Sunday, March 22, 2009

Prospect Watch: Matt Wieters

Matt Wieters, the fifth overall pick of the 2007 Baseball Draft, is one of the hobby’s most sought-after prospects. Splitting time between A and AA ball last season, the soon-to-be Orioles catcher hit .355-27-91 last season, his first as a professional. Wieters will likely start the season in the minors to delay his arbitration date, but Baseball America’s 2008 Minor League Player of the Year should be playing in Baltimore by June.

As the top AL Rookie of the Year candidate, Wieters has quickly become a hobby favorite. His most coveted card is the 2007 Donruss Elite Extra Edition “Autograph” selling for $170. His 2005 Upper Deck USA rookie card is a nice pick up for $5.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

President Obama/Jackie Robinson Signature Autograph Card

The most coveted 2009 card to date is the dual cut “Autograph” card featuring the signatures of President Barack Obama and baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson from the 2009 Topps American Heritage set. With a production run of just one, this unique card sold on eBay for $4,050 on eBay in February.

The product includes cut autographs of every president and includes two Relic or autographs per hobby box. The set features past Topps designs to relive US history and document Obama’s historic campaign. Boxes are selling extremely well for $73-$79

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Jimmie Foxx: Underrated Slugger With Undervalued Baseball Cards

Jimmie Foxx was one of the most under-appreciated players in baseball and sports collectibles history. He equaled or surpassed the production of nearly every slugger not named Babe Ruth, but his baseball card and memorabilia values lag considerably behind Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, et al.

Seldom mentioned when baseball's all-time teams are discussed, Foxx hit at least 30 home runs and tallied 100 or more RBI from 1929 with the Philadelphia Athletics to 1940, his fifth season with the Red Sox. His 20-year total of 534 home runs ranked second to Ruth for many years. His 58 home runs in 1932 fell just two short of Ruth's single-season record. Interestingly, two home runs were taken away from Foxx because of rain and 10 more were lost because of newly constructed outfield screens in Cleveland, St. Louis, and Philadelphia that were not erected until after Ruth hit 60. So if the baseball stars were properly aligned in 1932, Barry Bonds would have eclipsed the magical number of 70 set by Foxx.

The toughest Foxx baseball card to find in reasonable condition is the 1934 Goudey (#1). Firstcards of vintage sets received the brunt of the rubber band damage that decimated so many '50s and '60s baseball cards. A handful of PSA-8 versions exist, selling for $8,200, a remarkable buy considering '34 Goudey PSA-8 Gehrig cards command as much as $15,000.

Foxx, provided Boston with their first bona-fide star since Ruth was sold to the Yankees in 1919. Double XX set Red Sox records for home runs (50) and RBI (175) during his 1938 MVP season. More than just a slugger, Foxx won the Triple Crown in 1933 and excelled defensively, primarily as a first baseman, but also as a catcher, third baseman, and outfielder.

Foxx was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951, but strangely there has been little or no protest over the Red Sox failure to retire his number. Surely someone who is mentioned in the same breathe as Ruth and Gehrig deserves the same elite status as Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and Carlton Fisk in Red Sox annals.

Newly acquired Red Sox first baseman Mark Loretta, who recently told the Boston Herald that "Foxx never received the credit he deserved for being one of the game's all-time great sluggers," is honoring Foxx by wearing number 3. Foxx, who played 20 seasons for the Philadelphia Athletics (1925-35), Red Sox (1936-42), Chicago Cubs (1942 and 1944) and Philadelphia Phillies (1945), is arguably the best slugger not to have his uniform retired by any team.

Modern day cards of Foxx are somewhat limited, but affordable. His vibrant '04 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Classic "Logo Patch" (#SSP-JF) displaying the vintage Philadelphia Athletics logo can be had for under $5 -- a great buy for unique card serial numbered to just 300.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Rare Ruth/Gehrig Baseball and Josh Gibson Photo Sells

A baseball signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig recently sold for $98,600 – double the previous mark for a similar ball – by Robert Edwards Auctions. According to the auction house, the ball is the finest example that grading service PSA has ever seen.

