I made a game time decision last year on March 15th to feature Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher-turned-broadcaster Nellie King for the first time in our Card of the Day series. That article looked at the 1979 TCMA card of King. I could have went for either of the headline players, as the Pirates made trades to acquire both Phil Garner and Mike Easler on the Ides of March. I decided to feature someone else born on March 15th because both Easler and Garner have appeared in this series multiple times already.
I went back to King today for that same reason, but also because I wanted to use a card from his playing days. He played his entire four-year big league career with the Pirates, retiring after the 1957 season due to an arm injury that may have dated back to the end of the 1955 season. King only had two cards put out during his playing career. With apologies to his card in the 1957 Topps set, picking the 1955 Topps card for today’s article was an easy choice.
Here’s the front of the card:
My favorite set from the 1950s is the 1956 Topps set. My parents were born in the 1950s, so I missed the release of the 1955 set by a very long time. However, I can imagine me being a big fan of the look of this 1955 set, with the double photo on front, the horizontal layout and the team logos displayed prominently on front. I note that because not knowing this set at all for more than 30 years after it was released, I had already fallen in love with the look of the 1956 Topps set, with the full action scene as the background. The 1955 set looks plain in comparison, yet this is my second favorite design from Topps in the 1950s. I think if I was around for it, I would respect the design of this set more. It was such a great idea that they made even better the next year.
With King having limited cards available, it works out well that he was a part of this set, because you get that extra photo of him. I always have to mention how great the Pirates logo from that era looks, then note that they need to bring something similar back. The facsimile autograph is a nice touch. It’s also interesting that he wrote out Nelson, because many of his autographs available now use “Nellie” instead. I believe Nelson was his official signatures, say for something like a Topps contract, but Nellie was his autograph (see pricing section below for more).
Here’s the back of the card”
The backs of these cards remind me of Christmas, which is always appreciated in any part of life, but especially on baseball cards. King debuted in the majors in 1954, but Topps decided to only use his minor league stats on this card. The only reason I thought about using the 1957 set here is because that card has actual season-by-season stats. The trivia question part is interesting because the second instance of that happening just happened. DJ LeMahieu won with the Colorado Rockies in 2016, then led with the New York Yankees in 2020.
If you’re interested in this card, there are a ton of options. This set is very popular now, so they’re always being listed and sold on Ebay. There are two PSA 8 selling for $215 delivered, though one has a best offer option. A PSA 7 is $140. If you want the high grade without the price, there are two SGC 88’s, both around $100. That’s the same grade as a PSA 8, but many more people collect PSA cards. If you’re putting together a set of cards, you’re going to want them to be in the same holder. I tell you all that to let you know that two PSA 8’s have ended in the last three months on Ebay for $95 and $105, so even those SGC prices are a little high.
Don’t want a high grade/graded copy? Happy with a mid-grade card in a regular plastic card holder? You have plenty of options in the $15-$20 range. A few interesting auctions in that range are signed copy with “Nellie” right over “Nelson”.