Willie Mays was a baseball icon. Arguably the greatest center fielder of all time. He was a 24x All-Star, a World Series Champion, a 2x NL MVP, he won the NL Rookie of the Year award, earned 12x Gold Glove Awards, was a 4x NL Home Run Leader, and 4x NL Stolen Base Leader. Mays was a first-ballot Baseball Hall of Famer, having racked up a career .302 average, 3283 hits, 660 home runs, 1903 runs batted in, and 338 stolen bases. And while his early cards (1951/1952 Bowman, 1952/1953 Topps, and 1952 Red Man Tobacco) are iconic in the hobby, I wanted to take a closer look at his last 5 Topps base cards, as they’re often forgotten compared to his super-appealing early releases.
1969 Topps #190
In 1969, Topps used the same image of Mays as they did on his 1966 card. This replication had to do with a boycott, which you can read more about on the SABR Baseball Cards Blog. PSA has graded over 2500 of this card, though only six are Gem Mt 10s, and 83 are Mint 9s.
1970 Topps #600
While the 1970 Topps grey design is pretty average, to me, this is the best-looking photo of the last 5 Willie Mays cards. Probably because after the boycott, Topps took a lot of pictures of players, so the set has some fantastic images. PSA has graded over 2400 1970 Topps Mays cards with a similar number of 10s and 9s as the 1969 Topps set (4 10s and 88 9s).
1971 Topps #600
The 1971 Topps Willie Mays is the most expensive of the bunch due to the black border chipping so typical with this set. I have to wonder about the photo choice, though. Of the over 2000 submissions to PSA, there are no Gem Mt examples and only 12 9s, making this the toughest late-career Mays to track down in high grade.
1972 Topps #49
There are a ton of 1972 Topps Willie Mays cards on the market; PSA has graded over 4200, including 25 10s and 245 9s. When you include 8s as high-grade, it’s the easiest of all Willie Mays cards to find in high-grade. Sports Collectors Daily surmises this is because the card is part of the typically fast-selling first series of the 1972 release.
1973 Topps #305
Mays’ last base card was this 1973 Topps release. While 1973 Topps are known for having great action shots, they chose a pretty ordinary pose for some reason. This is also the only Topps card to feature Mays in a Mets uniform. And isn’t that a lot of pine tar? The population report of this card is more in line with the 1969/1970/1971 cards, with just over 2500 with three 10s and 147 9s.
While all the 1969-1973 Topps Mays cards feature pretty common poses, they certainly still warrant a place in a well-rounded post-war baseball card collection due to his legendary accomplishments. Luckily plenty of graded Mays cards exist from this era, but the addition of a late-career Mays card is notably more difficult if you are looking to get your hands on a less common Gem Mt or Mt example.
Don’t forget to follow Post War Cards on Twitter for more hobby chats.