Like most Ruth memorabilia on the auction block, there is a story behind the autographed baseball. A letter of provenance accompanying the ball states that Ruth gave the ball to a priest he befriended at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, the orphanage that raised the Bambino as a child.

A rare Negro League photo signed twice by Josh Gibson sold for $81,200 at the same auction, which grossed a Robert Edwards Auctions record of $7.5 million. The postcard is believed to be the only one of its kind in existence and may bear the only Gibson autograph on a Gibson photo known to exist. According to Robert Edwards, the price is an all-time high for a Gibson signed item and a world record for a postcard.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Upper Deck Re-Introduces Flair "Letterman" Inserts

Upper Deck has made good on its pledge to enhance, but not overhaul the most popular Fleer sets. Flair Showcase Baseball, released last month, features the highly anticipated “Letterman” insert series. Each “Letterman” card features a complete letter taken from the nameplate running across the back of a game-used jersey. The limited inserts issued by Fleer in previous years, have been some of the hobby’s most sought-after memorabilia cards, typically commanding over $100 per card. Oversized patches, like the letters from the nameplates, generally create the most popular jersey insert cards.

This is the first “Letterman” series issued by Upper Deck since the company purchased the Fleer name late last year. This year’s “Letterman” checklist features 40 major league stars, including Red Sox sluggers David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez as well as Carlos Beltran, Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, David Wright, and All-Star MVP Michael Young among others.

The cards are serial-numbered to match the number of letters in each player’s name for a total of 253 “Letterman” cards randomly seeded into hobby packs of 2006 Flair Showcase. The odds of finding a “Letterman” card have not been released, but Upper Deck has confirmed that the odds are greater than one card per 16-box (18 packs per box) case.

Upper Deck was careful to maintain the same look of previous “Letterman” inserts while incorporating an Upper Deck photo layout. This was a difficult insert set to produce because different teams use different fonts for their letters. Fortunately for Upper Deck, the height of the letters used on nameplates are standard on all major league uniforms. Upper Deck has been saving the nameplates from jerseys that have been shredded in the past to produce game-used jersey cards.

The set also includes Flair inserts made popular in the mid ‘90s such as “Hot Gloves” and “Wave of the Future”. Each five-card hobby pack of Flair Showcase Baseball carries a suggested retail price of $4.99, a reasonable price for one of the more popular releases of the year.


Upper Deck is also challenging collectors to take the “Epic Quest”. The first four collectors to build the 300-card Epic Baseball set will be rewarded for their persistence and dedication to the hobby with an entire collection of all 300 original printing plates used to produce the set.

Building this high-end series, released last month, is a costly venture, as each card is numbered to 450 and packs carry a suggested retail price of $50. The entire set will be printed on vibrant foil board.

The series includes many prominent inserts. “Epic Awesome Eight Materials” displays four individual jersey swatches per side. Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Duke Snider, Eddie Matthews, and Thurman Munson are among the featured players

Friday, November 10, 2006

1959 Fleer Ted Williams: As Splendid as the Splinter

When Fleer entered the baseball card business 47 years ago, the rookie sports card manufacturer turned to the greatest hitter who ever lived. Ted Williams not only established new slugging standards, he also changed the way the sports collectibles hobby was marketed.

During this era, Topps was the exclusive baseball card manufacturer, so Fleer -- the only other major trading card producer at the time -- had to take a more creative approach with its products. Facing the daring task of going head to head with the mighty Topps Co., Fleer signed Ted Williams away from Topps. The result was 1959 Fleer "Life of Ted Williams" -- an 80-card series capturing a medley of snippets detailing Williams's legendary career.

