In this new, ongoing series, we explore various sets on the PSA Set Registry, featuring the trading cards of iconic athletes. Select cards will be highlighted and the requirements of each set will be included.
In 1945, Jackie Robinson was a 26-year-old, first-year Negro league player for the Kansas City Monarchs who was handpicked by then-Brooklyn Dodgers President and GM Branch Rickey to possibly join the Dodgers’ roster. Assigned to the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers’ International League affiliate, the talented infielder eventually made his way to Brooklyn and was the Dodgers’ starting first baseman on April 15, 1947, when “Dem Bums” hosted the Boston Braves in the season opener. Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier that day and would go on to endure a season’s worth of bigotry and racial slurs. He weathered the storm and was ultimately named MLB’s Rookie of the Year at season’s end after batting .297 with 175 hits and 29 stolen bases. He also helped Brooklyn reach its first World Series since 1941.
His successful arrival on the MLB stage opened the door for more African-American players to enter. His impact didn’t rest solely on baseball, however. As a civil rights spokesman, Robinson’s impact on Major League Baseball helped persuade other professional sports leagues to be more inclusive. Perhaps no other African-American athlete in U.S. history made a bigger impact on the country’s social fabric than Jackie Robinson. Let’s recognize his heroic efforts by looking in chronological order at five of his key cards in the 1962 first ballot Hall of Famer’s basic set checklist:
Leaf’s 1948 baseball release marked the first color set to be issued after World War II. It included Robinson’s one true rookie card (#79) – considered one of the keys to the set – and one of its more elusive cards. It usually suffers from poor print quality and color. Black print defects can severely hinder the eye-appeal in the light background, and the background itself often exhibits a faint or dull yellow color. A portrait type shot of a pseudo-smiling Robinson wearing his Brooklyn baseball cap adorns the card front, while the card back reveals his impressive stats from the ’47 season. Measuring 2-3/8” wide by 2-7/8” high, the card has a PSA population report of 1,120 of which just eight (8) have been graded PSA Mint 9 and only 40 having earned PSA Near-Mint Mint 8 status. No ’48 Leaf Robinson #79 rookie has ever been graded in PSA Gem Mint 10 condition.
If you are trying to complete Robinson’s basic set checklist on the PSA Set Registry, this is the most heavily weighted card (10.00) of the bunch. Weights are determined by the card’s secondary market value using a scale from 1.00 to 10.00 with 10.00 being the most expensive. Using three varying PSA grades for the card, here are its industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $2,982.18
PSA Excellent 5: $10,278.22
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $62,448.00
Jackie’s 1949 Bowman #50 RC, issued a year after Leaf’s, measured 2-1/16” wide by 2-1/2” tall and shows a beaming Robinson on the card front and more statistical info on the reverse. The ’49 Bowman series has long been a favorite among hobbyists who love the unassuming design and colorizing that generates a nostalgic feeling that harkens back to a simpler and purer time. Such is the case with Robinson’s first Bowman issue. The card has a PSA population report of 1,173 of which 10 have been graded PSA Mint 9 while 111 have earned PSA Near-Mint Mint 8 ranking. No ’49 Bowman Robinson #50 rookie has ever been graded PSA Gem Mint 10.
This is the second most heavily weighted card (5.00) on PSA’s Robinson basic set. Using three PSA grades for the card, here are its industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $1,045.99
PSA Excellent 5: $2,910.57
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $10,079.33
The 1950 Bowman set consists of 252 cards, each measuring 2-1/16″ by 2-1/2”. For the first time, Bowman utilized full-color artwork for its card front display of the featured player surrounded by a thin white border. Robinson’s 1950 Bowman #22 features a full-length Jackie taking a big swing with his choice of lumber. The back of the card mentions Jackie winning the league’s MVP award for his 1949 season, in which he hit a league leading .342 and finished second in the N.L. with 124 RBI. This early gum card displays vivid coloring with nice centering. The card has a PSA population report of 952 of which 12 have been graded PSA Mint 9 while 48 have earned PSA Near-Mint Mint 8. No ’50 Bowman Robinson #22 card has ever earned the ranking of PSA Gem Mint 10.
