As with all the other baseball card sets Topps produced in the 1950's, there were several firsts, some finales, and some continuing touches added to the set composition. As the end of the 1950's approached, Topps had not only solidified their monopoly but also was continually making adjustments based on feedback received from the children of that era. One feedback which may or may not have been asked for was putting a very small photo in a circle in the center of the card.
That circular photo made for the smallest photo used as the main pose in any of the Topps sets issued since 1952. In fact, the smaller photo must have been so popular that photos of that size as the main photo were never that small again on a Topps card. However, there were also many firsts involved with this set including what developed to be the mostly standard card production decrease from the earliest series through the final series - with the final series being significantly more difficult then the earliest series. Yes, while the first series is slightly more difficult then all the other series until the final series, the basic pattern of Topps production and release schedule was begun in 1959.
In addition, the 1959 set again stretched what many of the kid collectors of the time believed the set composition size should be. Adding nearly 100 cards to the previous year's high, gave Topps baseball a total of 572, which was the biggest set produced in the 1950's. While there were some quirks along the way, once again the primary focus turned out to be on the players. However, for the first time since 1954, there would be no Ted Williams in the set. The kids who collected and were used to seeing a Ted Williams card among the first five cards were probably shocked to see a Ford Frick commissioner card leading off the set. However, that aberration was made up by having both Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays cards included in the first series to get the year off to a flying start. This would be the final time both Mantle and Mays would have their base card issued in the first series. The player selection again proved to be strong with the added fill-up of "prospect" cards added for the second series.
Since hope always springs eternal for baseball fans, what better way for fans early in the card collecting year to see what the future would be but by including cards of the teams leading prospects in a grouping. This concept of "prospect" cards is something Topps continues to popularize to this day; however the key release for unproven players is now part of the Bowman line. The biggest names in that series were Bob Allison, Johnny Callison, Ron Fairly, and Deron Johnson. While all nine players with careers that lasted into the 1970's, none of these players ever developed into the stars the fans had hoped for.
The key rookie cards in this set ended up being George "Sparky" Anderson and future Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, who is featured in the high numbered series. For many years back in the day, smart dealers purchased the "Sparky" Anderson rookie as a common by hoping other dealers did not know his real name. Something else that is interesting about Sparky is he holds the major league record for most games played in a season of any player who had only one season in the majors. Other rookie cards in the high-numbered series include stars as Norm Cash, Mike Cuellar and Jim Perry. All three of those players would continue to be stars into the 1970's, and all won major awards or major league leading titles during their career. The last series (507-572) not only is the most difficult series, but also features the all-star subset of many of the game's greats, including Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.
With the cards being standard-size and the borders being white, there is the opportunity to acquire cards in the highest of grades. In addition, there is a growing amount of cards in the mint 9 (sans qualifiers) or gem mint 10 grades. The card with the most graded in those very high conditions is that of Don Drysdale, card #387 - with more than 70 cards achieving these high grades, with less than 1,750 cards submitted. With the hobby discovering more and more high graded examples, this proves the old adage that a large number of unopened packs have been found recently and still exist, with most being in the mid-series - where you can find the Drysdale card. Many of the first series are especially difficult to find in strong shape.
So, with the largest set of the 1950's Topps was positioning themselves for their 1960's set pattern which would continue through the early 1970's.Return to See More Just Collect Sets