Card of the Day: 1952 Topps Andy Pafko
Ever since I received my Lou Gehrig rookie card in the mail about two weeks ago, I’ve been in a different place as a collector. All of the shiny stuff I’ve pulled from packs in recent years really has become irrelevant to me since that 1933 Goudey Gehrig arrived. I’ve not bought a single card in more than two weeks, but in the meantime all I can think about is baseball, its greatest players historically and their old cardboard. Over the weekend I picked up “Cobb,” by Al Stump, and while I’m only 30-some-odd pages into it, it’s fueled my passion for the vintage cards again. And because I am not in a financial place to purchase anything new at this point — and probably for the rest of the year — I decided to dig an oldie but goodie out of my collection to share with the world: 1952 Topps Andy Pafko.
Mention the name at any cardshop across America and only one vision will come to mind, the card shown above. This is the very first card produced in its mainstream modern Topps baseball cards set. Sure tobacco cards have been produced since the late 1880s, Cracker Jack had shown players on cards for four decades before the Pafko was made, and Bowman, before being acquired by Topps, had been making cards since 1948. But this is Topps. This the brand you’re grandfathers owned; the ones your father’s bought; the ones you’ve been purchasing, and surely the ones your kids will be trading for, assuming they’re not too busy with their video games and other hobbies.
What I’ve been unable to determine is why Topps made Pafko it’s first card in this set. Typically the first card is reserved for the game’s best stars. Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays graced the spot in subsequent years. When Upper Deck broke into the business in 1989, they gambled — and it paid off — when they selected Ken Griffey Jr. as the first card.
What’s also interesting here is that Pafko is pictured as a Dodger. Ironic only because of Pafko’s 17 seasons in the Big Leagues, he only spent one and a half of them in Brooklyn. He spent eight and a half seasons with the Chicago Cubs and seven with the Milwaukee Brewers. Makes you wonder if the fact he played for the ever-popular Brooklyn Dodgers doesn’t help add to the value this card carries. And for the record, these Pafko’s run about $5,000, but can be had in poorer condition for less than $150. That’s a excellent collectible if you ask me.
Also of note is that there are two versions of the card. The first 80 cards in the 1952 Topps set had what is called black backs and red backs. The color refers to the color of the bar on the card’s reverse that contains the vital info for the pictured player. If you’re a person of technicalities, the red backs are considered to be the “first” cards. Although both colored backs were supposedly produced in equal quantities, there was a time where then red back — which is what is pictured here — carried a higher price tag.