This is the third most heavily weighted card (4.00) on PSA’s Robinson basic set. Using three PSA grades for the card, here are its industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $435.00
PSA Excellent 5: $1,106.01
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $8,100.00
The 1952 Topps Baseball set consists of 407 cards, each measuring 2-5/8″ by 3-3/4”. The set was issued in six distinct “Series” groups, and Series 6 reads like a “Who’s Who of Stardom” beginning with none other than Mickey Mantle at #311, followed immediately by Robinson at #312. These mark the very first Topps cards ever issued of either player with Robinson’s bat-over-the-shoulder portrait largely considered his best looking card by hobby purists. Its exceptional use of color portrays Jackie in a great light. The card has a PSA population report of 939 of which 11 have been graded PSA Mint 9 while 44 have earned PSA Near-Mint Mint 8. Once again, like the preceding cards covered, no ’52 Topps Robinson #312 card has ever earned PSA Gem Mint 10 status.
This card is tied for second on PSA’s most heavily weighted list (5.00) for Robinson’s basic set. Using three PSA grades for the card, here are its industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $936.67
PSA Excellent 5: $2,650.00
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $16,800.00
The 1953 Topps Baseball set batted leadoff with Robinson adorning card #1. The set consists of 274 cards, each measuring 2-5/8″ by 3-3/4”. Considered one of the more prominent #1 cards of its era, this exceptional Robinson release shows an illustrated portrait of a smiling Jackie with a portion of the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. The card has a PSA population report of 2,316 of which eight (8) have been graded PSA Mint 9 with 68 more earning PSA Near-Mint Mint 8 status. And for the first time in Robinson’s basic set checklist, a single ’53 Topps Robinson #1 card has indeed earned PSA Gem Mint 10 status.
This is the fifth most heavily weighted card (4.00) in Robinson’s basic set. Using three PSA grades for the card, here are its industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $202.40
PSA Excellent 5: $549.66
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $10,333.33
Jackie Robinson Cards Required to Complete the Set
(including PSA ‘Weights’)
- 1948 LEAF JACKIE ROBINSON #79 (10.00)
- 1949 BOWMAN JACKIE ROBINSON #50 (5.00)
- 1950 BOWMAN JACKIE ROBINSON #22 (4.50)
- 1952 TOPPS JACKIE ROBINSON #312 (5.00)
- 1953 TOPPS JACKIE ROBINSON #1 (4.00)
- 1954 TOPPS JACKIE ROBINSON #10 (2.00)
- 1955 TOPPS JACKIE ROBINSON #50 (2.00)
- 1956 TOPPS JACKIE ROBINSON #30 (1.00)
Robinson played a total of 10 MLB seasons, all of them for the Brooklyn Dodgers. His major league career, which began at 28, saw Jackie compete in six World Series and named to six N.L. All-Star teams. In 1949, he was named N.L. MVP after batting .342 with 203 hits, 124 RBI and 37 stolen bases. His lifetime batting average was .311 and twice he led the Senior Circuit in stolen bases (1947 and ’49). Robinson died unexpectedly of a heart attack at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, on Oct. 24, 1972. He was 53 years old.
For all of his accomplishments in baseball, Robinson has also been recognized outside of the sport. In December 1956, the NAACP recognized him with the Spingarn Medal, which it awards annually for the highest achievement by an African-American. Then-President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded Robinson the Presidential Medal of Freedom on March 26, 1984, and on March 2, 2005, President George W. Bush gave Robinson’s widow, Rachel, the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress. Robinson was only the second baseball player to receive the award, after Roberto Clemente.
If you are a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the L.A. Dodgers or simply just a baseball card collector who’s looking to compile an impressive basic set of one of the most pivotal players in the game’s history, Jackie Robinson is a great subject. Go ahead and give his basic set a try on the PSA Set Registry and you will not be disappointed.
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