The 1953 Topps Baseball Card set is a beautiful issue. The success of the inaugural set just the year before gave the fledgling card company hope for the future. Not feeling risky, however, the company chose to play on the past success of '52. The 1953 Topps set has a similar look and feel to the '52 set, but with some minor tweaks and improvements.
Number of Cards
The intent was to issue a 280 card set (which was still quite a step down from the 407 card set of the year before), but the feud with rival Bowman was heating up. Several players signed contracts with the older Bowman company (most notably Duke Snider and Stan Musial) and Topps had to readjust their plans. For this reason six cards were never issued (253, 261, 267, 268, 271 and 275). Again, you have to pity the poor youngster looking for these elusive cards that didn't exist.
Size of Cards
Like the previous year the 1953 set measure a large 2 5/8 by 3 3/4" very close to the cards of today which are 2 1/2 by 3 1/2".
The card front feature beautiful full color paintings commissioned specifically by Topps. It is rumored that the artists received $25 a painting for their work. A large text box in black (National League) or red (American League) occupies the lower front and there is also a large full color team logo present. Again, very reminiscent of the 1952 Topps Set. The back was changed to a vertical format from the previous year's horizontal layout. Last year's and career stats were shown along with a "Dugout Quiz" cartoon.
The cards were issued in 5-cent packs with the ubiquitous bubble gum stick and also were issued in a 10-cent cello pack. The set was issued in four series and to further complicate things, and handful of numbers from each of the early series was printed in a later series. Like the year before, the final series (#221-280) was released very late in the year with limited availability and distribution. Several of these cards in the final series were also short printed leading to an even higher demand.
The 1953 set again featured the legendary Mickey Mantle. This was a small victory since Topps would lose him to rival Bowman for the next two years. Mantle remains the highest priced card in the set as is normally the case with Mantle and 1950s Topps issues. Willie Mays is always sought after and falls only short of Mickey in price. His card was short printed and also fell within the high number series-a double whammy! The Mays card is practically running neck-and-neck with Mantle as the highest price card in the set. In recent years, both cards in top grade have fetched over $90,000 at auction. Another favorite in the set is of Hall of Famer and Negro League legend Satchell Paige. Jackie Robinson is card #1, which always carries a premium no matter what. The last card #280 commands a high price for condition issues as well and features Milt Boling. Toss in your usual Hall of Famers (Ford, Spahn, Berra, Mathews, Feller, Campanella, Reese, and Rizzuto) and you have a heck or a set!