1961 Topps Baseball Card # 44 AL Home Run Leaders:Mantle, Maris, Lemon, Calavito

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1961 Topps Baseball Card # 44 AL Home Run Leaders:Mantle, Maris, Lemon, Calavito

Featuring the Hall of Fame rookie cards for Juan Marichal, Billy Williams and Ron Santo, 1961 Topps Baseball is further enhanced by a deep checklist and variety of subsets. Once again, veteran stars lead the way in terms of value.

The 1961 Topps Baseball set represents yet another record-setting expansion for Topps. This was due in large part to the two new teams which were added to the American League for the 1961 season as well as multiple subsets. The set was released in seven series, but the important thing to note is that the first 370 cards are more readily available than the remaining group.

Measuring the now-standard 2-1/2″ by 3-1/2″, 1961 Topps Baseball features a vertical layout. The cards include portraits of the players with the player name and team displayed in a small box along the bottom. Showcasing a more basic design, many collectors will also likely notice that the team logos are not included. This was because of the uncertainty about the expansion teams and the resulting shift in players.

Continuing the the purist feel, 1961 Topps Baseball card backs do not contain any puzzles or trivia, but instead feature the player’s season-by-season and career statistics. However, the cartoons that kids had become accustomed to seeing were once again included. Many consider this to be one of the true classic baseball card sets for the simplicity of design, letting the photograph and statistics stand on their own.

Presenting a great way for collectors to track down multiple card designs, subsets are plentiful in 1961 Topps Baseball. Part of the more common options, League Leaders (#41-50) cover the top statistical performers across baseball. Team managers are featured in two separate groups in the set (#131-139, #219-226). World Series Highlights (#306-313) offer a recap of the previous championship series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees.

Things get a little more difficult for collectors beyond that. Baseball Thrills (#401-410) feature notable moments from the previous year. Most Valuable Player cards (#471-486) look back at the entire decade of the 1950s with the American and National League MVPs. Finally, Sporting News All-Stars (#566-589) document the previous year’s All-Star squads and are part of the elusive high-number series in 1961 Topps Baseball. Also, checklist cards are found for each series and can be particularly difficult to find in an unmarked condition.

Superstars like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris will always command attention from collectors, but the 1961 Topps Baseball set was particular noteworthy for the duo. As many fans will remember, 1961 was the year of the original home run chase, with both players battling it out to break Babe Ruth’s long-held, single-season record for home runs. Maris ultimately hit 61 dingers, establishing the new record, while injuries derailed Mantle, who finished at 54.

Given the number of cards included, it should not be too shocking that errors and variations are prevalent in 1961 Topps Baseball. In addition to three versions of checklist #98, there are actually two cards for #463, with both Jack Fisher and the Milwaukee Braves sharing the spot on the checklist. The Milwaukee card was intended to occupy #426. As a result, there is no card #426. There are also gaps in the checklist at #587 and #588, putting the full checklist at 587 cards.

If that is not enough to keep collectors busy, 1961 Topps Baseball also has two insert sets. Issued in panels of two, there are 208 total options, with most available with either a green or brown tint. Stamps for Al Kaline can be located in both colors. Also, Magic Rub-Offs, basically a temporary tattoo, were available in Series 1 packs. Each team has one player and a pennant available, for a total of 36 cards.

Because of the sheer number of cards in 1961 Topps Baseball, this can be a very costly set to complete. Things are further complicated for high-grade collectors as the release is notorious for having centering issues and print dots. However, because of the key rookies and numerous Hall of Fame players, it has become a favorite of vintage collectors.

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