CSG Certifies Two Iconic Cards from the Golden Age of Baseball Cards

Posted on 10/22/2021

The coveted cards from the early 1950s display the artistry of early Topps designs.

Certified Sports Guaranty® (CSG™) was honored to grade two sought-after baseball cards that reveal the wide variety of factors that can set a card apart as valuable and draw the interest of collectors: a 1954 Topps #128 Hank Aaron graded CSG 5.5 and a 1953 Topps #220 Satchel Paige graded CSG 5 with sub-grades of 9 for Centering, 7 for Corners, 4.5 for Edges and 6 for Surface.

1954 Topps Aaron rookie card introduced baseball fans to “Hammerin’ Hank”

The 1954 Topps #128 Hank Aaron is the top card sought by collectors from among the more than 150 different cards to feature the celebrated baseball slugger. The rookie card shows a headshot of “Henry Aaron” in his blue Milwaukee Braves cap against a bright orange background. The 1954 set was the first issued by Topps to include two pictures of players on the front of the cards. In addition to Aaron’s profile, the #128 card shows the outfielder crouching to scoop up a ground ball. The back of the card extols Aaron’s success in the South Atlantic League in 1953, including being named the Most Valuable Player.

Click images to enlarge.

In an effort to gain ground on rival Bowman Gum Company, Topps took a risk with its 1954 set and issued a high number of “prospect” cards, which included unproven rookies like Aaron, Ernie Banks and Al Kaline. The risk paid off, helping Topps to win the battle for dominance in the baseball card market and resulting in the release of some of the most sought after rookie cards from that era.

Hank Aaron is most famous for breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs, a hitting high mark that had stood for 39 years. However, Aaron’s record of 755 career homers is just one in a long list of inspiring accomplishments tallied by the superstar in his 23 seasons. “Hammerin’ Hank” continues to hold the major league record for career runs batted in, total bases, extra-base hits and All-Star Game appearances. He also was awarded the Golden Glove Award three times.

Several factors make the Topps 1953 Satchel Paige a standout card

There are a number of reasons that the 1953 Topps #220 Satchel Paige is sought after by collectors. It is one of the best cards in the cherished 1953 Topps set, which features what is considered the finest artwork ever to appear on baseball cards. Painted by noted sports artist and animator Gerry Dvorak, the portraits that grace the set are extraordinary. In fact, Dvorak’s original painting of Mickey Mantle was purchased by Marriott at auction for $121,000 in 1992.

Click images to enlarge.

A second factor to be noted about the #220 Satchel Paige is its printing error. The front of the card, which shows a headshot of the St. Louis Browns’ pitcher, includes a banner at the bottom identifying him as “Satchell Paige,” misspelling his nickname by adding an extra “l” to “Satchel.” The presence of an error, even something as minor as a misspelling, can boost a card’s collectability.

Finally, the #220 Satchel Paige is special to collectors as the only Topps baseball card to feature the famous pitcher. Paige, who was not included in any of the earlier sets issued by Topps, retired in 1953.

Satchel Paige’s professional baseball career spanned more than five decades, with much of that time spent pitching in the Negro Southern League where he ranks among the most famous and successful players in his history. He was a star pitcher for the Kansas City Monarchs when they won the Negro World Series in 1942.

The back of the Topps 1952 Paige aptly describes his major league career as “long deferred and much interrupted.” Paige was 42 years old when he pitched his first game with the Cleveland Indians, earning him the distinction of being the oldest player ever to debut in the major leagues. He was also the first black pitcher to be signed to an American League team. He was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.


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