1952 Topps

The 1952 Topps Baseball set consists of an astonishing 407 cards, each measuring 2-5/8" by 3-3/4”. The set was issued in six distinct "Series" groups, with New York area heroes Phil Rizzuto, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Monte Irvin and other Yankees, Dodgers and Giants dominating the first series, accompanied by such stars as Warren Spahn, Hank Sauer, Ted Kluszewski, and Robin Roberts. Heroes in subsequent series include Johnny Mize, Billy Martin, Yogi Berra, and Willie Mays. Series 6 emerges like a “Who's Who” of stardom, beginning with card #311, the first Topps card of Mickey Mantle, followed in succession by depictions of Jackie Robinson (#312), Bobby Thomson (#313), Roy Campanella (#314) and Leo Durocher (#315). Such players as Pee Wee Reese, Eddie Mathews and Bill Dickey, and a group of rookies highlighted by Gil McDougald, Joe Black and Hoyt Wilhelm, encouraged the purchase of baseball card packs well into autumn.

Rarities in this expansive gallery include card #s 311 Mickey Mantle through #407 Eddie Mathews. Production numbers of Series 6 of Topps' inaugural release are believed to have been short-printed and minimally distributed, as retailers anticipated a seasonal falling-off in card sales and reduced or cancelled orders. Variations, errors and oddities in 1952 Topps include each card in Series 1 (#s 1-80) being found in Black Back and Red Back configurations; two of those (#s 48 and 49, pitchers Joe Page and Johnny Sain) are the subjects of error versions wherein each man's card has the other's printed back. The card of Frank Campos (#307) comes with and without an unusual, overprinted star on the reverse, with the former very seldom encountered. Scarcities revolve around the issue of condition, particularly with the first card (#1 Andy Pafko, perhaps the most valuable common around) and the series-concluding #80 Herman Wehmeier, both of which fell victim to rubber-banding. This set is also recalled for its few star omissions: Ted Williams and Whitey Ford were both in the armed forces at the time, and Stan Musial was under contract to Bowman and couldn't appear in a competitor's product.

In 1986, an enormous cache of 1952 Topps Baseball high number cards were unearthed in Lowell, Massachusetts. Al “Mr. Mint” Rosen removed approximately 6,000 “Gem Mint” cards, including 65 Mickey Mantle (#311) rookies, from the New England home, thousands of which have since been encapsulated into PSA holders. The world-renowned auctioneer house, Sotheby’s, called the stockpile “the greatest find of baseball cards ever.” Throughout industry circles, the once in a lifetime event is often referred to as simply, “The Find.”

"Giant Size!" That was The Topps Company's succinct description - prominently printed on packs and boxes - of its new baseball trading cards for 1952, but the slogan held vastly more meaning than anyone could have recognized at the time.

America's collectors were accustomed to baseball cards that were rather small in their physical proportions. The tobacco issues of the 1910s (relatively tiny) had given way to Goudey Gum's somewhat larger standard by the 1930s. Just before and after World War II, manufacturers settled first on cards approximating Goudey's 2 3/8" by 2 7/8" dimensions, then down-sized even further. The time's dominant card-maker, Bowman Gum, produced collectibles measuring 2 1/16" by 2 ½" between 1948 and 1950, and granted just a bit more surface area (2 1/16" x 3 1/8') to the cards in its 1951 and 1952 efforts.

Topps wasn't at all bashful about its motives, with respect to the company's decision to release a lavishly designed and extremely comprehensive gallery to compete with Bowman's market-leading 1952 effort. Although the Brooklyn-based manufacturer had only been making baseball cards in a meaningful fashion for a year its 1951 products included elongated die-cuts and roster-challenged game cards - the company formulated an all-out blitz for the 1952 campaign.

The effect on the dime store candy counter's established order, where a complacent Bowman held the advantage by a wide margin, was dramatic and immediate. Topps' "Giant Size" 2 5/8" by 3 ¾" cards were an instant hit among consumers. Not only were the single cards almost outlandishly big, allowing plenty of room for expansion of baseball cards' most popular features, they were well conceived and attractive. Their huge illustrations and starry-bordered caption areas made Bowman's discreetly small artworks pale in comparison, and the backs? No contest. Lengthy player bios and detailed statistics were immediately adjudged preferable to the now terse-seeming Bowman writeups.

