Best Johnny Bench Baseball Cards
Many baseball historians consider Johnny Bench to be the best catcher ever to play the game. And honestly, it’s pretty difficult to argue against that. Ideally, his ’68 or ’69 card is an ideal HoF sports card investment option for those looking for safety with a good return.
We’ve seen a lot of great catchers come and go since, but very few have had the staying power of Bench and Fisk. They also split time at other positions and were therefore not actual true catchers.
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It’s such a demanding position, from a strategical and defensive standpoint that excelling on offense is extremely rare, and those that do are rather lacking on defense.
Being stellar when both up at the plate and crouching behind it is as rare as a unicorn. Johnny Bench twice led the NL in home runs and finished with the most runs batted on three different occasions.
On defense, Bench was a ten-time Gold Glove Award winner who skillfully handled pitching staffs, was an expert in pitch framing well before there was a term for it, and possessed a very strong, accurate throwing arm.
He was not a catcher that opposing baserunners would find a lot of success attempting to steal bases on.
Best Johnny Bench Baseball Cards
With that in all in mind, let’s review the all-time best baseball cards of the all-time best catcher.
1. 1969 Topps All-Star Rookie Johnny Bench Rookie Card #95
You can go back and forth on which is the true Johnny Bench rookie card. This is his first solo card, so in that sense, this is the true Bench RC. However, a case can be made for the ’68 Topps card, and we’ll cover that in the very next item.
This card is simplistic and minimalist in design, but back then sports cards didn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. Given the layout and form, the eye first goes directly to the Topps All-Star Rookie Team trophy graphic.
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The Topps All-Star rookie trophy graphic first debuted a decade earlier in 1959, but in the 1970s they modified the trophy with a slugger on top into a bowl or cup design.
Is it me or does young Johnny Bench strongly resemble actor Brendan Fraser in his prime? Or at least he does in this photo.
2. 1968 Topps Johnny Bench Rookie Card #247
The “true” Bench RC, you could say, as this is the earliest card of him in existence. He shares with a fella named Ron Tompkins, who is pictured in a Kansas City Athletics uniform. At this moment in history, Bench and Tompkins are on very equal footing.
Then they went in totally opposite directions. By the time this card was issued, Tompkins had made five Major League appearances, with the A’s in 1965.
He would return to the Majors in 1971 with the Chicago Cubs, for a cup of coffee, and that was it. He recorded only two decisions, both losses, in his MLB career which spanned just over 50 innings.
So it’s undeniable that his appearance on this card, beside a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, is his claim to fame. This juxtaposition of these two baseball careers makes this a very unique card, to say the least.
3. 2021 Topps Project 70 1972 Johnny Bench #72
The only card on our list from the modern era, which means it’s the only one that thus throws back to bygone times.
The 2021 Topps Project Johnny Bench baseball card focuses heavily on design, layout, and being aesthetically pleasing.
All art majors have to find this card interesting, to say the least, and memorabilia collectors will like this offering too.
The depiction of Bench himself is rather art house in feel, making this an extremely unique card and one all Bench aficionados should try to acquire.
4. 1970 Topps Johnny Bench Baseball Card #660
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This card was issued as Bench was en route to winning the NL MVP award in just his third season in the league.
His storied career began with his winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1968, and over this three-year period, you could really see that #5 was truly on the verge of something special.
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This photograph is basically akin to a “picture of a baseball catcher that comes with the frame.” The card design embodies the saying “less is more,” which is often attributed to architect Mies Van Der Rohe and the Bauhaus movement.
5. 1971 Topps Johnny Bench Baseball Card #250
It really doesn’t get any more 1970s than the font, colors, and design of this series of Topps. And Johnny Bench is the perfect player for the card-maker to champion here, as he’s got a wholesome, squeaky clean image.
This issue was in the midst of a run in which Topps had a total monopoly on the baseball card market.
It also comes at a time when the Cincinnati Reds, one of the oldest professional franchises in all of sports, anywhere on Earth, was on the verge of reaching their golden era. You can easily feel both those vibes in this card.
