Skip to main content

1953 Topps Richie Ashburn is 'unissued' no more

Last week or so, I blogged about Richie Ashburn and the wonderful original artwork of the Hall of Famer that turned up in that amazing aggregation of artifacts from former Topps Executive Vice President Sy Berger.


The Ashburn artwork is one of 117 original paintings from the Topps archives that will be featured in the Robert Edward Auction next spring. Most of the paintings are recognizable to serious collectors as they were used in the classic 1953 Topps Baseball issue.

What set the Ashburn painting apart from most of the others was the fact that it was never issued as a card. At the time, he was the darling of a Philadelphia Phillies squad that was at the tail end of a rare period of reasonable success, a First-Division team, as we so quaintly called it back then.

Since Bowman Gum Co. was based in Philly, I assume Richie was in the middle of wrangling between the two companies over exclusive contracts. He wound up on Bowman cards from 1950-55, but missed out on Topps in 1953 and 1955.


No less of a white knight than former Standard Catalog editor and longtime SCD colleague Bob Lemke has come to the rescue, producing his own version shown here that’s easily the equal of anything engineered by Berger and Woody Gelman 55 years ago. Just like Lemke's ersatz 1955 Topps All-American cards, the “cards” he creates are typically better than the originals.

Lemke’s attention to detail is extraordinary, as the card back shown here illustrates. Bob even gave it No. 253, one of the half-dozen numbers from that year that carries a “not issued” designation in the Catalog.

If alien beings came to earth 75 years from now and found this Ashburn card nestled comfortably within a real 1953 Topps set – or even the reprint set – it’s a pretty good bet that nobody could tell the difference.

But it’s still likely that one of them might chime in with a, “Where’s Stan?”