One of the more popular cards of the set (#2) pictures Ted in his Red Sox uniform gripping a bat with his idol, Babe Ruth. The card back chronicles Ted's time at Horace Mann Junior High School in California. Card #5 details Ted's brilliant high school career for Herbert Hoover High School. He was considered one of the top amateur players in California, drawing the attention of big league scouts.

Card #14 highlights his amazing rookie season (1939) in which he became the first AL rookie to lead the league in total bases. A favorite among collectors is card #41, which displays a head shot of Williams above the title "1941 -- How Ted Hit .400". The card back discusses how Ted played both games of a doubleheader on the last day of the season to raise his average from .400 to .406.

The Fleer set also features Ted's distinguished military career. Card #24 titled "1945 -- Sharpshooter" shows a concerned, but anxious Williams taking the Naval eye test. According to the card back, "Navy doctors said that eyesight like Ted's occurred only six times per thousand persons."

This set includes three of the hobby's hardest-to-find All-Star cards. Card #34 pictures Williams sliding into second base in the 1947 All-Star Game. The card back details the new runs scored record established by Williams that year.

Card #40 shows Williams crashing against the wall to make a spectacular catch in the 1950 All-Star Game at Comiskey Park. The card back tells the story of how the catch destroyed the Red Sox Pennant hopes and nearly ended Ted's career. Williams didn't realize that he had broken his elbow and gamely played for 8 more innings, hitting a single and driving in a run.

Card #48 features Marine Captain Ted Williams throwing out the first ball and serving as an honorary member of the AL team at the '53 All-Star Game in Cincinnati while still serving on military duty. The card back expressively reads, "Not only was he a baseball hero of the finest magnitude, but he was in two wars within the short span of one decade."

The Williams set successfully put Fleer on the sports collectibles map, but not without incident. Card #68 pictures Ted preparing to sign a contract with Red Sox general manager Bucky Harris, who was one of the handful of baseball executives under contract with Topps at the time. Rather than face a lawsuit from Topps, Fleer withdrew card #68 by defacing the lower right corner of the card on the printing sheet, and then destroying the cards after they were cut from the sheet. A very limited amount of mint #68 cards were packaged before Fleer started its disfiguring process, making this one of the most sought-after Williams cards.

The back of the Harris card reveals just how much times have changed: "Ted signed his 1959 contract in Boston for a reported $125,000. He has been baseball's highest paid player for several years."

This affordable set details the extraordinary career of the legendary Ted Williams. Much of the history written about the Splendid Splinter came directly from the backs of these cards. Every card -- except the Harris card, which commands $1,000 -- can be had for under $20.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

David Ortiz: Hot Bat, Hot Baseball Cards

Clutch-hitting sluggers top nearly every collector’s hot list, which is why RBI and home run front runner David Ortiz, the Red Sox slugger with a knack for walk-off home runs, is among the hobby’s most sought-after baseball players.

In three seasons with the Red Sox, Ortiz has 13 walk-off hits, including eight walk- off home runs. During those three seasons, Ortiz’s rookie cards – ‘97 Ultra (#518) and ‘97 Fleer (#512) – have taken the leap from $1-$3 commons to $30-$40 must-have cards. These cards list Ortiz and David Arias, but they are not misprints. Ortiz went by the name of Arias, his mother’s name, early in his career.

Ortiz’s clutch hitting is no fluke, so expect these cards to increase in value. He has hit at least one game-ending home run in each of the last five seasons.

As the recent cover boy for Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, and Tuff Stuff collectibles magazine, Ortiz has received tremendous national publicity, increasing the demand for his certified autograph cards. His first autographed card, the 1997 Donruss Signature Autograph, can be had for $50, a good buy considering the autograph prices for lesser players. The value this card and his two rookie cards may be a bit low because Ortiz is pictured in a Twins uniform. Many diehard Red Sox fans are only willing to dig into their pockets for Ortiz’s Red Sox cards.

