1952 Topps baseball is generally recognized as one of the Big 3 baseball sets with 1909-11 T206 and 1933 Goudey, making it the most iconic postwar set. It also contains one of the most recognizable cards of all time, Mickey Mantle’s 2nd-year card, and great bookends in Andy Pafko and Eddie Matthews. The 407-card 1952 Topps set was bigger than Bowman’s rival set, and the cards were larger, making them very eye-catching. But it’s not all rosy for collectors; the 1952 Topps set has its weaknesses, and in this article, I’ll run down eight of them.
1. Only two Hall-of-Fame rookie cards
In the incredibly popular Hall of Fame Players – Post War Rookies set, the only 1952s are Hoyt Wilhelm and Eddie Mathews. 1951 Bowman, a set many consider equal to 1952 Topps, has 5 in Whitey Ford, Monte Irvin, Nellie Fox, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays. 1948 Bowman (Kinder, Berra, Spahn, Musial, Schoendienst) and 1957 Topps (Drysdale, Mazeroski, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Bunning) also have 5 Hall of Fame rookie cards.
2. They aren’t rare
PSA alone has graded over 270k 1952 Topps baseball cards. Now, there is certainly a financial incentive to get these cards graded, but that 270k number doesn’t include SGC, Beckett, or raw cards. Collectors can find dozens of examples of every card in the set for sale at any time.
3. There are other great (better?) looking sets
The 1952 Topps set certainly commands high praise. But, I’ve written about the 1950-52 Bowman run being works of art and how many consider the 1952 Bowman Stan Musial card one of the best-looking cards of all time.
4. They are awfully expensive
The set has become a victim of its success and priced out a lot of collectors. Complete sets command 6-figure prices.
5. The Mantle is iconic, but it’s not his rookie card
The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 card is iconic and likely the most recognizable card in the hobby. But remember, it’s not his rookie card and was a double print. The card sometimes gives the hobby a bad name as so many fakes have hit the market over the years.
6. The set is missing some key players
While the 407 card set has many big names in it, it’s still missing some key players. Ted Williams and Whitey ford aren’t in it (military service), Stan Musial was exclusive to Bowman, and Hall of Famers Nellie Fox and Ralph Kiner didn’t make it in either.
7. A complete set is hard to define
Due to printing flaws and errors, it’s a little hard to say what even constitutes a complete set. Do you need all the low numbers in both red/black backs? What about all the Page/Sain errors, gray backs, or the Campos error? The size coupled with the variants makes collecting 1952 Topps a tough ask.
8. They are hard to store
The cards are oversized compared to today’s cards and, in raw condition, are tougher to store.
What do you think, is 1952 Topps all it’s cracked up to be? Let me know down in the comments or reach out over on Twitter.
Just one more thing: As a rule, I think it’s important for folks to collect whatever appeals to them and not feel compelled to acquire specific cards or sets just because the hobby says they are a big deal. No one should feel left out of the hobby because they don’t idolize a particular set or card. After all, even the legendary 1952 Topps set has its flaws.
I’m not a 1952 Topps guru, but a complete set is 1-407. Simple. Now a true MASTER set, may be a little tougher to define. That gets into variants, etc. I suppose it’s as many different variants as one can find. Should that include errors? Different color backs, etc.? I don’t see why not.
I am not sure why 1952 Topps would be considered any more difficult to store. The ones I have all fit nicely into 8-pocket pages, same as 1953-56 Topps. If graded, they fit in a graded shoebox just fine.
Some other good points, though. Agree that there may be some other better looking sets out there (1956 Topps are my favorite, 1954 Topps is a close runner up, not to mention some of Bowman’s issues).
For the record (I’ll probably take flack for this), I feel the 1952 Topps Mantle is the most overvalued card of all time. As you said, it’s double printed. I saw a dealer at the national card show have 7 or 8 of them lined up in his case. It’s hardly what I would call a rare card. Iconic, absolutely – but fully deserving of the price tag? I’m not so sure. But it doesn’t really matter what I think, does it? 🙂 This card has been insanely valuable as long as I can remember, so I don’t see that ever changing.
For the record, I still think 1952 Topps is a beautiful set deserving of the hype. Colorful with some very interesting and variety of photography. Far more appealing IMO than the 1953 Topps set where the vast majority of the cards seem to be portraits. So yes, I feel 1952 Topps does deserve the hype, even if it’s not necessarily my favorite set ever produced. Then again, I enjoy all vintage cards lol.
Haha. Totally. I can’t remember what prompted me to write this article to begin with. Maybe I was seeing a lot of “fan boying” type of behavior…but thanks for commenting and providing another perspective on what truly is a great set.
Am I missing something about George Kell. This is the article that said he was missing from 52 Topps but he is in the set as 246?
Nope! I’m not sure how I made that mistake. Thanks for the catch Darrin.
Meant second article.