24 Best Roberto Clemente Baseball Cards: The Ultimate Collectors Guide
Those in the market for Roberto Clemente baseball cards know one thing is for certain:
they aren't cheap.
He was one of the most productive players on the field. But, he was also extremely selfless and giving off the field. So much so that an award is given each year to the player who best exemplifies Clemente's character.
That reputation allowed him to win the hearts of many fans. And that puts his baseball cards in very high demand.
In this guide we'll take a crack at breaking down everything you need to know about Roberto Clemente cards.
Mainstream Roberto Clemente Cards
Let's take a look at some of Clemente's key mainstream cards first before we talk about some of his oddball cards. There are 19 mainstream Clemente cards in total so putting together his base set can take some time. But, if you're up for the challenge, it's an extremely rewarding pursuit.
1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $42,500
The only recognized Roberto Clemente rookie card in the hobby, his 1955 Topps #146 issue has exploded in popularity over the past several years. The high demand has driven up prices making it easily one of the most valuable baseball cards in the hobby. Although the Sandy Koufax and Harmon Killebrew rookies in the same set are keys, Clemente's rookie is far and away the most expensive of the trio. It's the most iconic card in Topps' legendary 1955 set and deserving of any Clemente collection. The double image of the young Clemente atop the green background makes this an all around beautiful card.
1956 Topps #33
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $2,000
Another of Clemente's most expensive cards is his second year issue from the 1956 Topps set. The same head shot from the card of the year before makes a comeback but Topps mixed in a nice action shot of Clemente making a leaping catch. The cards in this set aren't as glossy as those of the 1955 set. The backs also come in two different versions, either grey or white.
1957 Topps #76
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $800
This is one of my favorite Clemente cards as it was the first time Topps used full-color photos, standard card dimensions and full career stats on the backs. The head shot of Clemente smiling and looking off into the distance gives this card strong eye appeal. Centering is a key challenge to this iconic set.
1958 Topps #52
Estimated PSA 8 Value (White Letters): $1,150
Estimated PSA 8 Value (Yellow Letters): $2,500
This card comes in one of two variations: with the team name in white letters or in yellow letters. Cards numbered between 1 and 110 in the 1958 Topps set were part of this phenomenon. The yellow letter cards are more scarce therefore making them more valuable. Other than that printing difference, the condition issues between the two are very similar and limited mainly to centering challenges. The bright yellow background makes the image of Clemente at bat really pop.
1959 Topps #478
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $400
Topps again featured Clemente atop a yellow background in their 1959 set. An encircled head shot and his name in tilted lettering across the top are key design changes. I've always loved this card for its unique design. Centering and occasional black print marks in the yellow background are key challenges.
1960 Topps #326
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $415
Topps came out with a very unique design in 1960. It wasn't the first time they had featured a horizontal layout but the way they broke the cards up into sections is really neat. A black and white image of Clemente at the plate is shown on the left side with another larger full-color picture of him along the right. It's one of my favorite Clemente issues of the 1960's.
1961 Topps #388
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $250
High grade Clemente collectors will have a much easier time finding his 1961 Topps card in top condition compared to others. The company didn't face as many printing complications that year so collectors are rewarded. Occasional print bubbles along the bottom colored borders and centering are still present. The imagery of this card is really great as a young Clemente stares off into the distance with a determined look on his face.
1962 Topps #10
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $550
Condition issues were back with the 1962 Topps set in terms of centering and chipping showing along the woodgrain borders. Those concerns aside, I really love this card. A nice upper shot of Clemente waiting confidently in his batting stance gives this card a lot of character. The condition issues make it one of his most challenging cards of the 1960's.
1963 Topps #540
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $515
If I had to choose a favorite Roberto Clemente baseball card of the 1960's I think this would be the one. I've always loved the imagery and color scheme that Topps went with for this card. Finding one in high grade can be difficult because of the centering and print issues common with this set. The blue bottom border also shows wear and tear more easily than traditional borders. Overshadowed by the huge popularity of the Pete Rose rookie, this card isn't the key to the set but it's one of the must-haves.
1964 Topps #440
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $400
I think that the 1964 Topps set is one of the more basic baseball card sets they designed in the vintage era but Clemente's card seems to overcome those limitations and really stand out. Topps picked a very nice shot of him to anchor this card. The bright blue letters across the top and red border at the bottom work really nicely together.
1965 Topps #160
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $415
The pink border and bright yellow pennant with the Pirates team name on it make this card very sharp. A full head shot of Clemente with a serious look on his face complete a very nice overall look. Centering is a common concern for 1965 Topps baseball cards so take note when searching for this card. Beware of print dots in the pink borders, too.
1966 Topps #300
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $350
The design of the 1966 Topps Roberto Clemente baseball card is fairly basic and straightforward. The company didn't get too fancy but still pulled of a great look and feel with the team name angled in the upper left and personal info across the bottom border.
1967 Topps #400
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $250
There is a lot to love about Clemente's 1967 Topps card. The great head shot of the super star along with facsimile signature give collectors a lot to enjoy. Centering and tilting concerns are common across the fronts of these cards while several of the backs were off-center as well.
1968 Topps #150
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $210
The 1968 Topps cards were famous for their burlap borders. Although wear and tear can easily show up due to those borders, centering and other print issues aren't as common. So, you're more likely to find this card in high grade than some of his others. Many collectors consider the 1968 Topps design a bit awkward due to the borders but I think Clemente's card overcomes those limitations quite nicely. Still not the most important card in the set (that would be the Nolan Ryan rookie), Clemente's is a key.
