1954 Topps Ernie Banks Rookie Card (Value, Rarity, Investment)

November 21, 2022

ernie banks

Ernie Banks was not just a Hall of Fame player. He was a Chicago icon.

His signature "Let's play two!" approach to the game of baseball thrilled Cubs fans, as did his uncommon power from the shortstop position.

Off the field, his charitable work and success as a businessman earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A testament to his enduring reputation among Americans, young and old.

The 1954 Ernie Banks rookie card is a timeless classic appealing to vintage baseball card collectors.

Let's take a deeper look at what makes this player and card so special.

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Ernie Banks As A Player

No player is more closely associated with the Chicago Cubs than Ernie Banks.

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He played his entire career with the Cubs, even voted by fans as the greatest Cub of all time. In 1982, Banks was the first Cub to have his number retired. 

A statue depicting a smiling Banks at-bat greets fans outside venerable Wrigley Field today.

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Ernie Banks statue at Wrigley (source Wiki Commons)

In 1955, his third season in the Majors, Banks clubbed a record-setting five grand slams on his way to a total of 44 home runs, also a then-record for a shortstop.

By 1959, he became the first player in National League history to record back-to-back MVP awards.

Then, in 1960, he became the first Cub to win a Gold Glove award. 

Despite Banks's consistent excellence, the Cubs never had a winning season in his first ten seasons with the team.

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Ernie Banks 1955 Bowman card

Injuries made it an obvious call for the hard-hitting Banks to re-establish himself as a slugging first baseman full-time in 1962.

Though he never again reached the 40-homer mark, his consistency allowed him to smash his 500th career home run in 1970.

Banks became the ninth player to reach that milestone, finishing his career with 512 home runs among the top 25 all-time.

As age and injuries began to catch up to Banks in the mid-1960s, the Cubs began to at long last hit their stride as a team. 

From 1967 to 1971, the Cubs posted a winning record each year, with elder statesman Banks serving as player coach.

The team never quite broke through to a pennant, leaving Banks to retire in 1971 He finished with the bittersweet record of 2,528 career games played without making a playoff appearance.

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1955 Topps Ernie Banks

His enduring optimism as the face of one of baseball's most losing franchises left an indelible mark on those around him.

Banks was said to have predicted a pennant for the Cubs before the start of each season, no matter how woeful the roster was.

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"From the minute he woke up to the minute he went to bed, he’s the same way with a positive attitude and a joy to be around"

Billy Williams ‧ Longtime teammate of Banks and fellow Hall of Famer  

In an era where some peers posted bigger numbers, achieved more team success, or played under a brighter public spotlight, Ernie Banks stood out as an ambassador for the game whose popularity was universal.

Banks' late '60s manager Leo Durocher, a notoriously tough customer, once said, "Banks is the one nice guy who finished first — but he had the talent to go with it."

The 1954 Topps Ernie Banks Rookie Card

ernie-banks-rookie-card

1954 Topps Baseball set is one of the most popular baseball sets ever made

The set include over 60 rookie cards and is chock full of gorgeous visuals featuring two-player images, a team logo, and a unique color background that varies by player.

The white-backgrounded Banks rookie, #94, is one of the set's headliners alongside rookie cards of fellow Hall of Famers Hank Aaron (the set's most valuable card) and Al Kaline.

The Banks card features Mr. Cub's infectious smile in the primary image, with the secondary image displaying Ernie's fearsome batting stance.

The card back details his exploits as a Negro Leaguer, Army Artilleryman, and high school track, baseball, and football star. Pretty impressive resume for the then-23-year-old!

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How Much Is An Ernie Banks Rookie Card Worth?

Only two PSA 10 (Gem Mint) copies of Mr Cub's rookie card exist. They don't change hands often; the last sale in 2012 was for over $142,000

Today, that number would be much, much higher -- by comparison, the last PSA 9 (Mint) auction recorded in May 2021 saw the card sell for $144,000 -- more than the previous known PSA 10 sale.

