27 Willie Mays Baseball Cards You Need To Own
Willie Mays baseball cards are some of the most collected in the hobby.
The Say Hey Kid easily ranks on anyone's list as one of Major League Baseball's all time greatest--if not the greatest.
Harry Jupiter of the San Francisco Chronicle once said:
"No record book reflects this kind of concentration, determination, perseverance or ability. As a player, Willie Mays could never be captured by mere statistics."
He is one of the most beloved baseball players in the history of the sport making Willie Mays baseball cards some of the most collectible in the hobby.
Listed here are 27 of Mays' most important baseball cards that you can filter by the various methods shown below.
1951 Bowman #305 Willie Mays Rookie Card
The 1951 Bowman is the only recognized Willie Mays rookie card and one of the most valuable baseball cards in the hobby and easily among his most expensive. After starting his rookie campaign in a terrible 0-12 slump, Mays sent a Warren Spahn pitch over the left field wall of the Polo Grounds for his first Major League hit. Mays would finish the year with a .274 batting average, 20 home runs and 68 RBI which was enough to win the Rookie of the Year Award.
1952 Bowman #218
The 1952 Bowman is a key high-number card to the set and one of Willie’s toughest cards overall. Even though it’s usually more difficult to find in high grade it’s still not as quite as popular as his Topps card of the same year. To give you an idea, you can usually find the 1952 Bowman Mays for about half the price of the 1952 Topps issue.
1952 Topps #261
This card stands out among vintage baseball card collectors for being the first Topps card to feature Willie Mays. The 1952 Topps design is instantly recognizable and the card features a young Mays with his signature determined, focused look on his face. The United States Army drafted Willie Mays to help fight in the Korean War and he would miss most of the 1952 season. Easily one of the most important Willie Mays baseball cards to collect.
1953 Topps #244
Although Mays would miss the entire 1953 season continuing his service in the Korean War, Topps still featured him on a card that year even though Bowman did not. The 1953 Topps Mays card is arguably the key to the entire set because they are tough to find in high grade. The black border at the bottom is susceptible to chipping and wear and there have been about half as many Mays cards submitted for grading as Mickey Mantle cards since Mays cards were not part of the “find” years ago.
1954 Bowman #89
The 1954 season would see Mays win his one and only World Series ring. During Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, Mays made “The Catch”, an over-the-shoulder grab of a long drive by Vic Wertz of the Cleveland Indians. His 1954 issue shows him kneeling over with a bat across one leg and a beaming smile.
1954 Topps #90
The 1954 Topps Willie Mays baseball card was the first to feature a double image. The left side of the card features a bigger head shot of a smiling Mays while the right side shows a smaller action shot of him swinging the bat. Centering is often an issue and you’ll also usually run across jagged edges due to the way these cards were cut. This one is a favorite among collectors of Willie Mays baseball cards.
1955 Bowman #184
In Bowman’s last vintage set, they would oddly leave out rookie cards of Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax and Harmon Killebrew. Thankfully, they did not leave out Mays in this set with its infamous television set frame design. Known to show centering and chipping issues due to their brown borders, Mays’ 1955 Bowman cards are no exception. While not as collectible as his Topps issue of the same year, this card no doubt is still a favorite among hobby enthusiasts.
1955 Topps #194
Topps went for a unique angle in 1955 when it introduced its first horizontally designed card. But, when it comes to Mays’ card you’ll instantly notice something not so unique about it: his head shot on the 1955 Topps issue is the same as on the 1954 Topps issue. At least the action shots on each card were different. Duplication aside, the 1955 Topps issue is one of Mays’s most beautiful baseball cards.
1956 Topps #130
Say it ain’t so…would Topps really show the same head shot of Willie Mays yet again? Yes they would. We’ll forgive them for their continued lack of creativity in the head shot department, though, because its still an awesome card. Along with the head shot, collectors get a great action image of Mays sliding into home plate trying to beat the tag.
1957 Topps #10
Willie Mays’ 1957 Topps baseball card is fairly straightforward in design. The Say Hey Kid is shown prominently in a sharp, focused batting stance. What makes this card historically significant, though, is that it would be the last time Mays would appear on a mainstream baseball card in a New York Giants uniform as the team would move to San Francisco the next year.
1958 Topps #5
The 1958 Topps Willie Mays issue shows a great head shot of him with a bright smile over a bright blue background. Centering can be somewhat of an issue for this card but another thing you’ll usually see are the white print bubble spots on the blue background. This was the first mainstream card to show Willie Mays as a Giant in their new home in San Francisco.
1959 Topps #50
Topps came out with a great design in 1959 that showed player images encircled on top of bright colored backgrounds. Player names were also shown in all lower case letters at a diagonal angle across the top. The sharp 1959 design makes this a favorite among Mays collectors.
