Collectors saw a golden age of the hobby end in 1955 as it would be the last year of the Topps vs. Bowman battle for baseball card supremacy. A conclusive winner was found in Topps as Bowman issued its last set. Smaller companies began releasing baseball-related products that we would come to know well in later years, such as coins featuring baseball players and miniature plastic figures featuring All-Stars. This list takes a look at the entire 1955 baseball card world and narrows it down to the top individual cards from the year.
Bowman may have issued their last set in 1955, but what a set it was. They tapped into the growing popularity of color television and combined it with full-color card printing to create what some would argue was their most beloved set. The Bowman set, just like Topps' 1955 set, would be horizontally framed and all ten cards in this top list feature a horizontal design. The set includes 320 cards in total and features another innovation to the Bowman line in the form of umpire cards. Thirty-one umpire cards were included in the final series of the set, offering a unique "set-within-a-set" collecting opportunity. Key rookie cards from this year include fan favorites Don Zimmer, Don Mossi, and Elston Howard.
On the flip side, Topps issued a smaller set from the previous year that was intended to be 210 cards. However, the set ended up being totaling 206 cards as nothing was produced for spot #175, #186, #203, and #209. Collectors also noted that many photos from the 1954 set were duplicated with a different painted background. Like the 1954 set, 1955 Topps saw an amazing collection of rookie cards, including Roberto Clemente, Harmon Killebrew, Sandy Koufax, and Ken Boyer. Additionally, Topps tried their hand at a new set called Doubleheaders that featured two cards in one. The cards, which were tall and narrow, could be folded to reveal two player paintings and if an entire set could be collected and lined up it would form a larger painting of a stadium featuring all the players.
In the world of smaller card makers, Red Man Tobacco issued their last set of cards included along with their chewing tobacco. Another product a little ahead of its time were Golden Stamp Books which featured sticker booklets for the Cleveland Indians, New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Milwaukee Braves. In Wisconsin, the Spic and Span company of dry cleaners issued a card that were designed to be cut out and made into pop up cards.
The entirety of baseball cards from 1955 consists of many choices and can make it difficult to narrow down to just ten. In constructing this list, value is an important component, but the availability of the cards along with the idea of developing a well-rounded collection was also considered.
Top 10 1955 Baseball Singles
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Perhaps an unorthodox choice for #10, this is still an important card in baseball card history for a number of reasons. Bowman introduced umpire cards in their 1955 set and Cal Hubbard was considered one of the greatest umpires to ever call a game. Before becoming an umpire, Hubbard was a NFL linebacker for the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers and was a part of four NFL championship teams. Hubbard is also the only person to be elected to the NFL Hall of Fame and the MLB Hall of Fame, which makes this card an interesting rookie to add to your collection.
1955 Topps gave the first position in the set to New York Giants outfielder Dusty Rhodes and the last card of the set card (#210) to Dodgers legend Duke Snider. Although you can find Snider's rookie card in 1950 Bowman, his 1955 Topps card can command prices at auction that make it his most valuable card overall.
This is the first of two appearances by Hank Aaron on this list and we begin with his first and last appearance on a Bowman Card. 1955 saw the beginning of an amazing streak for Aaron that will probably never be matched. He hit 27 home runs in 1955 and wouldn't hit below 20 home runs for the next 20 consecutive years.
When Hank Aaron was in the market to be signed by a major league team, he choose the Milwaukee Braves because they offered slightly more money than the next closest team, the New York Giants. This might be the king of "what could have been" examples when you think about the fantasy lineup that could have included Aaron, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Orlando Cepeda.
May's 1955 Bowman card details his MVP-winning 1954 season stats on the back and Mays improved nearly every offensive statistic in 1955. He lead the National League in triples, home runs, and slugging percentage, yet came in 4th in the MVP voting.
Topps recycled Hank Aaron's main image from the 1954 Topps card onto his 1955 card and you'll even find it used again in 1956. Unlike the Bowman set that used full-color backgrounds on their cards, Topps used photographs superimposed on painted backgrounds.
Ted Williams' 1955 season was an odd one in his career. In the off-season, he was offered the job of Red Sox player/manager but declined, and when the season rolled around, he was forced to miss the first month of the season due to court case surrounding his divorce. All of this didn't hurt his baseball card value, and he remained one of the top players for collectors. His 1955 Topps card is one of his most popular options.
What a group of rookie cards 1955 Topps featured! It was so strong that the two of the keys cards were featured back-to-back on the checklist with Harmon Killebrew at card #124 and Sandy Koufax at card #123. Although he was known for his home run prowess, Killebrew didn't actually hit a home run in his rookie season and he only hit 11 in his first five seasons with the Senators. It was his performance in the remaining 17 seasons of his career that makes this such a valuable rookie card.
1955 was another year in which Mickey Mantle only had a base card in the Bowman set and so this card is, of course, the most sought-after and valuable card in the legendary TV-themed set. Mantle continued his progression to becoming the best offensive player of his time by hitting a new career high in home runs (37), triples (11), and slugging percentage (.611).
In an interesting twist, when Sandy Koufax was called up to the Dodgers, the pitcher they moved to the minors was their future Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda. Both players would become fan favorites and legends for the team and Koufax's 1955 Topps rookie card has become the most valuable card for any Dodgers player from either the Brooklyn or Los Angeles teams.
Jut Like Jackie Robinson cards, Roberto Clemente's career in cardboard receives a boost because of his work off the field fighting for equality and justice. Clemente cards are pieces that a collector can be proud to own in their collection and his 1955 rookie card would be the crown jewel. Even modestly graded versions of this card can command hundreds with near-mint copies approaching several thousand dollars.