Ted Williams Baseball Cards: The Ultimate Collector’s Guide
Ted Williams baseball cards are some of the most unique in the hobby, in my opinion.
The timing of his career allowed for something special that you don’t see with most Hall of Famers:
He would appear on some of the most iconic pre-War and post-War issues.
But at the same time, he’d be left out of key sets, too.
Like the 1952 Topps set, for example…it’s probably the most glaring omission of Ted Williams.
We’ll get into the details behind many of the ins and outs of Ted Williams cards in this guide.
So let’s jump right in and take a look at some of the most important Ted Williams cards you can collect.
1939 Goudey Premiums
Estimated Value: A PSA 4 VG-EX copy sold for $2,100 in 2017
Often overlooked, the 1939 Goudey Premiums Ted Williams card is not nearly as popular as his 1939 Play Ball issue. These 4" x 6-3/16" cards don't come up for sale too often and are far more rare than their Play Ball cousins. But, for some reason they just don't get the same notoriety. The sepia-toned card features one of the best images of Williams on any of his cards, in my opinion. That famous wrap-around, corkscrew swing of his is shown front and center.
1939 Play Ball #92 Ted Williams Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $200,000
His only recognized rookie card, the 1939 Play Ball Ted Williams is high atop many collectors' want lists. That easily makes this card one of the most valuable baseball cards out there. The black and white image of Ted Williams is iconic throughout the hobby making this card instantly recognizable. Centering and wear are typical issues but this is a must-have card in any condition.
1940 Play Ball #27
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $25,000
Along with Joe Dimaggio and Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ted Williams is unsurprisingly a key to this important set. A black and white head shot of Williams is surrounded by a thin black border. And the drawings of baseball equipment along the bottom border give the card a picture frame look to it. I also like how his nickname "Ted" is called out along the bottom, given his actual name was Theodore.
1941 Play Ball #14
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $35,000
What does a guy have to do to win the MVP award? Even though Williams batted .406 with 37 home runs, he still lost out to the incredibly popular Joe Dimaggio for the 1941 MVP distinction. His 1941 Play Ball issue goes down as the third mainstream card on which Williams was shown but it's still strikingly similar to his Play Ball card of the previous year. The main differences between the two are the color artwork and removal of the baseball equipment along the bottom border. It's an amazing card and one of the best pre-War cards, in my opinion.
1948 Leaf #76
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $35,000
The 1948 Leaf #76 card marked Ted's transition into post-War cards and is one of the keys to the set. Other than the Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige cards, his is my favorite of all the 1948 Leaf baseball cards. The imagery and coloration gives the card tremendous eye appeal. Print defects and centering are tough challenges to overcome making high grade copies very valuable.
1950 Bowman #98
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $10,500
Although Bowman issued baseball cards in 1948 and 1949, he wouldn't appear in their sets until 1950. I've always loved the Bowman cards of the early 1950's since they featured some of the best imagery of any vintage baseball cards. The 1950 Bowman Ted Williams card is no exception and boasts tremendous artwork of Williams and his iconic swing. Centering is a common issue but it's also well-known that his card will frequently show a small print line that extends from the top of the stadium to his cap on the right side of the card. That print line doesn't detract from its value though.
1951 Bowman #165
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $10,500
His 1951 Bowman card looks exactly like his Bowman issue from the year before minus a few details. The dimensions are different for starters as this one measures in at 2-1/16" x 3-1/8" while his 1950 Bowman card was a bit smaller at 2- 1/16" by 2½". The card image is also zoomed in more closely to Williams and also features his name in a black box in the lower right corner. They added clouds in the sky, too, which was an odd change.
1952 Berk Ross
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $5,500
Ted's 1952 Berk Ross card is rather plain and straightforward in design compared to some of his others. But, it's still a great card that any collector would love to have. A head shot of Williams looking off into the distance sits atop a light blue background that spills over the black border. No details about his team, position or name were added to the front but does Ted Williams really need that kind of introduction?
1952 Red Man Tobacco #23
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $3,750
One of my favorite oddball Ted Williams issues is his 1952 Red Man Tobacco card. The card featured a small stub along the bottom that collectors could remove and, once they had 50 of them, mail in for a baseball cap of the MLB of their choice. Usually, you'll find these cards with the tabs missing which makes those with the tabs still intact more valuable. The rich, emerald green background and small bio of Williams make this one a bit more interesting than many of his other cards, in my opinion.
1954 Bowman #66
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $50,000
This is one of Ted's most famous cards because of the story behind it. Bowman originally lined up production to have Williams as card #66 in the set. But since he remained under exclusive contract with Topps, they had to pull his card and replace card #66 with Jim Piersall. That makes this card a bit more rare than other in the set due to the lower print quantities. Behind Mickey Mantle, his is the most expensive card in the set but centering and print defects can make high grade examples very tough to find.