As Topps, impressed by its own handiwork, began to recognize that its idea was being validated nationwide by floods of pennies and nickels from young consumers, additional series of cards were composed and released. The same buyers who had been pleased at first by the cards' creative features were now also dazzled by the number of players included in the production. Clearly, the upstart manufacturer had done its homework before mounting its challenge in the baseball card industry!

The 1952 Topps issue adroitly symbolized America's new, postwar prosperity. And as things turned out, the "Giant Size" cards would develop into a milestone holding monumental gravity for the future of trading cards in general. At the time of the cards' first appearance, they were viewed in a much simpler light. Their premium size, flashy designs and generously dimensioned images brought about the sale of a great quantity of Topps product, and won legions of new participants for the collecting hobby. A win-win for all concerned!

Composition - By the time the season ended and Topps wrapped up production of its 1952 set's final components (and probably, at that point, retired to the company's offices to begin plotting its 1953s), the blockbuster release harbored a total of 407 cards - the largest number of players ever seen in a modern card issue. It seemed that every segment of 1952s there were six distinct "Series" groups in all - held its own objects of fascination.

As yet another indicator of thoughtful preparation in view of its target market's preferences, the various series of 1952 Topps played their cards in an insightful manner. New York customers, forming the nucleus of the time's confectionery market, found local heroes Phil Rizzuto, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Monte Irvin and other Yankees, Dodgers and Giants in the very first series. Certainly, gestures were made toward each team's clientele in every series (Spahn, Sauer, Kluszewski, Roberts and stars of similar caliber also represented their respective teams in Series 1, for example) but a decided New York emphasis acted as a predictable and successful theme throughout 1952 Topps' considerable span: Mize in Series 2, Martin in Series 3, Berra in Series 4, Mays in Series 5, and so forth.

For anyone who failed to spot the trend in Series 1 through 5, the New York bias was made crystal clear with the appearance of the 1952 Topps set's final push. Series 6 emerged like a Who's Who of metropolitan- area stardom, beginning with card #311, the first Topps card of the Yankees' youthful phenom, Mickey Mantle. Mantle's card was followed in succession by depictions of the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson (#312), the 1951 Giants' "Shot Heard ‘Round the World" home run hitter Bobby Thomson (#313), Roy Campanella (#314) and Leo Durocher (#315). It looked like the finale at a show of fireworks! After the incredible quintet that led off the segment, such players as Pee Wee Reese, Eddie Mathews and Bill Dickey, and a respectable group of rookies highlighted by Gil McDougald, Joe Black and Hoyt Wilhelm, kept the chase interesting, and encouraged the purchase of baseball card packs well into the months of September and October.

It's hard to identify any faults at all in a production that's exciting on so many levels, but fairness dictates mention of a couple of omissions. Ted Williams and Whitey Ford were away, serving their country at the time of issue, and were left out for that reason. But another key superstar, Cardinals' great Stan Musial, was under contract to Bowman and couldn't appear in a competitor's product. The 1952 season was the first time in a generation that two national manufacturers went head-to-head in marketing like-themed cards of Major League Baseball players, and Musial wouldn't be the last player for whose licensing rights Topps and Bowman were destined to compete.

Key Features and Rarities - In such an expansive gallery as the one formed by 1952 Topps, it's not surprising that key and difficult entries abound.

For starters, an entire series in 1952 Topps - the big-namefilled Series 6 containing card #s 311 Mickey Mantle through 407 Eddie Mathews - is considered rare. The final segment of Topps' inaugural release was only minimally distributed, as retailers, who had yet to become familiar with the allure of all those late-season Topps stars, held to the logical assumption that buying patterns of the past would once again dictate a seasonal falling-off in card sales. So orders were reduced or cancelled altogether. And it's probable that Topps anticipated this and kept Series 6 production numbers low to begin with. Hobby lore provides all sorts of additional conjectures to account for the scarcity of 1952 Topps "High Numbers." They were sold primarily in Canada, they were dropped off a ship sailing out of New York Harbor and so on - but the fact that these subjects are in perpetually short supply, for whatever reason, is indisputable.

