Card Rankings

59 Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards From 1953-1981 Topps

Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

Why do I love this list of the best 2nd-year baseball cards from Hall-of-Famers in Topps cards between 1953 to 1981? Let me explain.

On a rainy, and thus lazy, fall day a few years ago, I opened an old shoebox in my closet. I quickly remembered that I had only kept a small handful of sports cards from my teenage years. At 16, I needed gas money to drive to some event I can’t even now remember in my 1991 Ford Explorer. So, I went to the card shop, which were still plentiful at the time, and I sold most of my cards for $50 on the spot.

Sitting in the closet, at nearly 40 years old, I decided I wanted some of my favorite cards back, mostly junk wax rookies from the ‘80s. I then discovered all of this and more was easily found on eBay, which was a major mistake for “adult” Ryan, but the holy grail for “inner child” Ryan. I am confident many of you will start chuckling at this point. For we all know that’s where the rabbit-hole of nostalgia and possibility begins!

Like many of you who have found yourselves to the wealth of great information that is, you too are excited about collecting your favorite cards, making lists, and learning a bit about baseball history along the way.

Understanding Baseball Rookie Card History

Whether you consider yourself a seasoned collector, an investor, or simply, someone like me, reliving the baseball nostalgia I felt as a kid, we all have our dream lists. We ogle the most famous Topps rookie cards from an era when baseball held a truly special place in the nation’s heart.

The late ‘40s and early ‘50s was an “era of integration,” with players like Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Luis Aparicio capturing the imagination of fans across the country. Into the ‘60s and beyond, it was an “era of expansion,” with new teams, new cities and new postseason rounds enriching the game and the landscapes in which it was played.

The explosion of talent and opportunity that resulted gave us the Hall-of-Fame players on this list. The nostalgia, rarity and difficulty in high grades makes this era of cardboard a collector’s dream. But for those same reasons, it also makes a substantial investment necessary, which pushes them out of reach for the average hobbyist.

This article about the best 2nd-year cards is for those who would like to own the next-best thing to the expensive Hall-of-Fame rookie cards of the time period.

When it comes to 2nd-year cards, some are more appealing, and in many cases, more beautiful than the true Rookie Cards (RC). A good handful of RCs during this era feature the star along with one to three other players, referred to as “Dual” or “Multi” rookies. In most of these cases, the 2nd-year card is the player’s first card as a single player, and thus the first time the spotlight is entirely on them.

When the average baseball card is only 2.5” by 3.5”, it’s nice to have the star player take up all that real estate, rather than share it with many players most folks either don’t remember or have never heard of.

An interesting fact is that there is only one dual-/multi-rookie card in Topps baseball history that has carried even two Hall-of-Fame players on the same card! That is the 1978 Rookie Shortstops #707, with Milwaukee’s Paul Molitor and Detroit’s Alan Trammell.

In other cases, many 2nd-year cards have a better design, pose or photograph than the design of the original RC. In a few cases, the exact same portrait is used, and the action shot or background is better or comparable as is the case with the 1954-1956 sets.

Some of the older and most coveted 2nd-year cards on this list will still set you back $100-$400, but I would argue having a piece of the American pastime even ungraded or in a PSA/SGC 5 or lower is still a special addition to any collection. Despite the long-term investment values trending lower than the true RC, these 2nd-year cards are fun to collect for those with a limited budget allocated to their love of the hobby.

Exclusions and Exceptions to the List

Hall-of-Famers who made their name as a manager rather than their playing careers are excluded from this list with the exception of Joe Torre. Most recognize Joe Torre as a tremendous manager, but he was also a great catcher and hitter and his 1963 2nd-year card is a nice one to own. Although, his 1962 RC is also within reach, especially ungraded.

A few HOF players are excluded from this list only because their first year RC is still very affordable for virtually anyone. If you are trying to collect most of the HOF RCs from this time period, it would be advisable to simply pick up the true rookie cards of 1960 Jim Kaat, 1971 Ted Simmons, 1973 Goose Gossage, 1977 Bruce Sutter, 1978 Jack Morris.

