On April 2, 2015, an eBay auction closed. A 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson sold for $30.
The same card with two vastly different price points.
The first was once owned by former major leaguer Dmitri Young. As it turns out, he has one of the best graded rookie card collections around. His niche is high-end, highly-graded superstars.
The other card is owned by me, I consider my poor old baseball card collection to be one of the (poorest) around. My niche is low-end, non-graded superstars.
I think I got the better deal.
I was first intrigued by the two hall-of-famers: Al Simmons and Kiki Cuyler. But as I inspected the cards, my eye kept going to (top, left) Rube Walberg. How could you not be attracted to that figure with the ten-gallon hat.
Walberg was an interesting player. His overall 155-141 record as a pitcher with the Giants, A's and Red Sox is incredibly punctuated with 140 complete games.
Walberg is also known as the hurler that gave up 17 homers to Babe Ruth, more than any other pitcher. He also hit four home runs of his own.
Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente seem to be in the conversation. But what about Yogi?
A few stats from Wikipedia:
- 18× All-Star (1948–1961², 1962²)
- 13× World Series champion (1947, 1949–1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1969, 1977, 1978)
- 3× AL MVP (1951, 1954, 1955)
- New York Yankees #8 retired
- Major League Baseball All-Century Team
There's no doubt Yogi Berra should be a part of the conversation. What do you think?
"Joltin' Joe DiMaggio" became a popular hit – get it?
You can her the song here. Joltin' Joe DiMaggio
He started baseball's famous streak
That's got us all aglow
He's just a man and not a freak,
Joltin' Joe DiMaggio.
Not to be outdone, the folks in Boston had their own refrain:
Who hits the ball and makes it go? Dominic DiMaggio. Who runs the bases fast, not slow? Dominic DiMaggio. Who’s better than his brother Joe? Dominic DiMaggio. But when it comes to gettin’ dough, They give it all to brother Joe.
It's good to know the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was alive, and well, even in 1941.
But when it comes to the baseball collecting world, this card gets no love. Just like those leader and team cards, these inserts are considered lesser cards. No stats. No team logo. Not even a team name. This card doesn't seem to have much going for it. Except ...
It's Mickey Mantle.
And in the baseball card world, he's king. His cards are far more popular than any other player of the modern vintage era (1952-1980). Was he the greatest player of the time? Willie Mays wouldn't think so. Yet Mantle out-values Mays every time.
Another thing this card has going for it is it's price. You can easily get one of these cards for under $20. Maybe even $10 if you are persistent.
Ten dollars for an original Mickey Mantle from his playing days is a great deal, Poor Old Baseball Card or not.
Bill Cunningham was one of those players who was obviously good enough to warrant a baseball card. But when looking up his bio, I couldn't find much.
Sure, the basics are available: Throws right, bats right, plays outfield. A member of the New York Giants and Boston Braves. We know his birth and death dates, his stats and the fact he was a member of the Giants' world championship team in 1922. We know he was traded to the Braves in 1923 along with Dave Bancroft and Casey Stengel for Joe Oeschger and Billy Southworth.
That's about all I could find. No info on his life after baseball. No funny stories. Not even an obituary.
But he does have a few baseball cards. A lasting legacy for a man who played the game he loved.
As a kid, I determined that the best baseball players ever were those that topped the home run list.
And for the longest time, Ernie Banks was near the top tied at 512 with Eddie Mathews.
When I was 8, I remember being out with my dad and hearing all about Ernie Banks on the radio as he was about to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
When I was barely a teen, I remember seeing one of his cards in the 25-cent bin of my local baseball card shop. I bought it.
I never met Ernie Banks. I never saw him play. But I knew that, along with being a superstar player, he was a superstar of a person: an attitude towards the game equal to his playing ability.
RIP 'Mr. Cub." RIP Ernie Banks.
I hope this Babe Ruth fits the bill.
This is the only "baseball card" in the 1952 Look 'n See set. Though Ruth may be the most popular card of the 135-cards made of famous figures, it's not the most valuable. That honor goes to the Dutch painter Rembrandt. Go figure.
Rembrandt: no thanks; Babe Ruth: awesome.
As a collector of poor old baseball cards, I've recently read several articles on how baseball cards are worthless. The reference was to all those cards made in the 1990s. You know, the ones that are probably in the back of your friends' closets. The ones that were supposed to fund college educations and retirements. They didn't, they won't.
The truth: they are worthless. I got rid of mine years ago at a garage sale for pennies. They're not worth the space they take up in your home.
But the cards that do hold their value are those old cards (pre-1980 in my opinion) that your mother threw away. The ones your dad and granddad had before they met their demise in the local landfill.
Supply and demand: There are far fewer of these cards than the glut of those cards in the 1980-90s. Did mom or grandma help diminish supplies by dumping them? Probably. Did that contribute to their worth? Maybe.
But so did the carefree attitude we had for them: Rubber bands, thumbtacks and backs of jean pockets.
Sometimes I wonder what people think when I tell them I collect baseball cards. I wonder if they think I have stacks of cards in boxes in my closet waiting to fund my retirement.
The answer is, I do. But its not the cards they're thinking of. No Derek Jeters. No Clayton Kershaws. Nothing newer than 1980. My cards look more like the one above. Poor. Old. And hopefully, not worthless.