1954 Topps Al Kaline PSA Graded NM-MT 8.
1954 Topps Al Kaline PSA Graded NM-MT 8.

Ben Wade, a Brooklyn Dodger and Saint Louis Cardinal catcher in 1954, had been assigned card number 126 in the 1954 Topps set. Little did he know, in 1954, or little did we collectors know that this obscure Dodger/Cardinal would be the absolute hardest 1954 Topps card to find in a PSA NM-MT8 holder.

I finally finished the set in PSA NM-MT8 or better in the Fall of 2000. It took me about one year to pry the Ben Wade card away from a dealer. I bribed him, I wrote him letters, and I called him on the phone. He would not sell the card. When I saw him in person at the National Convention, I became so obnoxious that he relented and he sold me the card for a “gizzillion” dollars.

What other card did I find to be real tough? It was Gene Woodling #101. The PSA Population Report tells the rest of the story as to the PSA 8 common cards with low population reports such as #39 Sherm Lollar.

  • 51 Johnny Lindell
  • 52 Vic Power
  • 54 Vern Stephens
  • 55 Phil Cavarretta
  • 72 Preston Ward
  • 75 Bob Scheffing
  • 97 Jerry Lane
  • 134 Cal Hogue
  • 150 Dick Kryhoski
  • 157 Don Lenhardt
  • 195 Bill Consolo

The set has the first Topps combo card being the O’Brien brothers card #139.

What the graders seem to look at are the top left and right corners. To the naked eye, they may look sharp and square with minimal paper loss. Then look with a six-power lens and you can check to see if the corners are fuzzy or not. The set has many cards with rough-cuts on the side. That’s all right as long as there are actual pointed corners. Some rough-cut sides cause the corners to be rounded. Here are some quick notes about the set:

  1. When the card has a yellow background, watch out for too many black spots that can cause a grade with a PD (Print defect).
  2. On the Ernie Banks cards, check to see if his seat on the right side is or is not cut off at the border.
  3. Don’t ignore the backside of the card. “Green is the name of the game.” The color chips easily. When you buy the card raw or graded, look at the reverse to be sure it has a green border that is reasonably attractive.
  4. When you buy Ted Williams #250, don’t be alarmed if the reverse or back of the card has some toning more so than the other cards in the set . The toning is typical for that example.

Card #1, Ted Williams, is difficult when it comes to centering. When I found my childhood collection that I hid from my mother, I had 14 #1 Ted Williams’ cards. They were directly out of the pack and 12 of them were “way off center”. Only two were centered and they both received PSA 8's. No, I’m not lucky. Most of my cards I collected as a kid were in horrible shape except one other: my 1953 Topps Willie Mays graded PSA 8.

The next question is whether you should collect the set and in what grade? Here’s my advice. A high-grade set can have a mix or PSA 7 and PSA 8 cards. Here is my prediction. The set will be worth more in high-grade than the breakup value. Why? Because there is a recognized appreciation for how hard it is to put a high-grade set together. So put the PSA 7's in your set such as the Wade and Woodling examples.

As to the star cards, collect as many PSA 8's as you can. I would definitely, if you can, collect in PSA 8 the following:

  1. Hank Aaron (rookie)
  2. Ted Williams (at least one)
  3. Willie Mays
  4. Ernie Banks (rookie)
  5. Al Kaline (rookie)
  6. Billy Martin
  7. Moose Skowron

Well, I know you want to know what star cards and minor star cards in PSA 9 are in my set. Before I list them, I collected the star cards beginning in 1995 when it was lot easier and cheaper. Here is the list:

  1. Hank Aaron
  2. Ernie Banks
  3. Yogi Berra
  4. Al Kaline
  5. Eddie Mathews
  6. Warren Spahn
  7. Jackie Robinson
  8. Willie Mays
  9. Ted Williams (250)
  10. Duke Snider
  11. Phil Rizzuto
  12. Monte Irvin
The minor stars in PSA 9 are:
  1. Gil Hodges
  2. Billy Martin
  3. Larry Doby
  4. Heinie Manush
  5. Ted Kluszewski
  6. Moose Skowron
  7. Al Rosen
  8. Ed Lopat
  9. O’Brien Bros.

The 1954 Topps set is a great one. All together the set contains 76 PSA 9 cards. I hope I have helped all of you readers. Write or email Joe Orlando if I can further answer your questions.

1954 Topps Earnie Banks PSA Graded NM-MT 8.
1954 Topps Earnie Banks PSA Graded NM-MT 8.
1954 Topps Hank Aaron PSA Graded NM 7.
1954 Topps Hank Aaron PSA Graded NM 7.

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.