The 1952 Topps set also unintentionally laid the groundwork for a pair of concepts that were just beginning to be understood as the set was being sold. The first condition scarcity, was felt whenever a collector tried to find the issue's first card (#1, picturing Andy Pafko) in respectable shape. It wasn't long before that card, and, to a lesser extent, its series-concluding counterpart, #80 Herman Wehmeier, was acknowledged as the customary victim of rubber-banding, and truly nice copies became quite difficult to obtain.

The second notion, demand scarcity, was thrust to a whole new level by 1952 Topps' star content, and by the uncertain distribution of its "High Numbers." Topps' cards for 1953 had barely reached the stores' shelves, and fans were already looking for Mickey Mantle's rookie card from the preceding year. Naturally, there were (and are) precious few to be had. Mantle's card, which was actually double-printed on its press sheet and therefore twice as available, in theory, as most of the 'Highs,' became one of the first gum cards that collectors were willing to pay cash for. The Mantle Rookie, spearheaded a trend to bring about a reduction in the casual trading of the past, and an increase in the focused acquisition mode of the future.

Finally, there are just enough variations, errors and oddities in 1952 Topps to keep things interesting on those fronts, too. Each card in Series 1 (#s 1-80) can be found in Black Back and Red Back configurations; two of those (#s 48 and 49, pitchers Joe Page and Johnny Sain, respectively) are the subjects of error versions wherein each man's card has the other's printed back. And for those who love the impossibly trivial differences, the card of Frank Campos (#307) comes with and without an unusual, overprinted star on the reverse. The former is very seldom encountered.

Certainly, Topps showed the hobby how it's done, when it comes to infusing tremendous variety, innovation and intrigue into a nominally finite set of collectibles!

Bottom Line - In so many ways, 1952 Topps ushered in a new era of card collecting, and acted as the flagship release for several generations going forward. The series gave collectors what they wanted; its manufacturer took note, recognized the preferences of its clientele, and modified future offerings accordingly. The "Giant Size" cards were probably the first such collectibles whose main function wasn't simply to stiffen a pack or act as a come-on for the real product - the gum. No, these items were intended to be sought out and purchased on the strengths of their own merits. Like so many issues of the future, which were patterned in varying degree after the 1952 Topps' model, they succeeded admirably.