Ortiz and Manny Ramirez form baseball’s best one-two punch. During the Red Sox World Series Run in 2004, the Red Sox sluggers became the first pair of AL teammates to hit 40 home runs, have 100 RBI, and bat .300 since Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1931. The two also hit back-to-back homers six times that memorable season to tie a major league record. A must for any Red Sox fan is the 2005 UD Ultimate Quad patch sporting jersey patches of World Series heroes Ortiz, Ramirez, Curt Schilling, and Johnny Damon selling for $150.

As the numbers and accolades for Ortiz mount, expect the interest in his baseball cards to continue to increase. His biggest endorsement came for Red Sox owner John Henry who presented “Big Papi” a plaque at the start of the 2005 season reading: “David Ortiz #34 The Greatest Clutch Hitter in the History of the Boston Red Sox.”

Rookie, autograph, and memorabilia cards for the Red Sox greatest clutch hitter are gaining steam, but are still reasonably priced, which means the market is ripe for buying.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Topps Dares Collectors to Keep It or Rip It" with Allen & Ginter

Topps will debut its “Rip Card” program in the soon-to-be released Topps Allen & Ginter Baseball series. The one “Rip Card” per case is a trading card within a trading card that could be concealing a hobby treasure.

At first glance, the “Rip Card” looks like a typical 2 ½ x 3 ½ baseball card, but upon closer inspection, collectors will find a small perforation on the card back with a message reading, “Keep it or Rip it”.

Why would a collector rip a high-end, state-of-the-art baseball card? The card within the card could be an original 1887 Allen & Ginter baseball card or a hand-painted 1-of-1 trading card from renowned sports artist Dick Perez, the original artist of Donruss Diamond Kings and the official artist of the Philadelphia Phillies. Collectors could also find Autograph variations from the 2006 Topps Allen & Ginter set or an exclusive mini card found only in “Rip Cards”.

Why would a collector chose to preserve the “Rip Card” and turn down the opportunity to land a rare gem? Each “Rip Card” is a limited, sequentially numbered trading card featuring all-time greats such as Mickey Mantle and Josh Gibson.

The original 1887 Allen & Ginter N28 series, designed to advertise cigarettes, featured color lithographs of champions from seven different sports, including rowing, boxing, and baseball. These are believed to be the first nationally distributed baseball cards and became the most popular sports cards of the late 1800s.

Hall of Famer Cap Anson, a 20-time .300 hitter, is the first baseball player highlighted in the set. Anson, often called baseball’s first superstar, accumulated five National League pennants and 1,200 wins as a player/manager primarily for the Chicago White Stockings/Colts.

Allen & Ginter cards in decent condition are extremely rare. An Anson card graded PSA-5, a high grade for a 119-year-old card, recently sold for $2,676 on eBay.

Baseball player, manager, owner Charlie Comiskey is also featured. At the time the Allen Ginter set was released, Comiskey was one of baseball’s biggest names. He became the player/manager of the St. Louis Browns of the American Association in 1883 and won four consecutive pennants from 1885-1888. At the turn of the century, Comiskey was a co-founder of the American League and later owned the Chicago White Sox for 31 years. Hard-to-find PSA-5 versions of the Comiskey Allen & Ginter card sell for $1,400.

Although the modern-day hobbyist is conditioned to preserve baseball cards, the temptation of landing an 1800s baseball card will be too great. Expect most collectors to “rip it”. Unfortunately many highly collectible cards will land in the trash basket, while some rare century-old cards may never be discovered. Topps would better serve the hobby by offering the original Allen & Ginter cards in a redemption program.

Topps’s 2006 Allen & Ginter series will also feature baseball’s biggest names as well as other athletes such as Mike Tyson, Hulk Hogan, Danica Patrick, Carl Lewis, John Wooden, and Brandi Chastain with autographs and standard cards. Historical figures such as John F. Kennedy will also be featured. Fifty one different autographs and 375 mini printing plates will be randomly inserted into packs.

