Willie Mays is considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, dazzling fans with his incredible skills on the field for over two decades. As such, Willie Mays baseball cards spanning his legendary career hold significant collecting and monetary value. In this in-depth article, we will explore some of Mays’ most notable and valuable baseball cards from both his rookie years in the 1950s with the New York Giants through his later career with the San Francisco Giants.
One of Mays’ most famous and sought after rookie cards is his 1951 Bowman card. Considered one of the true Holy Grails of the hobby, high grade 1951 Bowman Willie Mays rookie cards in Near Mint to Gem Mint condition can fetch six figure prices or more at auction. In 2021, a PSA NM-MT 8 graded 1951 Bowman Willie Mays rookie card sold for an astonishing $686,576 breaking records for the card. Even well-centered but lower graded copies in the PSA 6-7 range regularly sell for $30,000-$60,000. The rarity and condition of the fragile early 1950s cards combined with Mays’ all-time great status make his rookie one of the most valuable baseball cards ever made.
While the 1951 Bowman is the undisputed king, Mays’ rookie season is also represented in his 1952 Topps card. High end PSA Gem Mint PSA 10 graded 1952 Topps Willie Mays rookie cards have sold for over $200,000, with NM-MT 8s bringing $50,000-$100,000. Slightly less rare than the 1951 Bowman issue, the 1952 Topps is still an extremely significant early Mays card recognized the world over for its iconic photo and design. Along with the ’51 Bowman, it serves to capture the early years and coming of age of one of the games true pioneering superstars.
Jumping ahead several years into Mays’ dominant career, one of his most visually spectacular and widely recognized cards is his iconic 1964 Topps card. Featured is Mays’ now legendary over the shoulder catching pose on the Polo Grounds outfield grass ready to fire the ball back into the infield. Graded high examples in the coveted PSA 10 Gem Mint holder regularly sell for $15,000-$25,000 showing the enduring appeal of this definitive Mays image. Even well-centered lower grade copies still bring $3,000+ thanks to the card’s great aesthetic appeal and significance in chronicling Mays’ playing days as a San Francisco Giant.
Continuing with Mays’ period starring for the Giants out west, his 1965 Topps card also holds substantial collector value. What makes the 1965 stand out is the creative action photo cutting diagonally across the card depicting Mays mid-swing at the plate. High grade PSA 10 versions can reach $10,000+, with NM-MT 8s in the $4,000 range.
It’s not just his 1950s rookie and 60s Giants cards that hold value either. Even late career cards from Mays’ twilight years after leaving San Francisco retain collector interest. One example is his 1973 Topps card from his final season playing for the New York Mets before retirement. Capture in blue and orange Mets home pinstripes, the 1972 Topps is a memorable relic from the legend’s farewell tour. Top graded PSA/PSG 10 gem copies have topped $1,000 with most graded 8s and 9s settling in the $300-600 range. while his final 1974 Topps card usually sells for slightly less.
In summary, Willie Mays produced a hall of fame playing career that spanned over two decades, dazzling fans in New York and San Francisco along the way. Not surprisingly, his iconic baseball cards from each era and team hold tremendous value, led by his ultra-rare 1951 Bowman rookie that has achieved record prices. Whether its his early 1950s rookie issues, 1960s GIants cards displaying dominant years, or later 1970s send-off issues, Willie Mays cards remain a vibrant and lucrative collectible category for dedicated collectors, investors and fans to enjoy for generations to come. Few players in the long history of baseball cards can match the cache, popularity and impressive financial worth associated with the cards of “The Say Hey Kid.”