Sunday, July 19, 2009

Keith's Key Kard Korner: July 2009

1953 Topps #244 Willie Mays

In my inaugural release of Keith’s Key Kard Korner, it’s easy to peak in waxing poetic on the most attractive, important cards in the hobby. That’s because it is the only time I have every card ever produced to choose from. Must any reader wonder why I chose the subject?

The player depicted needs little introduction. Often considered the greatest all-around ballplayer ever, and the quintessential "five-tool player", it is appropriate that Willie Mays is depicted employing one of his five tools – fielding – in a 1953 Topps card issue where cards show most players with a neck-and-shoulders portrait.

Printed in fewer numbers than some other 1953 Topps cards, the Mays displays the issue’s signature namebox in the lower right – a black one for National League players, a red one for American Leaguers. The namebox is also decorated with the team logo in the corner.

No matter the pose, this 280-card Topps issue may exemplify miniature artwork better than any sportscards in existence. After fifty-plus years, even mildly worn examples retain handsome artistic quality, such as the details in Mays’ focused face, and each uniform wrinkle articulated to life-like form. The artist’s canvas looks saturated with color and the most appropriate choices of the pallet appear thereon.

I’m hardly the only one who’s noticed this is a special card. Based on individual oil paintings by Gerry Dvorak of New Jersey, these 1953 Topps card images are so iconic and enduring that in 1989, the Marriott Corporation bought the original painting that this card was based on for $80,000. Often, the value of the sports card trumps that of the art - the solitary PSA 10 Gem Mint example of this card has fetched a lofty $95,000. That’s a remarkable coronation to the man whom humbly began his pro career in 1947 with a team named the Chattanooga Choo Choos. Additionally, PSA named the 1953 Topps Willie Mays one of the Top 250 Sports Cards in the Hobby.

Even in the face of a strong 2009 recession, I noticed that the card reflects a price increase in the latest Sports Market Report price guide. In being forthright, I still don’t own a copy of this comely rectangle. Hopefully, my column won’t make the demand and price spike higher before I can address my glaring deficiency.

1 comment:

  1. I'm fascinated by the artwork that went into so many different vintage cards. I had no idea original baseball card art has sold for such prices, but it makes sense. Imagine what original T206 art would sell for! My personal favorite baseball card artists (whoever they were) are the guys (or gals) who created the Turkey Reds, the Obaks and the Bowman cards from 1950 to 1952.