The 1958 Topps Baseball Set: One Tough Customer

By Joe Orlando

Pee Wee Reese
Pee Wee Reese #375 in PSA Gem Mint 10
Mickey Mantle
Mickey Mantle #150 in PSA Mint 9

The popularity of cards and sets changes over time. You have players who go on hot and cold streaks and the values of their cards react accordingly. By the way, it's not just the modern cards. Vintage issues can sometimes mirror the modern market during hot or cold streaks.

Enter the 1958 Topps baseball set.

Roberto Clemente
Roberto Clemente #52 Yellow Letters in PSA NM-MT 8

This set, once considered an ugly issue with little appeal, is now amongst the most desirable issues in the pre-1970 era. In fact, this set once took a major backseat to the 1957 Topps set (once considered one of the favorites from the 1950's) but now the tide has turned. Always considered one of the toughest sets from the 1950's, the 1958 Topps set has been thrust into the limelight as condition difficulty has become increasingly important to the collecting public. Poor paper quality, inconsistent print quality, bad centering and focus dilemmas all help make this set a challenge in top grades.

The 1958 Topps is desirable, in addition to the overall difficulty, for a number of reasons. First of all, the set (which features just under 500 cards) is filled with great star cards. Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Clemente, they are all here. In fact, the first card in the set features none other than Ted Williams. This card has become a very desirable one in the last 5 years due to the difficulty with number one cards. Rubber bands and handling abuse are the main culprits.

Roberto Clemente
Roberto Clemente #52 White Letters in PSA NM-MT 8

How about the tough Yellow Letter variations? Still a mystery today, these Yellow Letter cards are very tough to find in comparison to their White Letter counterparts. In addition, the Yellow Letter variations include great stars like Aaron, Clemente and Kaline. This is truly one of the tougher subsets in the hobby.

How about the key rookie cards? Roger Maris and Orlando Cepeda, both popular with Cepeda being a Hall of Famer, have desirable rookie cards in this outstanding set. The Maris is one all-time classic and, interestingly enough, the card has not suffered in terms of value despite the onslaught of homers by McGwire, Sosa and Bonds over the past few years. Maybe 61 is no longer the single season standard but Maris remains a hobby favorite.

Orlando Cepeda
Orlando Cepeda #343 in PSA Mint 9

How about those great multi-player cards? For the first time ever, Topps decided to produce several multi-player or combo cards in the set (the 1957 set had some but not as many.) These cards are more popular than ever today. Long believed to be considerably less valuable than the regular cards, these combo cards have emerged from the bottom of the food chain. In fact, some of the more popular combo cards like Slugger's Supreme (Ted Williams and Ted Kluszweski), World Series Batting Foes (Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle) and Rival Fence Busters (Willie Mays and Duke Snider) have repeatedly sold for $5,000-$15,000 at Mint 9 levels. Collectors love the idea that they can acquire a card that features two major stars, or more, on one piece of cardboard.

Mickey Mantle
Mickey Mantle All Star #487 in PSA Mint 9

How about that high-number All-Star card series? While these All-Star cards are not the most attractive ones in the hobby, they are tough to find in top condition. Print defects and focus are two major condition obstacles to contend with so extremely high-end examples have sold for astonishing prices in the marketplace. How about $20,000-plus for a Mint Hank Aaron All-Star? It happened.

There you have it. The 1958 Topps set is a wonderful set, filled with stars, variations and rarities. It's a great set for the advanced collector who needs a major challenge or the novice who would like to start set building but wants a set that has its share of star players. You can't go wrong with this one, it's a winner!