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. The following article reviews the Roger Maris Basic Set.
Roger Maris played 12 major league seasons, seven of which were spent roaming the outfield for the New York Yankees. While donning pinstripes for the Bronx Bombers from 1960 to 1966, he crushed 203 round-trippers including a record-breaking 61 dingers in 1961. It was a magical run for the 26-year-old slugger from Hibbing, Minn., as he broke the legendary Babe Ruth’s mark of 60 home runs set 34 years earlier.
Maris, who was the American League’s reigning MVP, repeated the feat in ’61 as he outdistanced his Yankees teammate, Mickey Mantle, in the voting. Mantle launched 54 home runs in ’61 but fell victim to a hip infection late in the season which took him out of the lineup. Maris launched the record-breaking blast in the season’s final game (Oct. 2) against the rival Red Sox. Note: Ruth’s earlier mark was established when baseball played a 154-game schedule, while 1961 was MLB’s first 162-game campaign. Regardless, Maris’s new record was celebrated and stood until 1998 when St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire set the new mark of 70.
Maris would never have another season quite like 1961. He played seven more years and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for his final two seasons. During that seven-year stretch he hit a total of 117 home runs to average only 17 home runs per season the rest of his career. He won a pair of World Series titles with the Yankees (1961 and ’62) and one with the Cardinals in ‘67. His final numbers were impressive (.260 BA, 275 home runs and 850 RBI) but never truly worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. Maris died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma on Dec. 14, 1985. He was 51.
Though Maris’ cards don’t see the trading card value of some of his contemporaries, he left an indelible footprint on the MLB record books. Here are five key cards (in weighted card values) from his basic set checklist:
This card was released the season after Maris’s incredible march to 61 home runs. Rightfully so, it is card #1 in the 1962 Topps Baseball set, which consists of 598 cards that each measure 2-1/2″ wide by 3-1/2” tall. The card is considered Maris’s most important (and valuable) issue. Surrounded by fragile brown borders, it’s a condition-sensitive release that’s quite susceptible to chipping. Another big reason why it’s his most popular card is because he is featured as a Yankee; his 1958 Topps rookie card shows him as a member of the Cleveland Indians. The ’62 Topps card has a PSA population report of 2,723 of which none has ever earned a PSA Gem Mint 10 grade. A total of six submissions have earned PSA Mint 9 standing, while 84 others have been judged to be in PSA Near Mint-Mint 8 condition.
In trying to compile Roger’s basic set checklist on the PSA Set Registry, this is the most heavily weighted card (10.00) of them all. 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 current industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $22.50
PSA Excellent 5: $88.13
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $1,926.05
The 1961 Topps Baseball set consists of 587 cards, each measuring 2-1/2” wide by 3-1/2” tall. Every one of the cards features a large color photograph of the player including Yankees slugger Roger Maris on card #2, complete with his bat draped over his left shoulder. The card has a PSA population report of 3,235 of which only one submission has earned the grade PSA Gem Mint 10. A total of 23 submissions have been graded PSA Mint 9, while 289 others have been labeled in PSA Near Mint-Mint 8 condition.
This is the second most heavily weighted card (6.00) within PSA’s Maris basic set checklist. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $61.00
PSA Excellent 5: $57.35
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $489.69
This is the only recognized rookie card of the former single-season home run champion. The 1958 Topps Baseball set consists of 494 cards, each measuring 2-1/2” wide by 3-1/2” tall. Each card front features either action poses or bust portraits with a solid background color. The Maris RC #47 shows him in uniform for the Cleveland Indians with his name printed across the top in white. His card is one of the keys to the ‘8 Topps set and is quite difficult to find well-centered.
The card has a PSA population report of 4,270 of which not a single submission has ever earned a PSA Gem Mint 10 grade. A total of 35 submissions have been graded PSA Mint 9, while 330 more have been labeled in PSA Near Mint-Mint 8 condition.
