Jackie Robinson Cards: The Definitive Guide

1948-jackie-robinson-rookieJackie Robinson remains one of the most important figures not only in the history of baseball but in the history of human and civil rights.

His baseball cards leave behind a legend of Robinson’s greatness on and off the field.

For me, revisiting Robinson’s past history was at times heartbreaking.  Robinson was a victim of the rampant racism that plagued the country at the time.

In this piece, I take a quick look at Robinson’s background and success in baseball, while providing collectors with a guide to Robinson’s most important baseball cards.

I always love when there is a reason beyond the statistics to hold the card of a particular player. 

With Robinson, you own cards of both an amazing athlete while also holding onto the legacy of someone that changed the sport of baseball for all that came after him.

Jackie Robinson - A History of The Player And the Man

Jackie Robinson became the first black player in major league baseball, stepping onto Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.  Up to that point, baseball was a white man's game; most believed that African Americans didn't have the smarts or the talents to play major league baseball.

Robinson accomplished quite a bit in his shortened ten year career, including a rookie of the year award in 1947, one MVP award, six league pennants and one World Series championship. In 1962, Robinson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, yet his plaque said nothing about him breaking the league's color barrier.  

This was however intentional. Robinson told reporters and baseball writers that he only wanted to be recognized for his talents on the field. Ultimately, major league baseball decided that he should be recognized for his cultural impact on the game, and designed a new plaque in 2008.

jackie-robinson-plaque-ho

Robinson faced significant adversity, both as a child and on his way into major league baseball. Robinson played in the Negro Leagues for two seasons but didn't care for the disorganization and prevalence of gambling.  

And at the time, there were no black hotels, so players often slept outside the ballparks. In fact, when Robinson was on his way to spring training in 1946, he got bumped from a connecting flight because he was black. 

“Thinking about the things that happened, I don’t know any other ballplayer who could have done what he did. To be able to hit with everybody yelling at him. He had to block all that out, block out everything but this ball that is coming in at a hundred miles an hour. To do what he did has got to be the most tremendous thing I’ve ever seen in sports.”

Pee Wee Reese on Jackie Robinson (source LA Times)

Robinson even made a deal with Branch Rickey the GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  At their legendary meeting in 1945, Robinson agreed not to react to the racial attacks that were likely to come his way.

robinson-jackie

"Mr. Rickey, do you want a ballplayer who is afraid to fight back?” Robinson asked. No, came the reply. “I want a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back.” Robinson relented; Rickey found his pioneer.

Robinson went on to face significant verbal abuse from both players and fans, yet he fought through the adversity to change the course of baseball history forever.

Now let's take a look Robinson's baseball cards.  

Jackie Robinson's Baseball Cards 

1947 Bond Bread (D302)- Jackie Robinson Portrait With Facsmile Auto

Current Value (PSA 2 - Good Condition) - $2500
Current PSA Population: 108

While Robinson's 1948 Leaf card is generally recognized as his true rookie card, some make the argument that one of Robinson's 1947 Bond Bread cards should get the nod.  

The 1947 D302 Set is a 13 card set of only Jackie Robinson cards in different poses. The cards were issued in loaves of Homogenized Bond Bread and were considered to be a supplement to the regular D305 issue of 1947.

The cards were produced over three years, with the Jackie Robinson Portrait (with facsimile autograph) released first in 1947. While some initially thought that the cards were a "regional" issue, research has proven that cards were distributed as far as Montreal and St Louis.

1947-bond-bread-robinson-portrait

The card is currently valued at about $2000 in good condition which given the relative scarcity (~100 graded by PSA) makes it an attractive longer term investment for vintage collectors.

d302-robinson-psa

1947 Bond Bread (D305) - Jackie Robinson

Current Value (PSA 2 - Good Condition) - $1000
Current PSA Population: Unknown

Whereas the D302 set was a Jackie Robinson focused set, the D305 Bond Bread set was a 44 player set (with 4 additional boxing cards) distributed in loaves of Bond Bread.

There are some important things to know about the D305 set. The original cards that were issued have rounded corners in order to fit into the loaves of bread.