1954 Topps #1
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $18,500
In an interesting move, Topps decided to have Ted Williams "bookend" their 1954 set by having him appear on the first and last cards. With Mickey Mantle only appearing on Bowman cards that year, Williams' 1954 Topps cards are the most expensive in the set behind the rookie card of Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and Al Kaline. The dual image of a bright smiling Williams in the lower left corner with an action shot of him behind makes for an outstanding card.
1954 Topps #250
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $18,500
Just as desirable as his first card in the set, Topps mixed up the imagery and coloration for his last card, #250, in their 1954 set. Centering and chipping are common concerns on both cards, making high grade copies rather scarce. If I had to pick a favorite between the two, I guess I'd have to go with this one just because I like the yellow color scheme a bit more. It gives it more pop.
1954 Wilson Franks
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $125,000
Of all the oddball issues of the 1950's, this may very well be the most valuable and most easily-recognized. Regional food issues were common in those days with many cards being packaged with potato chips, cookies, and meats. Not surprisingly, the fact that these Ted Williams cards were packaged with hot dogs makes staining and other condition challenges occur frequently. The lack of borders and nice action shot of Williams makes it one of his best-looking cards in my opinion. It's rarity in high grade places it high among his most expensive cards to own.
1955 Topps #2
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $13,500
In 1955, Topps would release cards with horizontal layouts. Topps used the same head shot of Williams from their 1954 set but mixed it with a different action shot. The imagery and yellow color make this a beautiful card. The Clemente, Koufax and Killebrew rookies may be the keys to the set but Ted's card is still way up on the list. Centering and print defects in the yellow background are common challenges.
1955 Topps Doubleheaders #69/70 Williams & Smith
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $15,000
This unusual set features many stars like Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and Jackie Robinson but Williams is the key card to own. When unfolded, these cards depict singe player pictures with beautiful stadium artwork in the background. However, if you fold them the other way, a second player is shown. Hence, the reason why Williams shares this card with Hal Smith. You can imagine how tough it is to find these cards unfolded and in nice shape.
1956 Topps #5
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $9,000
I love this card but I really wish Topps would have mixed up the imagery a bit. For the third time in a row, they chose to use the same head shot of Williams on another dual-image card. Oh well, it's still an awesome card. I really like the action shot of Williams watching one of his towering drives leave the bat. Like many cards in the 1956 Topps set, Ted's card comes with either a white or gray back with the gray backs being a bit more rare.
1957 Topps #1
Estimated 9 Mint Value: $10,250
Once again, Topps would choose Williams to lead the way in their 1957 baseball card set. The two-thirds frontal image of Williams swinging looks strikingly similar to his 1950 and 1951 Bowman cards. Obviously this one is an actual full color photo image of Williams as opposed to artwork since this was the first year Topps produced cards that way. His likeness, along with the fact that being card #1 exposed his card to more danger of wear and tear makes it among the most valuable in the set.
1958 Topps #1
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $22,000
Although Williams may appear rather serious-looking compared to previous cards, the card still has a warm feel to it given the bright yellow background. Print defects can make their way onto that yellow background, however, so collectors should be aware of this. This would be the last time Ted Williams would be featured in a Topps baseball card set as a player.
1959 Fleer Ted Signs For 1959 #68
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,350
In 1959, Ted Williams would have the honor of an entire set being devoted to him. There are 80 cards total in the set but #68 is a bit tougher to locate than the rest. On that card, entitled "Ted Signs for 1959", Red Sox GM Bucky Harris is depicted alongside Williams. But since Harris was still signed exclusively with Topps, this was yet another Ted Williams card that had to be pulled from production. That rarity pushes its value way up and makes it a key along with cards #1, #2 and #80.
1960 Fleer Baseball Greats #72
Estimated PSA 9 Value: $550
It may not be one of his most expensive cards but it's interesting, nonetheless. Fleer came out with a set in 1960 that featured many baseball greats like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Christy Mathewson and of course, Ted Williams. The star-studded set isn't as hard to find in higher grade as many other vintage sets which is good news for collectors. The 1960 season would be Ted's last as a player and he still managed to put up a .316 average, 29 homers and 75 RBI...good enough for one last All-Star nomination.
Ted Williams Baseball Cards Wrap-Up
Ted Williams baseball cards will continue to be some of the most coveted and expensive baseball cards for years to come.
He once said, "All I want out of life is that when I walk down the street folks will say, 'There goes the greatest hitter that ever lived."
You'd be hard pressed to find many baseball fans who would argue that he didn't fulfill that dream.
He was arguably the greatest hitter the game has ever seen and would finish his career with nineteen All-Star appearances, two MVPs, two Triple Crowns and six batting titles.
He accomplished all of this while losing five years due to his service in World War II and the Korean War.
Any one of the cards on this list are great Ted Williams cards to own. They each uniquely commemorate one of the game's greatest players to ever step on the field.