The Ultimate & Unique 1953 Topps Willie Mays Goes Away (Again!) 31 Years Later

The 1953 Topps card of Willie Mays is perhaps Mays’ most visually stunning card that was ever created by Topps. It’s also more scarce than the 1952 Topps card of Willie Mays that is so highly coveted by collectors. And now we know what the value of the unique artwork used to make the card is worth. After 30 bids in the Lelands Summer 2022 Auction, the artwork fetched $246,968.40 in auction.

Lelands knew the provenance of this “art card” in detail. This was important because the item had been outside of the eyes of the hobby for years and years. The auction hose indicated that the Mays art was originally purchased in a Topps Archives auction way back in 1989, and noted that the Marriott Corporation won the piece for $88,000 at that time (also disclosed as being worth about $210,000 in modern dollars). Marriott also then used that artwork for promotional purposes and that it had created a limited-edition print that was sold to raise funds for charity. It further noted:

In 1991 Marriott donated the Willie Mays artwork to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (a nonprofit organization that raises funds for children’s hospitals in the United States and Canada), in whose possession it has remained these past thirty-one years. This piece has been consigned directly by the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, with all the proceeds dedicated to helping children receive the best medical care possible.

Collectors Dashboard evaluates high-end collectibles as an alternative asset class. The same capital that could have been invested into stocks or bonds is being used to buy high-end collectibles. With a final sale price of nearly $250,000 it’s undeniable that the same funds could have gone a long way buying stocks or bonds.

1953 Topps Willie Mays original artwork

The unique nature of art pieces used for making cards means that there are no other examples that exist. In essence this is the father of the 1953 Topps card of Willie Mays with a modern equivalent of a 1/1 population. The artwork measures 3.5″ X 5″ with Mays’ name written twice on the reverse. That back also lists the team (“N.Y.”) and an editorial notation, and it also has the same adhesive residue covering the reverse side as is seen in other artwork cards from the 1953 Topps set.

As for the 1953 Topps overall population, there are still many ungraded examples of the card but PSA counts just 1,886 base grades, as well as 273 “+” grades and another 118 with PSA qualifiers — for a total PSA population of 2,277 graded examples (which has grown from 2,269 graded cards at the time of our August 31, 2022 coverage of this lot). That compares to the 1952 Topps Willie Mays that is more chased with a population of 2,142 graded cards without qualifiers and a total of 2,706 graded examples including the “+” grades and those with qualifies such as “OC” and “MC/MK.” Again, this artwork has a 1/1 population.

Hopefully this unique item within scarce collectibles doesn’t get locked away for another 31 years.