This card is tied for second in the most heavily weighted (6.00) category in PSA’s Maris basic set checklist. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $88.43
PSA Excellent 5: $192.99
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $1,327.27
The 1960 Topps Baseball set holds an astonishing 572 cards, each one measuring 3-1/2″ wide by 2-1/2” tall. The cards are best remembered for their horizontal delivery and sun-drenched hues with a large color portrait or pose at the right two-thirds and a black-and-white action photograph to the left. Newly arrived New York Yankees outfielder Roger Maris graces card #377, which shows the handsome, young slugger sporting his trademark crew cut in full color, coupled with a batting pose pic of Maris in black-and-white. The 1960 campaign marked the first of back-to-back AL MVP honors for Maris.
The card has a PSA population report of 2,693 of which only two have ever been graded in PSA Gem Mint 10 condition. Some 27 other submissions have earned PSA Mint 9 ranking, while 308 others have been designated in PSA Near Mint-Mint 8 condition.
This card of Aaron’s is tied for third in the most heavily weighted category (3.50) in his basic set checklist. Using three variance PSA grades for the card, here are its industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $15.97
PSA Excellent 5: $44.00
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $284.37
The 1959 Topps Baseball set combines rich colors and baseball-shaped, close-up photos of the featured players, with a solid-color background above and below and a white border. It consists of 572 cards, each one measuring 2-1/2″ wide by 3-1/2” tall. Maris’s card #202 shows the young hitter entering his third season in the bigs, playing for the then-Kansas City Athletics. His facsimile autograph is found in black across his belly. The following season, wearing pinstripes, Maris was named the A.L. MVP.
The card has a PSA population report of 2,233 of which none of the submissions has ever been graded in PSA Gem Mint 10 condition. A total of 16 have earned PSA Mint 9 ranking, while 265 others have been deemed in PSA Near-Mint Mint 8.
This card is tied for third on PSA’s most heavily weighted list (3.50) for Roger’s basic set checklist. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its industry average auction prices:
PSA Very Good 3: $32.99
PSA Excellent 5: $47.06
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $283.99
Roger Maris Cards Required to Complete the Set
(including PSA ‘Weights’)
- 1958 TOPPS ROGER MARIS #47 (6.00)
- 1959 TOPPS ROGER MARIS #202 (3.50)
- 1960 TOPPS ROGER MARIS #377 (3.50)
- 1961 TOPPS ROGER MARIS #2 (6.00)
- 1962 TOPPS ROGER MARIS #1 (10.00)
- 1963 TOPPS ROGER MARIS #120 (3.00)
- 1964 TOPPS ROGER MARIS #225 (2.00)
- 1965 TOPPS ROGER MARIS #155 (2.00)
- 1966 TOPPS ROGER MARIS #365 (2.00)
- 1967 TOPPS ROGER MARIS #45 (2.00)
- 1968 TOPPS ROGER MARIS #330 (2.00)
Baseball’s home run chase of 1961 ignited counted arguments and debates during the season’s second half. Maris’s steady, if not methodical, pursuit of Ruth’s record was never easy. Yankee loyalists wanted Mantle, their beloved hero and media darling, to be the one who set the new mark, not Maris. In fact, as he got closer to the record, Maris even received death threats and – as reported in local newspapers – lost clumps of his hair due to the overwhelming stress.
His new record was met with skepticism from baseball purists since it was achieved during the league’s newly implemented 162-game schedule, on the season’s final day. Some statisticians thought an asterisk should be placed next to it, thinking it was an inflated number only because of the league’s longer (by eight games) timetable. But no asterisk was ever placed against it and the new record stood, until 1998.
Only 11 Topps cards comprise the Roger Maris basic set. Go ahead and give it a try on the PSA Set Registry. Though he may never be inducted into Cooperstown, he was still a man who surpassed a baseball legend. And that means he was a force to be reckoned with.
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