I would also recommend buying the 1977 Andre Dawson Multi-RC, as well as the 1978 RCs of Eddie Murray and Paul Molitor/Alan Trammell, as they are also very reasonable. (You should still try to grab their 2nd-year cards because they’re nice, too! They are included in the list below of the best 2nd-year baseball cards.) Each of these will likely only set you back the cost of lunch at Wendy’s. Heck, an ungraded copy of the 1978 Topps Jack Morris is still about the price of a Frosty!

What About Mickey Mantle!?!

We start with the 1953 set because the reality is that the best 2nd-year baseball cards in the 1952 Topps set are still way out of the league for anyone but serious investors. Think Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, whose true RCs were included in the Bowman 1951 set. Wouldn’t we all love to have a ‘52 Mantle?

The same is true for the first Topps appearances of Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Yogi Berra and Satchell Paige, among others. When Topps started producing cards, these players were well past their second years in the league, with Bowman or other brands producing their RCs or first cards in general. They are likely out of reach for the average collector.

Stan Musial (first Topps card in 1958), Ted Williams (1954) and Nellie Fox (1956) didn’t have Topps cards near their rookie seasons or even at the start of Topps due to competing contracts with Bowman. Whitey Ford also doesn’t show up here, since his military service meant he had no card in either set for 1952. His first Topps card wasn’t until 1953 in his third year. So, as you will see, we really stuck with the best 2nd-year baseball cards from Hall-of-Fame players between 1953 and1980. Ok, now, to the list of the best 2nd-year baseball cards from the past 70-plus years.

All card images provided courtesy of

Most of the sports card links on this page will take you to eBay. That means I will get a commission on the sales from this page. If you end up buying from these links, I personally thank you for supporting my website! Even if you don’t buy anything, thank you for reading my article! Enjoy!

Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards of the ‘50s

1953 Topps

1953 Topps Eddie Matthews - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1954 Topps

None this year, since the 1953 Topps set is one of the few sets with no Hall-of-Fame players with rookie cards.

1955 Topps

1955 Topps Henry Aaron - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1956 Topps

1956 Topps Roberto Clemente - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1957 Topps

1957 Topps Luis Aparicio - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1958 Topps

1958 Topps Frank Robinson - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1959 Topps

  • Roger Maris #202 – View on eBay!
    (While Maris isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame, we certainly think his awesome 2nd-year card deserves to be on this list!)
  • Orlando Cepeda #390 – View on eBay!
1959 Topps Roger Maris - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

Top 2nd-Year Topps Baseball Cards of the ‘60s

1960 Topps

1960 Topps Bob Gibson - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1961 Topps

1961 Topps Carl Yasztrzemski - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1962 Topps

1962 Topps Juan Marichal - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1963 Topps

1963 Topps Gaylord Perry - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1964 Topps

1964 Topps Pete Rose - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards
1964 Topps Pete Rose

1965 Topps

1965 Topps Phil Niekro - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1966 Topps

1966 Topps Joe Morgan - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1967 Topps

1967 Topps Steve Carlton - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1968 Topps

1969 Topps

1969 Topps Johnny Bench- Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards
1969 Topps Johnny Bench- Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

2nd-Year Baseball Cards of Hall-of-Famers From the ‘70s & Early ‘80s

1970 Topps

1970 Topps Reggie Jackson - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1971 Topps

  • Thurman Munson Rookie Cup #5 (First Single) – View on eBay!
    This card is so cool, we had to add it regardless of him not being in the HOF!
1971 Topps Thurman Munson - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1972 Topps

1973 Topps

1974 Topps

1975 Topps

1976 Topps

1977 Topps

1977 Topps Dennis Eckersley

1978 Topps

1978 Topps Andre Dawson

1979 Topps

1980 Topps

1980 Topps Ozzie Smith - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

1981 Topps

1981 Topps Rickey Henderson - Best 2nd-Year Baseball Cards

While we love the best 2nd-year baseball cards, we have a special place in our hearts for true rookie cards, as you can tell from these articles:

Are there some of the best 2nd-year baseball cards you love from more recent years? Certainly, Cal Ripken Jr. in 1983, Ryne Sandberg in 1984, and not-in-the-HOF Mark McGwire in 1987 (unless you don’t count his 1985 Team USA card as his true RC), rank among the best 2nd-year baseball cards in Topps Baseball history! Who else do you like!?!

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