Ralph Kiner (1922-2014) made his major league debut in 1946 at the age of 23, having lost three years of his playing career to World War II. He went on to lead the National League in home runs and established a new franchise record in the process.
He was elected into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1975, and was known as a fearsome power hitter.
We’ve come up with a list containing the best Ralph Kiner rookie cards to collect, with lots of info about a variety of great vintage sets.
The Best Ralph Kiner Rookie Cards
Kiner made his major league debut on April 12, 1946, with the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, we’d have to wait until 1947 for his first cards, and a further year for his true RC.
As with many players from the era, Kiner can be found on a number of cards released before 1948. (A pair of rookies were produced by competing bread companies in 1947 that can be a real challenge for collectors to find.)
4. 1947 Homogenized Bond Bread Ralph Kiner (eBay)
The 1947 Bond Bread baseball set consists of 48 cards. Kiner is pictured in an action shot, which is accompanied by the player’s facsimile signature at the bottom. A bone of contention derives from their origin, since the images were reused for multiple sets throughout the 1940’s and the 1950’s.
For example, the ‘47 Bond Bread should have die-cut rounded corners, and white backs. The difficulty with judging legitimacy caused PSA to stop grading the set entirely. (If you do own a copy, SGC should be able to grade the 1947 Bond Bread Ralph Kiner card with no issues.)
3. 1947 D232 Tip Top Bread Ralph Kiner (eBay)
Continuing with the bakery theme, 11 teams were included in this 163-card Tip Top Bread set, with Kiner one of the youngest players when this set was printed. It features a simple black-and-white photo on the front, although the image is fairly low-res. You’ll be able to find a vintage advert on the reverse, with Kiner’s anime and position found at the bottom on a white tab.
2. 1948-49 Leaf Ralph Kiner #91 (eBay)
1948-49 Leaf is a vintage post-war set that was cutting-edge at the time. It’s easy to see why, as the set infused color into collectible baseball cards, while adding smaller upgrades like the name tag seen at the bottom. Measuring 2-3/8″ by 2-7/8″, they also feature the player’s biographical info and a brief write-up.
It was the first post-World War II set to feature color pictures, after restrictions on supplies like ink and cardboard were eased. Higher grades will feature deeper colors and sharper corners, while centering is often an issue for older cards as they were sometimes printed off-kilter.
1. 1948 Bowman Baseball Ralph Kiner RC #3 (eBay)
Compare the colorful Leaf card to the standard 1948 Bowman release. Of course, there’s no denying that 1948 Bowman Baseball is a massively important set within the hobby.
The cards are smaller than modern options, using simple black and white images of the best players from the era.
Once again, this card is often prefered to the earlier 1947 Homogenized Bond Bread release, mostly due to brand recognition. The flagship Bowman RC features Kiner in a simple batting pose.
Ralph Kiner Rookie Cards: Buyers Guide
Interested in picking up a vintage Ralph Kiner rookie card? Here are our thoughts on the current state of the market. (Given the age and the value, we’d stick with graded versions to be sure of the legitimacy of the cards.)
There are lots of cheaper Ralph Kiner rookie cards to collect, especially if you’re looking at lower grades. We’d stick with the 1948 cards if possible, given they’re more popular with collectors.
In terms of the best Ralph Kiner rookie cards, there’s no real competition as there’s only one true option. The Leaf card is prettier, but the Bowman set is more important within the hobby.
Ralph Kiner Rookie Cards: Final Thoughts
Ralph Kiner rookie cards are one of the safer investments if you’re looking at vintage options. His accomplishments are enshrined in the record books, and he’s a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word.