The baseball card landscape stayed virtually the same during the course of 1957 with Topps as the unquestioned king of trading cards for another year. However, Topps didn't rest on their laurels and they continued to update and modify their flagship set. Giving fans a chance to grab cards outside of the Topps world, smaller card sets were produced by non-candy companies. In this list of the best baseball card singles produced in 1957, you'll find the most valuable and popular cards of the year, including several key Hall of Fame rookie cards.
The 1957 Topps set was one of the most groundbreaking products the company has ever issued. The release included three fundamental changes the company would continue to follow for all their major baseball card releases. First, the size of Topps cards was adjusted down to the now-standard 2-1/2 x 3-1/2 inches. Second, Topps used color photographs (rather than painted black-and-white images) for the first time in their main set. Lastly, the reverse side of the cards included the complete career statistics for each player featured, which was a first for a Topps set. These three changes combined have made the 1957 set into one of the most popular of the era.
Along with the ten cards covered below, there are several other important cards to track down. In 1957 Topps, you can find rookie cards of fan favorites Bill Mazeroski and Rocky Colavito. The 1957 set also features the last card of Roy Campanella as a player before being forced to retire following a car accident. Other superstar appearances that didn't quite crack the top ten include Yogi Berra, Al Kaline, and Eddie Mathews.
Outside of Topps, there were only a handful of other baseball cards sets that were issued and found a dedicated following. As was the case in previous years, many of these alternatives were based around food products. Carling Beer, headquartered in Cleveland at the time, issued a Cleveland Indians set featuring the first-year card of their future star outfield Rocky Colavito. In addition, Kahn's Wieners, based out of Cincinnati, issued a 28-card set featuring Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds players. The cards were larger than average and featured a black-and-white image with a blank back. The set showcases early cardboard appearances of Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson, and Bill Mazeroski, making it a very popular set with collectors.
The Swift Meat company issued a unique product that featured 3-D figures which could be punched out of a larger card and constructed separately. Unassembled versions of figures for Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson are the most sought-after from the set. Another choice comes from the Spic and Span dry cleaning company in Wisconsin, which issued cards for the Milwaukee Braves. This set has remained popular because of the Braves' World Series title in 1957. Hank Aaron's oversized 4" x 5" card is the highlight of the release, which would be the company's last until 1960.
Several of the most popular teams in the league also issued their own trading/picture cards in 1957, including the Boston Red Sox, Brooklyn Dodgers, Milwaukee Braves, and New York Yankees. These were typically available exclusively at the stadium or fan events and gave collectors a chance to seize rare appearances of Ted Williams, Roy Campanella, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle.
Although 1957 offered baseball cards from a variety of sources, all the cards featured in this top ten originate from the 1957 Topps set. While the smaller sets do provide some early cards from several superstars, they are too regional in nature to be considered a true "rookie card" and too rare for inclusion in this list. Amongst the cards selected, card value is a main component along with each card's overall importance and popularity with collectors.
Top 10 Baseball Cards of 1957
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Jim Bunning's card is the first of four rookie cards to be featured in this list, which is a testament to the strength that 1957 Topps offers collectors. Bunning had been in the majors a few seasons before he was first able to make his cardboard debut in the '57 set. The strikeout king of his time, when he retired, he was second all-time in K's behind Walter Johnson. After his days on the field were over, Bunning was a two-term U.S. Senator for Kentucky.
While he would spend much of his career in the shadow of his teammate Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale would have career highlights that would show he was also one of the best pitchers in the game. He finished the 1957 season with an impressive 17-9 record, and he would go on to set the consecutive scoreless innings streak a few seasons later, making his rookie card a must-own for Dodgers fans everywhere.
When Topps premiered the first cards from the 1957 set, they came out with guns blazing as six of the cards on this list originate right out of Series 1 of 1957 Topps. Willie Mays makes his appearance at card #10, which shows him in the standard batting pose. Mays had another all-around great season in 1956, hitting 36 home runs and leading the league with 40 stolen bases. The reverse side of his Topps card details Mays' batting success during his All-Star games appearances, and he would go on to win two All-Star Game MVP awards (1963 and 1968).
Although the 1956 National League MVP went to Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe, it probably should have been awarded to Hank Aaron. He led the league in hits, doubles, and batting average at .328, and his consistent power added 26 home runs with 92 RBIs. The reverse side of this 1957 Topps card even goes so far as to call Hank the best hitter in the National League. All of Aaron's early appearances (this would be his third Topps card) are highly collectible and his first color-photo Topps card is no exception.
While rookie cards and early appearances dominate this guide, a card from the final years of the Splendid Splinter's career muscles its way onto the list. Through contract problems with the major card companies during the early part of his career, there simply aren't many Ted Williams appearances available to collectors. When you combine that with the improvements made to the 1957 Topps set, and the fact that he was given card #1 on the checklist, it is clear why this card continues to be in high demand.
The 1957 Topps set also brought a return to the multi-player card that had been absent for a few years, and it created two of the most memorable combo cards ever made. Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra wield their bats in "Yankees' Power Hitters" and nearly half of the Brooklyn's lineup is featured in "Dodgers' Sluggers," including Duke Snider and Gil Hodges. Featuring the most popular players on the two most popular teams, Topps was printing gold, and these two cards are among the most revered options in the set.
Frank Robinson was coming off one of the greatest rookie seasons any batter ever had when his 1957 Topps rookie card hit the market, making it one of the most sought-after cards in the set at the time of release. Robinson had just hit 38 home runs, led the league in runs scored, and was named the National League Rookie of the Year for the Cincinnati Reds. Although it has been surpassed by a handful of other cards (and one rookie) since then, it remains one of the most valuable cards on the secondary market for highly-graded versions.
Sandy Koufax's 1957 Topps card features a close-up portrait of the Dodgers pitcher and because this is his first traditional vertical-designed card, there is a premium attached to it by collectors. Like all of Koufax's early trading cards, they are popular because of the success he would have in the second half of his career. Although the Dodgers made the 1956 World Series, Koufax didn't pitch. His later World Series success saw him become a two-time World Series MVP for the Dodgers in 1963 and 1965.
Mickey Mantle dominated the list for 1956 baseball cards by returning to Topps after two seasons exclusively with Bowman and nearly came out on top again with this great card of the switch-hitting Mantle at the end of his left-handed swing. As the reverse side of Mantle's card tells us, he was at the peak of his powers in the 1956 season and he won the Triple Crown by leading the American League in batting with a .353 average, 52 home runs, and 130 RBIs. There is also little doubt as to how the Yankees were able to capture the 1956 World Series.
Brooks Robinson's debut holds the dual honor of being the top rookie card and the top overall card in terms of value from 1957. Robinson would go on to play over 20 years at third base for the Baltimore Orioles and make the case for being the best defensive player to cover the hot corner. Mint copies of his 1957 Topps are hard to find (his card is in the short-printed series that runs from cards #265-352) but those rare Brooks Robinson rookies that reach the auction block with a PSA 9 grade have topped $20,000. That amazing price is both a testament to his popularity as a player and the continued popularity of 1957 Topps.