SET LIST

# CARD NAME
1 Andy Pafko
2 James E. Runnels
3 Hank Thompson
4 Don Lenhardt
5 Larry Jansen
6 Grady Hatton
7 Wayne Terwilliger
8 Fred Marsh
9 Bobby Hogue
10 Al Rosen
11 Phil Rizzuto
12 Monty Basgall
13 Johnny Wyrostek
14 Bob Elliott
15 Johnny Pesky
16 Gene Hermanski
17 Jim Hegan
18 Merrill Combs
19 Johnny Bucha
20 Billy Loes
21 Ferris Fain
22 Dom DiMaggio
23 Billy Goodman
24 Luke Easter
25 Johnny Groth
26 Monty Irvin
27 Sam Jethroe
28 Jerry Priddy
29 Ted Kluszewski
30 Mel Parnell
31 Gus Zernial
32 Eddie Robinson
33 Warren Spahn
34 Elmer Valo
35 Hank Sauer
36 Gil Hodges
37 Duke Snider
38 Wally Westlake
39 Dizzy Trout
40 Irv Noren
41 Bob Wellman
42 Lou Kretlow
43 Ray Scarborough
44 Con Dempsey
45 Eddie Joost
46 Gordon Goldsberry
47 Willie Jones
48 Joe Page (Correct Bio)
48 Joe Page (Sain Bio)
49 Johnny Sain (Correct Bio)
49 Johnny Sain (Page Bio)
50 Marv Rickert
51 Jim Russell
52 Don Mueller
53 Chris Van Cuyk
54 Leo Kiely
55 Ray Boone
56 Tommy Glaviano
57 Ed Lopat
58 Bob Mahoney
59 Robin Roberts
60 Sid Hudson
61 Tookie Gilbert
62 Chuck Stobbs
63 Howie Pollet
64 Roy Sievers
65 Enos Slaughter
66 Preacher Roe
67 Allie Reynolds
68 Cliff Chambers
69 Virgil Stallcup
70 Al Zarilla
71 Tom Upton
72 Karl Olson
73 William Werle
74 Andy Hansen
75 Wes Westrum
76 Eddie Stanky
77 Bob Kennedy
78 Ellis Kinder
79 Gerald Staley
80 Herman Wehmeier
81 Vernon Law
82 Duane Pillette
83 Billy Johnson
84 Vern Stephens
85 Bob Kuzava
86 Ted Gray
87 Dale Coogan
88 Bob Feller
89 Johnny Lipon
90 Mickey Grasso
91 Red Schoendienst
92 Dale Mitchell
93 Al Sima
94 Sam Mele
95 Ken Holcombe
96 Willard Marshall
97 Earl Torgeson
98 Bill Pierce
99 Gene Woodling
100 Del Rice
101 Max Lanier
102 Bill Kennedy
103 Cliff Mapes
104 Don Kolloway
105 John Pramesa
106 Mickey Vernon
107 Connie Ryan
108 Jim Konstanty
109 Ted Wilks
110 Dutch Leonard
111 Harry Lowrey
112 Henry Majeski
113 Dick Sisler
114 Willard Ramsdell
115 George Munger
116 Carl Scheib
117 Sherman Lollar
118 Ken Raffensberger
119 Maurice McDermott
120 Bob Chakales
121 Gus Niarhos
122 Jack Jensen
123 Eddie Yost
124 Monte Kennedy
125 Bill Rigney
126 Fred Hutchinson
127 Paul Minner
128 Don Bollweg
129 Johnny Mize
130 Sheldon Jones
131 Morrie Martin
132 Clyde Kluttz
133 Al Widmar
134 Joe Tipton
135 Dixie Howell
136 Johnny Schmitz
137 Roy McMillan
138 Bill MacDonald
139 Ken Wood
140 John Antonelli
141 Clint Hartung
142 Harry Perkowski
143 Les Moss
144 Ed Blake
145 Joe Haynes
146 Frank House
147 Bob Young
148 Johnny Klippstein
149 Dick Kryhoski
150 Ted Beard
151 Wally Post
152 Al Evans
153 Bob Rush
154 Joe Muir
155 Frank Overmire
156 Frank Hiller
157 Bob Usher
158 Eddie Waitkus
159 Saul Rogovin
160 Owen Friend
161 Bud Byerly
162 Del Crandall
163 Stan Rojek
164 Walt Dubiel
165 Eddie Kazak
166 Paul LaPalme
167 Bill Howerton
168 Charlie Silvera
169 Howie Judson
170 Gus Bell
171 Ed Erautt
172 Eddie Miksis
173 Roy Smalley
174 Clarence Marshall
175 Billy Martin
176 Hank Edwards
177 Bill Wight
178 Cass Michaels
179 Frank Smith
180 Charley Maxwell
181 Bob Swift
182 Billy Hitchcock
183 Erv Dusak
184 Bob Ramazzotti
185 Bill Nicholson
186 Walt Masterson
187 Bob Miller
188 Clarence Podbielan
189 Pete Reiser
190 Don Johnson
191 Yogi Berra
192 Myron Ginsberg
193 Harry Simpson
194 Joe Hatten
195 Orestes Minoso
196 Solly Hemus
197 George Strickland
198 Phil Haugstad
199 George Zuverink
200 Ralph Houk
201 Alex Kellner
202 Joe Collins
203 Curt Simmons