1969 Topps #50
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $160
This card features a great image of Clemente, bat in hand, with a bright blue sky in the background. The yellow team name across the bottom and pink circle in the upper left with his name and position cap off an overall nice-looking card. Reggie Jackson's rookie card is the key to the set but Clemente's card is important, regardless. Tilting and centering are common issues with this card.
1970 Topps #350
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $165
Topps tried something new in 1970 by releasing cards with grey borders. Some collectors love this set, others don't. In my opinion, they are a bit more bland than other sets but I think they overcome that with a unique design. It's not my favorite Clemente card of the 1970's but you gotta admit, Topps made this one look nice. Centering and wear along the edges are the biggest concerns.
1971 Topps #630
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $700
This is easily my favorite Clemente issue of the 1970's. The legendary black borders of this set present wear and chipping risks so finding these in high grade isn't easy. Despite those issues, this card really pops. The bright yellow Pirates name across the top and great image of Clemente holding the barrel of the bat out towards the camera are nice touches. This card is his most expensive of the 1970's and even more expensive than those of the 1960's.
1972 Topps #309
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $100
Topps went with a different style of photo for Clemente in their 1972 by choosing to show him tossing a ball to himself. And the design and color schemes of the entire set are a bit aggressive but I think this Clemente card is still a nice one. The classic Pirates jersey of the early 70's and the yellow and black batting helmet look cool. Watch out for bad centering with this card.
1973 Topps #50
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $70
This would be the last time Clemente would be featured in a mainstream issue even though he didn't play during the 1973 season. Topps released the card after he was tragically killed in a plane crash during the off-season on his way to provide aid earthquake victims in Nicaragua. It's one of the largest tragedies to ever occur in sports history. A sad way to cap off the career and life of an amazing human being.
My Top 5 Favorite Oddball Clemente Cards
1968 Topps Plaks Checklist #2
Estimated Value: difficult to estimate due to rarity
The 1968 Topps Plaks test set is one of the most rare and odd sets of the 1960's. Never actually released to the public, getting your hands on one of these can be extremely difficult. There were only two checklists that featured 24 players in all. So that means six players are featured on both the front and back of each card. Clemente is shown on the second checklist on the side with plaks #13-24. You rarely see them surface for sale or auction. If you do see one, don't hesitate to grab it. Not only are you competing with Clemente collectors but the presence of Hank Aaron and Don Drysdale on the front as well as Willie Mays and Pete Rose on the back means you've got stiff competition from those collectors, too.
1962 Sugardale Wieners
Estimated Value: One graded as SGC 40 (3) sold for $3,107 in 2016
One of several scarce regional issues to feature Clemente, the 1962 Sugardale Wieners card is another one of my oddball favorites. The cards measured 3-3/4" x 5-1/8" and aren't as well-known as their more common regional Kahn's Wieners counterparts. Like the Kahn's cards, these were packaged with meat so that means they're susceptible to staining. The condition of these cards is relatively worse than the Kahn's cards so you'll only really find these in low grade condition. Interestingly, the set featured 22 players in all with 18 of them being Cleveland Indians players. Luckily, Clemente was one of four Pirates to be included.
1967 Topps Punch-Outs
Estimated Value: One graded as PSA 7 sold for $2629 in 2016
Meant to function as a game, Topps released this limited test set in 1967 exclusively in the Maryland area. The backs of each card show instructions on how to play the game by punching out the squares. Since many kids did play the game as instructed, it’s hard to find them still intact and in good condition. Clemente is shown as captain of a lineup including other stars such as Pete Rose, Curt Flood and Ken Boyer. These don’t surface very often and when they do they get a lot of attention and attract high prices.
1968 Topps 3-D
Estimated PSA 8 Value: $15,000
Arguably the most difficult of any Roberto Clemente card, his 1968 Topps 3-D is the key to this unusual test set. These weren't meant to be released to the public so you don't see them too often. Clemente is the one true star in the entire set so he's in very high demand. The cards measure approximately 2 ¼" by 3 ½" and feature plastic coating along the surface. That coating is often cracked making these tough to find in high grade. The back sides also exhibit printing issues with tilt and lack of focus at times.
Since Clemente appeared in nine different Kahn's Wieners sets from 1957 to 1966 (skipping 1965), technically I have more than five favorite oddball Clemente cards. I decided to group them all together though for the sake of simplicity. Kahn's Wieners cards were an Ohio regional issue that featured Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates players. And since they were packaged with meat, they often exhibit the staining common with most cards that were released with food products. You can see the differences in imagery and design among each of them below although I unfortunately do not have a picture of the 1958 since it's so rare. All of them are great cards but the earlier ones are the more expensive and difficult to find.
Roberto Clemente Baseball Cards Wrap-up
Roberto Clemente baseball cards have held up in value and popularity for years and there’s no reason they shouldn’t continue to do so for years to come. Along with Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Sandy Koufax his cards are the most sought after of any post-War player. With 19 mainstream cards and many rare regional issues to collect, there are plenty Clemente issues to chase to keep you busy.
He left an unforgettable legacy in the game of baseball as one of the most feared and powerful hitters the game ever saw.
Amazingly, he won four batting titles and finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits. He was selected to the All-Star game 15 times, earned 12 consecutive Gold Gloves, 2-time World Series champ and named league MVP once during his amazing career.
He was inducted into the the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. Clemente was a tremendous player on the field and an even greater human being off the field. He is one of the true legends the sport and fans had the pleasure to witness.