
Another important milestone was the 1958 set would turn out to be the only release in which both of the most beloved veterans of the time, Stan Musial and Ted Williams, would be included in the same set. Williams was card #1 again and in his five years Topps pictured him as an player, he would always be included in the first series. In addition, while he was in the last series in 1954 as the final card in the set, he was also in the last series as an All-Star selection. Meanwhile, Topps finally procured Stan Musial to be in their set during 1958 and thus only was able to include him in the All-Star subset in the final series. As usual, Topps produced less cards as the year went on, so the question is, did the late inclusion of Musial enable Topps to print more cards of the final series?
The set itself was for many collectors a nondescript set, as the player portrait is paired against a solid background. Meanwhile, the horizontally oriented backs include a brief information blurb, biographical information, seasonal and career statistics, and even some cartoons with fun facts about the player featured. In addition, based on the success of the few multi-player cards in the the 1957 set, there were many more multi-player cards issued in the 1958 set, which is a tradition which would continue through the 1969 set.
In addition, the 1958 set would also be the first set to feature the "all-star" subset. The next three years those All-Star cards would be in the final series, while in 1962 the all-stars would be separated into two different series. We have already mentioned Stan Musial and Ted Williams as members of this part of the set but many other stars and superstars of the time were included in the subset, most notably Mickey Mantle. In fact, it was the 1958 Mantle All-Star card that renowned sportscaster Bob Costas famously carried in his wallet for many years.
Since the 1958 Topps set was approaching 500 cards, and there were still only 16 major league teams, most of the players were going to be included even with the All-Star, Multi-player, and team photos cards (with checklists on the back). Those team photo cards with the checklist information would be the first time Topps included "checklist" cards as part of their regular set. In terms of key rookie cards, the most expensive would become a player who will probably never be a Hall of Famer, in Roger Maris. Maris, who is part of the tough low-numbered series, won his biggest fame for blasting 61 homers during the 1961 season to break what people thought was another unbreakable record of one George Herman "Babe" Ruth. Not only are Maris and Williams in the first series, but there is also a whole grouping of players who have information in what was either "white lettering" or "yellow lettering". Again, Hank Aaron for the third straight season, is one of those players with an interesting error or variation.
One other note is because of the cardboard stock used, this set is very difficult to obtain in mint 9 (without qualifiers) or gem mint 10 conditions. The card with the highest number in these superb grades is, naturally the Mickey Mantle All-Star card. However, in more than 5,500 of these cards graded, there are only slightly more than 40 in those glorious conditions. Very few of the other cards in the set have these high grades, but the percent of common cards in these strong conditions is improved as the average value of common cards in the set does depress the number of cards sent in. But even though on some commons, the high grade percentage is increased, this is still a difficult set to obtain in top notch shape.
So, for the first season in which we actually had teams west of the Mississippi river, and the true beginning of the modern era in which plane travel would replace train travel, Topps also continued their movement towards a far more comprehensive issue as the 1958 set would set a record for the time - which would promptly be eclipsed the following year.
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