204 Ron Northey
205 Clyde King
206 Joe Ostrowski
207 Mickey Harris
208 Marlin Stuart
209 Howie Fox
210 Dick Fowler
211 Ray Coleman
212 Ned Garver
213 Nippy Jones
214 Johnny Hopp
215 Hank Bauer
216 Richie Ashburn
217 George Stirnweiss
218 Clyde McCullough
219 Bobby Shantz
220 Joe Presko
221 Granny Hamner
222 Hoot Evers
223 Del Ennis
224 Bruce Edwards
225 Frank Baumholtz
226 Dave Philley
227 Joe Garagiola
228 Al Brazle
229 Gene Beardon
230 Matt Batts
231 Sam Zoldak
232 Billy Cox
233 Bob Friend
234 Steve Souchock
235 Walt Dropo
236 Ed Fitz Gerald
237 Jerry Coleman
238 Art Houtteman
239 Rocky Bridges
240 Jack Phillips
241 Tommy Byrne
242 Tom Poholsky
243 Larry Doby
244 Vic Wertz
245 Sherry Robertson
246 George Kell
247 Randy Gumpert
248 Frank Shea
249 Bobby Adams
250 Carl Erskine
251 Chico Carrasquel
252 Vern Bickford
253 Johnny Berardino
254 Joe Dobson
255 Clyde Vollmer
256 Pete Suder
257 Bobby Avila
258 Steve Gromek
259 Bob Addis
260 Pete Castiglione
261 Willie Mays
262 Virgil Trucks
263 Harry Brecheen
264 Roy Hartsfield
265 Chuck Diering
266 Murry Dickson
267 Sid Gordon
268 Bob Lemon
269 Willard Nixon
270 Lou Brissie
271 Jim Delsing
272 Mike Garcia
273 Erv Palica
274 Ralph Branca
275 Pat Mullin
276 Jim Wilson
277 Early Wynn
278 Al Clark
279 Ed Stewart
280 Cloyd Boyer
281 Tommy Brown
282 Birdie Tebbetts
283 Phil Masi
284 Hank Arft
285 Cliff Fannin
286 Joe DeMaestri
287 Steve Bilko
288 Chet Nichols
289 Tommy Holmes
290 Joe Astroth
291 Gil Coan
292 Floyd Baker
293 Sibby Sisti
294 Walker Cooper
295 Phil Cavarretta
296 Red Rolfe
297 Andy Seminick
298 Bob Ross
299 Ray Murray
300 Barney McCosky
301 Bob Porterfield
302 Max Surkont
303 Harry Dorish
304 Sam Dente
305 Paul Richards
306 Lou Sleater
307 Frank Campos
307 Frank Campos (Black Star On Back)
308 Luis Aloma
309 Jim Busby
310 George Metkovich
311 Mickey Mantle
312 Jackie Robinson
313 Bobby Thomson
314 Roy Campanella
315 Leo Durocher
316 Davey Williams
317 Connie Marrero
318 Hal Gregg
319 Al Walker
320 John Rutherford
321 Joe Black
322 Randy Jackson
323 Bubba Church
324 Warren Hacker
325 Bill Serena
326 George Shuba
327 Archie Wilson
328 Bob Borkowski
329 Ivan Delock
330 Turk Lown
331 Tom Morgan
332 Tony Bartirome
333 Pee Wee Reese
334 Wilmer Mizell
335 Ted Lepcio
336 Dave Koslo
337 Jim Hearn
338 Sal Yvars
339 Russ Meyer
340 Bob Hooper
341 Hal Jeffcoat
342 Clem Labine
343 Dick Gernert
344 Ewell Blackwell
345 Sam White
346 George Spencer
347 Joe Adcock
348 Bob Kelly
349 Bob Cain
350 Cal Abrams
351 Al Dark
352 Karl Drews
353 Bob Del Greco
354 Fred Hatfield
355 Bobby Morgan
356 Toby Atwell
357 Smoky Burgess
358 John Kucab
359 Dee Fondy
360 George Crowe
361 Bill Posedel
362 Ken Heintzelman
363 Dick Rozek
364 Clyde Sukeforth
365 Cookie Lavagetto
366 Dave Madison
367 Bob Thorpe
368 Ed Wright
369 Dick Groat
370 Billy Hoeft
371 Bob Hofman
372 Gil McDougald
373 Jim Turner
374 Al Benton
375 Jack Merson
376 Faye Throneberry
377 Chuck Dressen
378 Les Fusselman
379 Joe Rossi
380 Clem Koshorek
381 Milton Stock
382 Sam Jones
383 Del Wilber
384 Frank Crosetti
385 Herman Franks
386 Eddie Yuhas
387 Billy Meyer
388 Bob Chipman
389 Ben Wade
390 Glenn Nelson
391 Ben Chapman
392 Hoyt Wilhelm
393 Ebba St. Claire
394 Billy Herman
395 Jake Pitler
396 Dick Williams
397 Forrest Main
398 Hal Rice
399 Jim Fridley
400 Bill Dickey
401 Bob Schultz
402 Earl Harrist
403 Bill Miller
404 Dick Brodowski
405 Eddie Pellagrini
406 Joe Nuxhall
407 Ed Mathews