6. 2016 Bowman Chrome Refractor Auto Johnny Bench #MLBDA-JB (Red, Gold)
This is a card with a very interesting layout, photograph, and design, as it depicts Bench taking part in a few warm-up swings, presumably leading up to a very dramatic, action-packed play.
Complete with autograph the 2016 Bowman Chrome Johnny Bench card shown above is the Red Refractor while the Gold Refractor is less common and even more stunning/valuable.
7. 1973 Topps Johnny Bench Baseball Card #380
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The design on this edition is unmistakable, as it is oh so ’70s. You first look at the graphic in the right corner, depicting a graphic of a specific position on the diamond, in a fashion that evokes the opening titles of James Bond 007 film. (“For your eyes only?” No, as this is a card with mainstream appeal)
The silhouette is both mysterious and captivating, and both elements are ramped up when you depict the catcher’s position.
No one else sees as much of the diamond, at all times, and that’s why this position yields more future managers than any other.
8. 1972 Topps Johnny Bench Baseball Card #433
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Another year in which he won MVP, and another design which is unmistakable, to say the least. It’s a bit “bold,” or “loud,” and it more evokes the old ABA (American Basketball Association) or throwback pieces about the 1970s than the actual 1970s itself. In other words, it’s a bit gaudy, to say the least.
Bench looks steady Eddie, as reliable as ever, so it brings a good balance to the card, and that makes it a much more manageable/attractive card.
9. 2021 Topps Heritage 1972 Flashbacks Auto Johnny Bench #FAR-JB
One of the few Johnny Bench baseball cards that provide an autograph plus a relic. Printed in 2021 under the Topps Heritage Brand and ideal for Bench fans who also are sports card investors.
10. 1974 Topps Johnny Bench Baseball Card
An edition with a very interesting design, due to its symmetry and balance. The rectangular boxes convey a sense of movement and actually resemble flags or pennants.
The sense of movement actually gels pretty well with the photo, as you can truly feel the moment Bench is letting go of the bat and sprinting for first base.
It’s the perfect photo to work inside the layout, which conveys that sense of motion. This card preludes a year in which Bench was on his way to leading the National League in runs batted in, again, so yes, he was clearly on to things here.
That sense of direction would eventually see him finish out a career that got him on the MLB All-Time Team and Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
Johnny Bench Career Highlights
- Was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1989
- He is also the only catcher in baseball history to lead either league in home runs
- Caught 100 or more games in 13 consecutive seasons
- Fourteen-time National League All-Star and two-time Most Valuable Player
- Upon retirement Bench, held the major league record for most home runs hit by a catcher with 356
Johnny Bench Rookie Card Investment Outlook
Johnny Bench is a legend among legends in Cincinnati, the place where he spent his entire career and as such was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1986.
He has nothing left to accomplish, and that is a double-edged sword when you look at the investment potential of his cards.
- Investment Rating: Buy (4.3 out of 5)
- Ownership Disclosure: None
- Risk/Return Analysis: Low Risk/Moderately High Return
- Best Johnny Bench Card: 1969 Topps All-Star Rookie Johnny Bench Rookie Card #95
They’re rock solid, air-tight when it comes to the concept of possessing baseball cards of an undruggable icon, in an era when everyone is susceptible to being dragged.
However, the flip side is we can’t really foresee any specific reason why these cards might appreciate in value.
What kind of activating event might arise which would spur a lot of additional interest in Johnny Bench and his cards?
Anything is possible, but at this point, it’s very difficult to say. Right now it feels like both the demand and the scarcity of Johnny Bench cards are going to remain very stable.
What is the value of a Johnny Bench baseball card?
The value of a Johnny Bench baseball card could be a couple dollars or a couple thousand dollars depending on the year, brand, and condition. Email email@example.com or visit our Reddit thread at https://www.reddit.com/r/baseballcards/comments/og9r5a/ask_me_any_sports_card_value/
Which baseball cards are worth the most money?
Baseball cards worth the most money include the T206 Honus Wagner, 1952 Mickey Mantle Topps Rookie Card, and the 2009 Mike Trout Superfractor all of which are North of one million dollars.
1971 Johnny Bench baseball card value?
A 1971 Johnny Bench Topps Baseball Card at a PSA 8 grade sold for $1,576 in June 2021.