I recently purchased a large collection of in person autographs. I have been slowly going through them and selling them online. This week, as I was preparing to list some, one Maury Wills card caught my eye. It’s a card I’ve probably seen dozen of times and never paid much mind to: a 1982 Topps K-Mart 20th Anniversary card, commemorating Wills’s 1962 NL MVP award. As with the other cards in this small set, the card showed Wills’s Topps card from his award-winning season. So what made this card catch my eye? Simple: the 1962 Topps card shown on this card never existed.
Despite being an excellent player (who has been regretfully shut out of the Hall of Fame), Wills didn’t have his first Topps card until 1967, by which time he’d traded in his Dodger blue after 8 seasons for a Pittsburgh Pirates cap. The reasons are apocryphal, but the story goes that a Topps scout with unimpressed with Wills prior to his breakout 1959 season and neglected to sign him to a $5 contract. Whether Wills felt spurned for not having been signed in the first place or whether he simply signed an exclusive contract with rival Fleer is unclear. Wills appears after his MVP season in the 1963 Fleer set, and he actually does make an uncredited cameo appearance on a 1960 Topps card showing off Luis Aparicio stealing a base in the 1959 World Series. (The man on second is Maury Wills.)
As I dug around, I came up with something even more interesting: Topps has used this fake 1962 Maury Wills card three different times, and yet the fake card has two variations!
The first instance is in 1975, when an MVP subset pairs Wills with the ‘62 AL MVP Mickey Mantle. On this card, you can see that there are periods in L.A. and S.S., and the last name WILLS is not aligned with the first name MAURY.
Then came the one that started this all for me, the 1982 Topps K-Mart card. On this card, the WILLS is right-aligned with the MAURY, and there are no periods in SS, though there are periods in L.A.
Finally, Wills had a similar card in 1987, that appears to have used the same fake card from 1982.
Wills may not have had a real 1962 Topps card, but the fake version he got was apparently worthy of a variation. Which is fitting, given the number of alternate poses and variations in the actual 1962 set. If this card were real I would definitely want both variations in my collection!