There are square versions that were created in a second print run during the 1950's and then later on but at an unknown date (before the 1980's).  (shoutout to Ted Z at Net54 for great work on this)

Thus if you want an original D305 Robinson, find the one with the 'beveled' corners. Note that the grading companies do not grade the square corner versions, although some may have slipped through in the past.

Overall the originals are fairly tough to find although there are a few graded copies on eBay at the moment.

1947-bond-bread-d305

1948 Leaf - Jackie Robinson #79

Current Value (PSA 2 - Good Condition) - $3000
Current PSA Population: 1327

Jackie's 1948 Leaf card is considered by most collectors to be his true 'rookie' card, although notably the card was issued in 1949, despite its categorization by most card grading companies as 1948. 

Leaf cards were sold in early 1949 and were the first color baseball cards issued after World War II.  Robinson's image is grainy and maybe not the most appealing of all his cards, but it has become a very high demand card for vintage collectors.

1948-jackie-robinson-rookie

Condition issues plagued the 1948 Leaf set, notably poor centering and staining. Thus, finding one in nice condition can be a challenge. PSA has graded a total of 40 Excellent-Mint (PSA 8) versions and only 8 Mint (PSA 9) copies.  

Lower grade copies of Robinson's Leaf card are easier to come by but still will run you into the thousands--expect to spend close to a minimum of $2000 on a poor to fair copy of the 1948 Leaf Robinson.

psa-robinson-leaf

1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson RC SGC 5 Invest! Hot! (Top Sports Cards)

$34,999.00
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1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson ROOKIE RC #79 PSA 4 VGEX (PWCC)

$7,750.00 (39 Bids)
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1948 Leaf JACKIE ROBINSON Rookie Brooklyn Dodgers SGC 1.5

$10,500.00
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Jackie Robinson 1948 Leaf Rookie #79 ** PSA 5 (mc) ** Great Color / No Creases

$7,999.99
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1948 LEAF JACKIE ROBINSON #79 RC ROOKIE SGC 5.5 BROOKLYN DODGERS HOF. Super Hot!

$47,000.00
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1958 JAPANESE MENKO JACKIE ROBINSON JAPAN BASEBALL PSA 1 RARER THAN 1948 LEAF

$15,250.00
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1948 Old Gold Cigarettes - Jackie Robinson

Current Value (PSA 2 - Good Condition) - $​500
Current PSA Population: <100

Somewhat of an unknown issue to most, the 1948 Old Gold Jackie Robinson set featured two postcard size cards of Robinson.  The "Catching Ball" card shows Robinson in a fielding position and is rarer than the 'Kneeling in Dugout' card.  

old-gold-robinson

1948 Old Gold Jackie Robinson 'Catching Ball' card

PSA has only graded 14 of the 'Catching Ball' card and 59 of the dugout card, thus these are pretty hard to find.  Occasionally they come up on eBay yet still tend to sell for under $1000 even in good to excellent condition. So, if you can find one, it's an excellent long term investment, considering that these cards preceded the issuance of Robinson's so-called 'rookie' cards.

robinson-crouching-old-gold

1948 Old Gold Jackie Robinson 'Kneeling in Dugout' card

1949 Bowman - Jackie Robinson #50

Current Value (PSA 2 - Good Condition) - $1200
Current PSA Population: 1336

The 1949 Bowman cards were released shortly after the Leaf issue of the same year, thus many also refer to Jackie's 1949 Bowman card as his rookie card.  

I love the early Bowman cards and the 1949 set is no exception. Robinson's '49 Bowman card features Jackie in his typical ear to ear smile with a bright red background which contrasts his blue dodgers uniform just perfectly.

49-bowman-robinson

Robinson's Bowman rookie and Leaf rookie have nearly the identical number of copies graded through PSA yet there is a fairly sizable differential in average selling price.  Below are the two PSA population reports for both cards:

pop-report-robinson-leaf

If you compare the Leaf population to the Bowman population below, it's evident that there are nearly equivalent amounts of graded copies--only difference is that the '49 Bowman card is a little bit easier to find Near Mint or better.