1960 Topps #200
Topps went back to a horizontal design for the last time in the vintage card era showing a nice action shot of Mays swinging the bat on the left with a larger head shot image of him on the right. Along with team and position information, his name is shown in the famous alternating letter coloring along a thick blue border at the bottom.
1961 Topps #150
Topps chose an unusual image of Mays to use on their 1961 issue. Unlike on most previous cards where he is smiling, Mays is shown with a puzzled almost blank stare. He doesn’t even have a San Francisco Giants cap on. It’s still a nice card to own and fewer centering and chipping issues than normal make his 1961 Topps card relatively easier to find in higher grade.
1962 Topps #300
The 1962 Topps Willie Mays card can be difficult to locate in high grade due to the infamous centering and chipping issues found in this famous set featuring wood grain borders. Mays was back to his smiling was on this card as Topps shows a great picture of him holding out the bat in kind of a half swing.
1963 Fleer #5
Luckily for Willie Mays vintage baseball card collectors, he was one of the stars that didn’t get left out of the small, 67 card set. Fleer picked a pretty nice image of Mays kneeling, supporting himself with the bat to include on their cards.
1963 Topps #300
The unique design of the 1963 Topps baseball card set makes most of its cards very easy on the eye. And the Willie Mays issue was no less visually appealing. A big, bright picture of Mays hoisting the bat over his shoulder dominates the top portion of the card. The lower right corner of the card boasts a smaller action shot of him swinging the bat to round out this great design.
1964 Topps #150
The image that Topps chose to go with for their 1964 Willie Mays baseball card may not be the greatest but the overall coloring on the card really makes it pop. Mays is shown looking over his right shoulder with a rather confused or distracted look. But, the yellow-brown coloring of the Giants team name at the top and border along the bottom make the card standout. Centering and chipping issues weren’t common with this set so finding high grade example of Willie Mays’ card can be relatively easy compared to other years.
1965 Topps #250
1965 Topps Willie Mays cards are usually faced with centering issues and occasionally you’ll spot print bubbles in the purple-colored borders. The 1965 Topps issue isn’t his most expensive to collect but again, the centering issues can prevent most of these cards from achieving higher grade.
1966 Topps #1
Topps came out with a pretty cool and straightforward design in 1966. A large, bright color photo of Mays tossing the ball into his own mitt creates great visual appeal for this card. The Giants team name in yellow letters across a diagonal green banner across the top and a similar color scheme for his name along the bottom make the card stand out.
1967 Topps #200
The 1967 Topps baseball card set is headlined by the Tom Seaver and Rod Carew rookie cards but the Willie Mays issue is still a collector favorite. The design is fairly straightforward overall but the large player images of Mays and others really made this set popular with collectors.
1968 Topps #50
Either you love the 1968 Topps baseball card design or you hate it, there really isn’t much in between. The culprit is the rather dull, burlap color design of the borders. Nolan Ryan and Johnny Bench rookies are the most frequently sought after cards in this set but Mays’ card is not far behind. The burlap color of the borders makes wear and chipping surprisingly less noticeable than usual. Centering issues weren’t as common this year so finding high grade Mays examples can be easy.
1969 Topps #190
Does something look familiar with this Willie Mays card? Yes, it does: it’s the same image Topps used in their 1966 issue only zoomed in farther. Topps was back to its old ways of displaying duplicated pictures of Willie Mays on its cards that year. It’s still a great card but centering can be an issue with this card due to the famous “tilt” problems with the 1969 Topps set.
1970 Topps #600
The 1970 Topps baseball card design is kind of bland with its all-gray borders and rather subtle team, player name and position information along the outside borders. Nonetheless, the Willie Mays card in this set still has great eye appeal. 1970 would be the last season Mays would finish hitting more than 20 home runs.
1971 Topps #600
Mays looks worried or deep in thought on his 1971 Topps issue. The all black borders of these cards was a nice concept but the common chipping issues that resulted make finding high grade Mays cards in this set a bit difficult.
1972 Topps #49
Mays split time between the San Francisco Giants (19 games played) and the New York Mets (69 games played) during the 1972 season. The famous 1972 Topps baseball card design featured a nice image of Mays with the bat hoisted over his right shoulder and “Giants” in big, beaming letters across the top. It’s definitely not one of Mays’ most popular vintage baseball cards among collectors but its design is truly unique.
1973 Topps #305
Willie Mays would appear for the last time on a mainstream baseball card on the 1973 Topps issue. This was also his only mainstream card showing him in a New York Mets uniform. In the last year of his legendary career that spanned 22 years, Mays would play only 66 games, batting .211 with 24 runs scored, 6 home runs and 25 RBI.
Willie Mays Baseball Cards Wrap-up
Willie Mays was arguably the greatest baseball player of all-time. He could hit, run, field, and throw with the best of them.
So his cards will remain highly collectible for years to come. But they’ll cost you some decent money to put together in high grade.
Even though Willie Mays baseball cards may not be as valuable as Mickey Mantle’s cards but they are still some of the most valuable in the hobby.