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. It was 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)
This is also the first Topps set to feature Willie Mays. It comes 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.
1. 1951 Bowman Willie Mays RC #305 (eBay)
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 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.
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
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.
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. (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. On the other hand, it is a real piece of baseball history.