The Best Willie Mays Rookie Cards to Collect

Willie Mays is undoubtedly a GOAT contender. The likes of Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, and a few others are up there, but the argument always seems to come down to Babe Ruth and Mays when all is said and done. 

Mays ended his career with 660 home runs, good for third on the all-time list at the time of his retirement.

Here’s a roundup with everything you could possibly need to know about Willie Mays rookie cards, as we look at a couple of vintage options released during the early 1950’s. 

The Best Willie Mays Rookie Cards

In truth, there’s only one true Willie Mays rookie card. However, we’ve also added a second popular option below, from a famous set within the hobby. 

2. 1952 Topps Willie Mays #261 (eBay)

1952 Topps Willie Mays #261

1952 Topps Baseball is best known for a famous Mickey Mantle card. (A Mint PSA 9 copy sold for a record-breaking $5.2 million in 2021, making it the most ever for a baseball card and sports card.)

This is also the first Topps set to feature Willie Mays, coming only one year after his Bowman rookie option seen below. Mays is pictured in a posed profile shot, with an uncharacteristically serious expression on his face. 

A clear step up from previous sets thanks to the combination of colorized black-and-white photography and a facsimile signature of the player taken directly from their player contract with Topps, it’s especially tough to find in decent condition.

Check prices of 1952 Topps Baseball Willie Mays on eBay

1. 1951 Bowman Willie Mays RC #305 (eBay)

1951 Bowman Willie Mays RC #305

1951 Bowman Baseball is where you’ll find the sole Willie Mays RC, featuring a great illustration of the legendary slugger. The 1951 Bowman is undoubtedly the most valuable Mays rookie card ever produced, in a checklist that contains 30 Hall of Famers. 

Each card front shows a player’s likeness, many of which were famous photographs enhanced by painted color and embellished by the player’s name in a caption.

Mays is featured holding a bat aloft in a classic pose. The background includes a bit of detail behind the curtain, which is a fun quirk. With a staggered release, all of the high-number series (#s 253-324) are tough to locate in the present day.

Check prices of 1952 Bowman Baseball Willie Mays RC on eBay

Willie Mays Rookie Cards: Buyers Guide 

Here’s what we think about the current state of the market for Willie Mays rookie cards. Are they worth the significant outlay? 

The Best Cheap Willie Mays Rookie Cards

1952 Topps Willie Mays #261

If you’d prefer a cheaper alternative, cards that have been signed by Mays tend to go for far less when looking at graded vintage options. 

2001 Topps Archives is a decent place to start. It features a Willie Mays 1952 RC Rookie Reprint, in a collection of rookie and last card rereleases of Hall of Famers and hometown heroes.

Check prices of 2001 Topps Archives Willie Mays 1952 RC Rookie Reprint on eBay

The Best Willie Mays Rookie Card Investment 

As there’s only one true Willie Mays rookie card, you’re not exactly spoiled for choice. In truth, either the 1951 or 1952 releases are likely to be a solid investment over the next decade or so. Hall of Famers are always a decent bet long-term.

Willie Mays Rookie Cards: Buying/Selling Advice

As a true legend in every sense of the word, Mays is one of the safer investment options within the hobby. (He’s already done it all, and is always likely to be seen as a legend.)

Of course, you’ll need to part with a significant sum to add a graded copy of his early cards to your personal collection, but it is a real piece of baseball history. 

There are only 8 PSA 9 Mint copies of the 1951 RC at the current time of writing, while the 1952 Topps release has one more, along with a priceless sole PSA 10 version

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