Bill Terry, longtime first baseman for the New York Giants, was also the last National League player to ever crack the near-mythical .400 batting average. As one of the best hitters of his day, Bill Terry cards are found in many of the key 1930s sets but his first cards actually appeared in the '20s. Take a look at some of the best baseball cards for "Memphis Bill," including a rare appearance in a Topps set made for the Venezuelan market.
Before signing with the franchise that would later become the San Francisco Giants, Terry took at stab at pitching with limited success. After this early detour, he would develop into a Hall of Famer at first base for the Giants and had an amazing career at the plate. In particular, his performance during the 1930 season was historic as he batted .401 with 254 hits. He also holds the highest career average for left-handed NL batters at .341.
Although Terry played in the '20s and '30s, he was around baseball for the rest of his life as a manager and owner until he passed away in 1989. This means there are many more of his autograph examples available for use in cut signature cards than other players of his era. Collectors can find his cut sigs in 2010 Panini Century Collection, 2011 SP Legendary Cuts, 2014 Panini 75th Anniversary, and 2015 Panini National Treasures, among others.
Debuting on cardboard in a few 1920s releases, the earliest Bill Terry cards are fairly elusive in comparison to many of his 1930s examples. While Terry's baseball card appearances from his playing days typically command higher prices, there are several budget-friendly options featuring "Memphis Bill" in later sets. The 1950 Callahan Hall of Fame set includes Terry with original artwork by artist B.E. Callahan. He was also included in the 1960 Fleer and 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats sets as well as several unlicensed products from the 1970s that were issued by TCMA.
With Ted Williams famously besting a .400 average eleven years after Terry did it, Terry's accomplishment sometimes gets overlooked. While his place in history is cemented, there are still some deals to be found with his vintage baseball cards. Focusing on the most popular cards from his playing days, some of the top Bill Terry cards are documented below with card value as a key element for inclusion.
Top 10 Bill Terry Baseball Cards
Click on the card titles or images to shop for specific cards on eBay. Linked sets in the descriptions go straight to detailed profiles.
In an effort to expand the popularity of baseball cards in Venezuela, Topps issued three different Venezuelan series in 1967. Combining to form one 338-card set, the Retirado series for retired players occupies the middle of the checklist, from card #139 to #188. The sepia photograph on a turquoise background and red "RETIRADO" text across the bottom makes these some of the most recognizable baseball cards ever made. Terry is shown in one of his iconic poses as he reaches for the ball with an outstretched hand.
The Bill Terry appearance in the R311 set gives fans a chance to grab a card that features action photography rather than colorized versions of photographs like most of his other cards. The R311 cards come in two varieties: one with a glossy finish and one with a surface texture that is described as almost like leather. Available as a premium giveaway, the set is also famous for having one of the few cards featuring Babe Ruth as a member of the Boston Braves.
This 1935 Goudey 4-in-1 card highlights New York Giants teammates Bill Terry, Hal Schumacher, Gus Mancuso and Travis Jackson. Terry, Schumacher and Jackson would spend their entire careers with the team and all four players helped the Giants capture the 1933 World Series title. Most notable, Terry was serving as player/manager for his first full season when he guided the Giants to the championship that year.
One of the first opportunities collectors had to own a chunk of a bat from Terry was in 2001 SP Legendary Cuts. The set features a dirt-like background and a bat relic that the reverse notes is game-used. While we may never know for sure, perhaps it was from his storied 1930 season. Legendary Cuts also features cut autographs for Terry with many of them being from his personal checks.
As seen in the 1934-1936 Batter-Up Bill Terry card below, an outline traces his upper body and bat. It was that section of the card which could be separated, creating a stand-up display. Collectors of the Batter-Up set are often obsessed with tracking down the rarer color parallels. These include black, blue, brown, green, purple and red for the low-numbered cards like Terry.
Slightly recoloring the portrait used in 1933 Goudey, the 1934 Goudey set also added some silhouetted figures in the background. However, the most drastic change to the 1934 edition is the banner across the bottom which either reads "Lou Gehrig says..." or "Chuck Klein says..." The card back features a statement from Gehrig in which Terry is described as the best-hitting first baseman in the league. This is essentially verified by his nine straight seasons batting above .320 (1927 to 1935).
While there is some disagreement on the year, the United States Caramel Company out of Boston issued a 32-card set that featured 27 baseball players. This includes a very youthful William "Bill" Terry set against a red background.
As an added incentive noted on the reverse, if a collector built a complete set, they could receive a baseball. Taking that up another notch, those next-level dedicated collectors who completed three sets could get a baseball glove. However, the candy outfit short-printed card #16 in the set so much that its very existence was debatable for many decades amongst collectors.
Again shown reaching for a ball, the brightly-colored Bill Terry card in 1934-1936 Diamond Stars is one of his most impressive. For each card, player images are joined by backgrounds with an art deco treatment. The Terry card features an artist's interpretation of the Polo Grounds where the Giants played before moving to San Francisco in 1957. The New York Jets also called the stadium home until it was demolished in 1963.
The legendary 1933 DeLong set was one of the first to include bubble gum. Terry is among 24 players featured as giants standing in the middle of a stadium. The back of Terry's yellow-sky card instructs kids on how to perform a stretch to help first basemen catch the ball earlier from an infielder.
Like many stars of the day, there are multiple Bill Terry cards in 1933 Goudey. His first card on the checklist (#20) shows him in the act of throwing, while the second card (#125) is a close-up portrait. I personally favor the portrait card but I seem to be out of step with collectors as the action version is the most popular. It also commands the most at auction with mint copies receiving bids that approach $1,000. The '33 cards are considered by some to be his official rookie cards despite having several earlier releases from the 1920s.