1954 TOPPS ERNIE BANKS HOF ROOKIE CUBS #94 PSA 3

$999.99  
End Date: Sunday Dec-04-2022 21:14:53 EST
Buy It Now for only: $999.99
Buy It Now

1954 TOPPS #94 ERNIE BANKS RC HOF POP 6 PSA 2 DNA AUTO AUTHENTIC A3486770-164

$500.00  (19 bids)
End Date: Sunday Dec-04-2022 20:03:00 EST

Bid

1954 Topps Baseball #94 Ernie Banks PSA 4 (MC)

$900.00  

Buy It Now for only: $900.00
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PSA 8 samples of the Ernie Banks rookie card don't come cheap, either. Recent auctions for cards in this condition have average sales in the $33,000 range.

Hoping for a chance to snare Mr. Cub on a more modest budget? 

There's still a chance; auctions in PSA 1 (Poor) condition can still be won for less than $500, and ungraded copies in decent shape can still be found on eBay for less than $1,000 on average. 

What Is The Current Graded Population For An Ernie Banks Rookie Card?

As mentioned before, just two of the 3,365 cards graded by PSA have returned the coveted 10 grade.

1954 Topps Ernie Banks Rookie Card PSA Recent Sales and PSA Populations

Fourteen PSA 9 copies, along with 14 grade 9's with qualifiers, are known to exist.

Most 1954 Banks rookie cards graded by PSA receive between a 3 (VG) and 6 (EX-MT), with grade 4 (VG-EX) being the most common.

Centering and print defects are common issues with this card, and the overall graded population distribution for the Banks card is in line with the set's other superstar cards.

Ernie Banks rookie, commonly found off center like this example.

How Much Is An Autographed Ernie Banks Rookie Card Worth?

PSA has authenticated nearly 100 autographed Ernie Banks rookie cards, a fairly impressive number given not only the age and value of the card but since the card design incorporates a facsimile signature, meaning any autographed samples would likely display Mr. Cub's signature directly above another signature!

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Based on recent eBay sales and listings, expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 for an authenticated Banks autographed rookie card.

1958 Topps #310 Ernie Banks

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1958 Topps Ernie Banks

While it isn't a rookie card, any budget collector should consider this similar Ernie Banks baseball card, also of 1950s vintage and issued in the first of his MVP seasons.

The solid background, portrait and team logo on this issue echo the feel of the iconic rookie issue but can be found on eBay for under $100 ungraded in EX condition or better.

What's the Investment Potential?

The large and loyal Cubs fan base and the iconic place of the 1954 Topps set within the hobby make the Ernie Banks rookie card one of the more reliable investment-quality cards of the 1950s

Pricing on the card in high grades has significantly increased of late -- PSA 8 sales recorded in mid-2020 were in the $10,000 to $15,000 range, while those recorded just 18 months later consistently reach $35,000 -- so it's hard to say where such momentum may lead in the short-term for this long-established card.

That said, there's a condition and price point for just about everyone out there, so for those looking to add Mr. Cub to their collections, finding your sweet spot on price will likely be rewarded in the long run.

1954 Topps Ernie Banks Rookie Cards on eBay

1954 TOPPS ERNIE BANKS HOF ROOKIE CUBS #94 PSA 3

$999.99  
End Date: Sunday Dec-04-2022 21:14:53 EST
Buy It Now for only: $999.99
Buy It Now

1954 TOPPS #94 ERNIE BANKS RC HOF POP 6 PSA 2 DNA AUTO AUTHENTIC A3486770-164

$500.00  (19 bids)
End Date: Sunday Dec-04-2022 20:03:00 EST

Bid

1954 Topps Baseball #94 Ernie Banks PSA 4 (MC)

$900.00  

Buy It Now for only: $900.00
Buy It Now

1954 Topps Baseball #94 Ernie Banks PSA 4.5

$1,800.00  

Buy It Now for only: $1,800.00
Buy It Now

Ernie Banks 1954 Topps #94 RC (PSA 8) (MC)

$3,800.00  
End Date: Monday Nov-28-2022 20:02:32 EST
Buy It Now for only: $3,800.00
Buy It Now

Brad Worley

About the author

Brad is a freelance writer and long-time collector focusing on vintage basketball and baseball cards. He has an unhealthy memory for junk wax ephemera and a healthy skepticism of cards in cans.

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  1. A fun fact: A stolen Ernie Banks rookie card gets the ball rolling in a season four episode of According to Jim, "Kentucky Fried Beltzman."

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