1955 Topps Ted Williams
1955 Topps Ted Williams

The 1955 Topps set is a real challenge and, just recently, I have been able to finally complete this colorful issue. I have no hesitation in endorsing the view that this set, and the 1953 and 1958 Topps sets are the toughest challenges to complete in PSA 8 or better for Topps sets manufactured in the 1950's.

The latest 1955 Topps PSA Population Report indicates that 7 is the lowest population for a graded PSA 8 card. That means that it is only possible, at this time, for seven collectors to finish the set PSA 8 or better.

Though it has taken me eleven years to finish the set, I frankly believe I could have accomplished this goal sooner if PSA had been in existence when I started putting the set together.

Further good news to report is that there are still thousands upon thousands of ungraded 1950's cards that will be discovered and graded in the near future. Because of this good fortune, more set collectors will finish a high-grade 1955 Topps set.

I collected this set as a youngster in 1955. At that time, I was losing interest in Bowman baseball cards, so I simply opened packs of these cards and I put them in a Munsignwear underwear box with my other cards - hidden carefully from my mother. She threw away my comic books, but she couldn't find my cards. In 1989, when I began collecting baseball cards again, I found the "box" and in the box were about one hundred '55 Topps cards. Many of these cards did grade PSA 8, however, more of them were off center than not.

In the 1990's, I was buying commons for between $12 and $14 a piece, however, in the early 1990's, the fad was to collect pre-war cards as not many dealers and collectors found enough value to care about post-war cards until after 1955. In 1995, David Hall, the CEO of Collector's Universe, sold his collection. Each of his commons from the 50's were graded and auctioned separately. This method of sale stimulated the interest and the demand for 1950's commons and set collecting. The sale brought attention to the value in collecting the stars of the 50's.

Of the tough cards, only numbers 14 (Jim Finigan), and 176 (Norm Zauchin) were in my childhood collection that graded PSA 8. It wasn't until the beginning of 2000 that the Population Report results made it clear what cards were tougher than others to find in PSA 8 or better. True to the Report (when I sent my set in to be graded), all the tough ones came back less than PSA 8 except the two mentioned above. The following are my picks for the toughest cards to find in PSA 8 or better.

I have also listed some of the typical problems with each of the cards. Fortunately, the PSA graders are reasonably forgiving on these cards because they were consistently off-center. Keep in mind that the cards still meet the minimum and the appropriate centering standards. Appearance and eye-appeal become an increasingly important factor in grading.

Number
Name
PSA 8 Population
Problem
3 Art Fowler
8
o/c to the left
7 Jim Hegan
11
o/c toward the top
14 Jim Finigan
10
o/c to the left
20 Andy Carey
8
Simply hard to find
25 Johnny Podres
14
Everyone collects this card. No one sells it. Podres was a major factor when the Dodgers won the 1955 World Series
26 Dick Groat
12
The Pirate emblem at the top right hand corner
30 Vic Power
13
Cut on the top is uneven
33 Tom Quarter
10
o/c to the left, toward the bottom
36 Leo Kiely
8
o/c to the left
77 Arnold Portocarrero
11
Simply hard to find
176 Norm Zauchin
8
o/c to the left
192 Jim Delsing
8
o/c to the right
197 Al Smith
7
o/c to the right, toward the bottom
205 Gene Freese
7
o/c to the left, miscut
207 Billy Consolo
8
o/c to the left

If you check out the Population Report for these cards, many but not all of the cards have a similar low population number at the PSA 7 level.

To finish the set, I called every dealer. I found a few of the cards that I needed before the 2000 National Convention. At the convention, I found all but a few of the cards. Luckily, a few sets were graded before the National. By October, I needed only one card -- number 33, Tom Quarter.

I found a PSA 8 on an eBay auction. I forgot to bid on the card the next day to my demise. In December, a dealer called me and sold me the last piece to my puzzle. It's fun to lay out all the cards on a table and see the set as one "big picture." The 1955 Topps set, in this form, is "breathtaking." The action photos of the players really add to the artistic quality of the cards.

I have 50 PSA 9's in my set. The rest are PSA 8's.

The stars and semi-stars that are in my set in PSA 9 grade are Aaron, Banks, Berra, Clemente, Gilliam, Kaline, Killebrew, Koufax, Mays, Robinson, Sain, and Williams.

I predict that this set, with a mixture of PSA 6's, 7's and 8's, with the key star cards in 7's and 8's, will appreciate substantially in value.

Problems

For those of you who buy 1955 ungraded Topps cards, beware of cards that have been power-erased. Power-erasing is erasing the colored portion of the card next to the white border. When the erasing is done, the card will appear to be centered. Upon close inspection, with or without magnification, you can see where the erasing has taken place. PSA graders can easily detect power-erasing. Power-erasing frequently occurs with 1956 Topps cards as well.

Black print lines and dots are a major problem with 1955 Topps cards that have yellow backgrounds and they will negatively impact the grade with a PD (print defect) next to the grade. Another problem, adding to the difficulty of collecting this set, is chipping off of the surface, at the corners and along the edges.

Also, the back of many of the cards have a roughness to the surface that can hide creases. Without using magnification to inspect the 1955 Topps cards, you will not see the imperfections seen by the graders. Disappointment will follow when you get your grades. What to do? Simulate the PSA grading room and review your cards before submission.

It's simple. Purchase a desk lamp with a neck. Place a 70-watt bulb in the lamp. Purchase a 6 or 7 power loop. Completely darken the room. Turn on the lamp and examine the card at different angles. With time, you will be surprised at what you will see. A collector has trouble with a mind set to look for what is wrong with a card. We always try to find a way to believe the card is free from problems. Examine the cards with an objective eye and seek out the imperfections.

The 1955 Topps set is the perfect set to practice the art of grading before you submit your cards. Good luck to those who attempt this challenging issue; the reward at the end is certainly worth it.


As the ultimate advanced collector, Marshall Fogel has assembled a sportscard and memorabilia collection that is widely considered the finest in the world. From some of the finest PSA graded sets to the most comprehensive Hall of Fame bat collection in the world, Fogel has a collection worthy of museum display and his knowledge exceeds the enormity of his sports shrine. Fogel, an attorney, continues to add to his unrivaled mass of top quality sports collectibles and often contributes to Sports Market Report.
1955 Topps Willie Mays
1955 Topps Willie Mays
1955 Topps Hank Aaron
1955 Topps Hank Aaron