49-bowman-robinson-psa

Then if we look at the recent auction sales it's surprising that Robinson's Bowman card sells at a sizeable discount.

bowman-robinson-prices

Above the recent auction prices for the '49 Bowman Robinson and then below the Leaf auction prices.  Note there is a nearly 3x difference in price between the Leaf and Bowman cards. 

Knowing that both were released in 1949 and both have similar PSA populations, I'd say the Bowman rookie card looks relatively undervalued.

leaf-robinson-prices

1949 Bowman Jackie Robinson ROOKIE RC #50 PSA 2 GD (PWCC-A)

$1,750.00 (59 Bids)
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1949 Bowman Jackie Robinson ROOKIE RC #50 PSA Altered (PWCC)

$730.00 (27 Bids)
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1949 Bowman #50 Jackie Robinson Dodgers PSA 1 - POOR

$1,550.00
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Jackie Robinson 1949 Bowman Rookie #50 ** PSA 5 ** Great Image - Centered 50/50

$5,499.99
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1950 Bowman - Jackie Robinson #22

Current Value (PSA 2 - Good Condition) - $500
Current PSA Population: 1126

This would be Robinson's last Bowman card and in my mind, the best Robinson card from an appearance standpoint.  The 1950 Bowman set used full color artwork with no names on the front of the card.  

The Robinson (and Ted Williams) cards are the most counterfeited cards in the set, thus, i often recommend buying these graded.  Interestingly enough, Robinson's 1950 Bowman card has been graded less times than his '48 Leaf or '49 Bowman card and sells for a lot less; a lower graded copy can often be found for under $500.  

50-bowman-robinson

1950 Bowman #22 Jackie Robinson Brooklyn Dodgers HOF PSA 1 Poor

$356.00 (34 Bids)
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Jackie Robinson 1950 Bowman #22 ** PSA 5 ** Baseball Icon / Nice Eye Appeal

$2,199.99
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1950 Bowman #22 Jackie Robinson SGC 5 “EX” 60 HOF Brooklyn Dodgers “CENTERED PSA

$2,600.00
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1950 Bowman #22 Jackie Robinson PSA 5

$2,695.00
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1952 Berk Ross - Jackie Robinson

Current Value (PSA 2 - Good Condition) - $250
Current PSA Population: 177

As we discussed in our comprehensive overview of Berk Ross cards, the 1952 Berk Ross set is a bit of a mystery, likely an unlicensed issue, but one that carries a lot of appeal with vintage card collectors.

Robinson's card in the '52 Berk Ross set features Robinson in mid-air and features the crude images characteristic of the Berk Ross set.  Robinson's card is much harder to find than most of his popular issues of the era; PSA has graded less than 200 copies to date.

Even with the relative scarcity of the card, a good condition Berk Ross card can be found for less than $300.  

berk-ross-robinson

1952 Topps - Jackie Robinson #312

Current Value (PSA 2 - Good Condition) - $1000
Current PSA Population: 1130

If the '50 Bowman Robinson is the best to look at, the 1952 Topps Jackie Robinson just might be the most iconic.  While the '52 Topps Mickey Mantle often gets all of the attention, the Robinson card comes a close second and often gets overlooked.  

Robinson's card is the second card in the rarer high-number series (which also features Mantle) and is Jackie Robinson's first Topps card.  Note that Robinson's Bowman run ended in 1950 and many believe it is due to Robinson signing an exclusive contract with Topps.

From a scarcity standpoint, Robinson's '52 Topps card has a slightly lower population than his '48  Leaf and both Bowman cards.  It is also on average equivalent from a pricing standpoint to his '49 Bowman card and in good condition sells for around $1000.

52-topps-robinson

1952 Topps Jackie Robinson Rookie RC PSA 4 (Top Sports Cards)

$4,399.00
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1952 Topps Jackie Robinson Rookie RC BVG 4 (Top Sports Cards)

$3,899.00
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1952 Topps #312 Jackie Robinson SGC 4 - VG/EX compare to PSA

$3,500.00
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1953 Topps - Jackie Robinson #1

Current Value (PSA 2 - Good Condition) - $1000
Current PSA Population: 2831

Robinson's second Topps card is part of another landmark set from the 1950's.  The 1953 Topps Robinson is more widely available than the '52 Topps set and is on average more affordable.  A good condition '53 Robinson can be found for around $200

The beauty in the 1953 set lies in the beautiful artwork of one Gerry Dvorak who was paid a reported $25 for each rendering.  This set was the first by Topps to utilize original paintings. The paintings occasionally come up for sale--the last known sale of the original Robinson artwork took place in 1989, selling for $71,000.