Twelve-box cases (each box contains 24 seven-card packs) are pre-selling for $950. Look for Topps’s success with retro-theme sets featuring baseball stars and non-sports celebrities to continue with the 2006 Allen & Ginter.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Topps Looks To Salvage Barry Bonds

The controversial “Trade Barry” billboard that first appeared near AT&T Ballpark in San Francisco at the beginning of the season was not the work of a disgruntled baseball fan. To the surprise of many baseball fans in the San Francisco area, the billboard was created by Topps. Three days later, a new billboard reading “TRADE BARRY’s CARDS WITH TOPPS – The Exclusive Home of Barry’s Home Run Chase” replaced the original. The Giants were aware of the ad campaign from the beginning.

Topps was attempting to salvage a two-year exclusive rights contract with Barry Bonds signed in December 2004, just weeks before excerpts of Bond’s grand jury testimony in the BALCO investigation were revealed by the San Francisco Examiner. The deal is believed to be worth more than $2 million. The manufacturer is hoping to create interest in the 15-card “Barry Bonds Chase to 715 Set” available through and for $49.95.

Possible links to steroid use combined with Bonds’s physical ailments and general surliness have taken a toll on the value of his baseball cards. Because baseball card sets chronicle history, Bonds cards are being bought and sold, but for significantly reduced prices.

The value of Bonds’s rookie cards have fallen steadily as he chases Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. According to a report on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”, high-end Bonds items have fallen 50% or more over the last two years. The Bonds 1986 Topps Traded rookie, which sold for over $100 two years ago, are readily available on eBay for less than $20 with graded versions going for $30. The value of his game-used memorabilia cards pale in comparison to popular sluggers like Albert Pujols and David Ortiz.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Rise of Albert Pujols and His Baseball Cards

As Barry Bonds passes Babe Ruth and takes aim at Hank Aaron, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols has emerged as baseball’s most popular and collectible slugger.

The hobby’s most pursued card is the limited Pujols ‘01 Bowman Chrome “Autograph” rookie (#340), currently selling for $2,500. Because of the black borders, graded versions of this card are extremely rare. Of the 207 different Pujols Chrome “Autograph” rookies that have been submitted to Beckett Grading Services, only one has received a 10 rating (the highest possible grade). This one-and-only pristine card recently sold for $15,400, while a 9.5 version sold for $10,200.

Just 26 years old, Pujols is already considered baseball’s best right-handed hitter. The reigning MVP is the only player in history to begin his career with five 30-homer seasons and he began the 2006 season by setting the major league record for homers in April (14). Pujols has been a model of consistency, averaging 40 home runs and 124 RBI per season and batting .332 over his career.

The Pujols legend began in 1999 at a Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City, a school known more for business management and engineering than baseball. While teammates were focused on their studies and other collegiate activities, Pujols, then a shortstop, set his sights on the major leagues. In his one season of college ball, Pujols hit .461. Just Minors captures Pujols’s brief college baseball career with ‘04 “Featured Insert” (#AP1), a good buy for $5.

Although scouts marveled at Pujols’s natural hitting ability, power, and work ethic, they were concerned about his weight and ability to play defense in the majors. He dropped all the way to the 13th round, where the Cardinals made him the 402nd player chosen. Just before the start of the next college season, Pujols signed with the Cardinals for $60,000. He spent the 2000 season climbing the organizational chart, earning an invitation to spring training the following season.

Still a bit raw and without a position, the Cardinals figured Pujols would begin the season in the minors, until Bobby Bonilla pulled a hamstring before the team headed north. Pujols quickly overcame the Cardinals concerns, setting an NL rookie mark for RBI (13) and total bases (360) while hitting .329 with 37 homers. The Pujols ‘02 Topps card (#719, selling for $4), recounts Pujols’s Rookie of the Year season.

Pujols game-used cards are extremely active, ranging from $10-$500.