53-topps-robinson

1954 Topps - Jackie Robinson #10

Current Value (PSA 2 - Good Condition) - $200
Current PSA Population: 4411

The 1954 Topps set went back to using a player image and features a face shot of the player along with a smaller action shot to the right of the player's portrait.  While the '54 Topps Robinson is still a desirable card, it's not one of my favorites.  Although at $150 to $200 in Good condition, the card is an affordable way for collector's to get a start on building a Jackie Robinson card collection.

54-topps-robinson

1955 Topps - Jackie Robinson #50

Current Value (PSA 2 - Good Condition) - $1​50
Current PSA Population: 4672

In 1955, Topps maintained a similar format with the two images however with one notable difference; all cards were produced in a horizontal format. The issue has a roughly similar PSA graded population to the 1954 set and on average has an equivalent value.

55-topps-robinson

1955 TOPPS #50 JACKIE ROBINSON - PSA 2 GOOD (SVSC) - CENTERED!

$299.99
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1955 Topps Jackie Robinson #50 PSA 8 NM-MT (PWCC)

$3,050.00 (33 Bids)
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1955 TOPPS #50 JACKIE ROBINSON - PSA 4 - T5296 - BEAUTIFUL CARD!!

$245.50 (12 Bids)
End Date: Sunday Jul-19-2020 18:22:19 PDT
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1955 Topps Doubleheader - Jackie Robinson #25

Current Value (PSA 2 - Good Condition) - $​200
Current PSA Population: 257

The 1955 Topps Doubleheader set was an attempt to replicate the awesome 1911 T201 Mecca Double Folders cards.  The cards were sold in one card packs for a penny and were printed in significantly less quantities then the base year set.

Jackie Robinson's card (which also features Don Hoak) is one of the most desirable cards in the 66 card set.  I think that these cards deserve some more attention from collectors.  With only about 250 graded by PSA, these are a relative bargain compared to Robinson' s other cards from the 1950's.  

1955-topps-jackie-robinson-doublheader

1955 Topps Doubleheader # 25/26 JACKIE ROBINSON/DON HOAK BROOKLYN DODGERS

$499.99
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NICE 1955 Topps Doubleheader # 25/26 JACKIE ROBINSON/DON HOAK BROOKLYN DODGERS

$279.50
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1955 Topps Doubleheader Baseball Card #25/26 Jackie Robinson / Don Hoak

$275.00
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1955 Topps DoubleHeader #25 Jackie Robinson / D / 26 - Dodgers / Dodgers 5 - EX

$445.00
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1956 Topps - Jackie Robinson #30

Current Value (PSA 2 - Good Condition) - $1000
Current PSA Population: 1552 (Gray Back), 4435 (White Back)

This is Robinson's last Topps card and his last major baseball card release.

The 1956 Topps issue utilizes the same portrait from Robinson's 1955 issue.  

Note, there are two variations of the card based on the back color--one with a gray back, which is relatively harder to find then the version with a white back.

Due to the variation in availability, the gray back Robinson does carry a slight premium to the white back version.

56-topps-robinson

1956 Topps Jackie Robinson #30 SGC 5.5 EX+ (PWCC)

$245.50 (16 Bids)
End Date: Wednesday Jul-15-2020 18:43:35 PDT
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1956 Topps - Jackie Robinson #30 - PSA 7 NM Great Example!!

$469.00 (19 Bids)
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1956 Topps Jackie Robinson #30 PSA 4 VGEX (PWCC)

$247.50 (11 Bids)
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1956 Topps #30 (White Back) ~~Jackie Robinson~~PSA 5 EX~Brooklyn Dodgers~HOF

$399.99
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