By Larry Canale
Altuve — Baseball's Best?
Move over, Mike. For a few years now, we’ve heard a lot of “best player in baseball” arguments focusing on Mike Trout, with Bryce Harper often in the conversation. Well, both can step aside in favor of Jose Altuve.
We can’t call Altuve’s 2016 performance a “breakout season”—he’s been stellar since becoming the Houston Astros’ everyday second baseman on July 20, 2011. But this year, Altuve has risen to new levels.
Through early September, he was on pace to lead the American League in hits for a third straight season while heading for his second straight batting title. And while he’s always been a base-stealing whiz (with AL highs of 56 and 38 in 2014 and 2015, respectively), he’s now added power-hitting to his repertoire. That’s right: The 5-foot-6, 165-pound infielder had 22 HRs and counting through Sept. 6.
Yet Altuve remains well behind Trout (and Harper) in collectors’ eyes. Signed insert-card Trout rarities can sell for five-figure prices, as we saw in June when a 2009 Bowman Chrome Orange Refractor graded BGS 9.5 fetched $12,600 on eBay. Comparable Harper items run about half that figure but still command hefty prices. For instance, a 2011 Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor (also graded BGS 9.5) sold for $5,400 in August.
Altuve has been less active than Trout and Harper when it comes to signing trading card releases, yet the ones that do turn up, despite their rarity, sell for far less. Specifically, you’ll find autographed Altuve cards from various manufacturers (no Bowman Chromes, however) selling for anywhere from $15 (for an ungraded 2011 autographed Bowman issue) to $150 (for a 2016 Topps Heritage Red Ink signed card).
Along those lines, here’s a quartet of Altuve-signed cards that recently sold for bargain-basement prices:
• $41 for a 2016 signed Panini Immaculate Collection card (ungraded, #4 of 25).
— $38 for a 2015 Topps Archival Autographs card (from an edition of 125).
• $30 for a 2014 Topps Heritage signed card (ungraded).
Those sums hardly reflect a potential MVP, do they? Neither do authenticated Altuve signed baseballs, which can be had for $50 to $100—compared to $200 to $450 for Trout- or Harper-signed baseballs.
The priciest Altuve item to sell in recent months went for $1,500—but it was for a 1/1 Panini Dual Diamond patch card that also featured superstar teammate Carlos Correa. Clearly, now is the time to enjoy collector-friendly prices for a star on the rise.
Authenticated Roberto Clemente items have been rising steadily—if not dramatically—in value over the past two decades. At the turn of the 21st century, Clemente-signed baseballs (not that there are tons of them out there!) sold for anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. Nowadays, they can exceed five figures, depending on condition and authenticator.
One impressive example recently landed on eBay, courtesy of longtime seller Probstein123. The autographed ball, bearing Clemente’s distinctively ornate signature in blue ballpoint pen, soared to a final price of $12,000.
The baseball itself was a promotional item for Eastern Airlines. Clemente had an association with Eastern that resulted in a number of signed baseballs, according to representatives from PSA/DNA, the item’s authenticator.
The accompanying letter of authentication—signed by James Spence and Steve Grad along with Bob Eaton, Zach Rullo and John Reznikoff—described the autograph this way: “The large, bold strokes of [Clemente’s] magnificent ‘9-10’ signature contrast beautifully against the soft hue of the ball to create a splendid display piece.”
An Olympian Donation
Among the items on our Top 10 chart this time out is a one-of-a-kind memento from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Judo bronze medalist Yarden Gerbi put up for sale the patch taken from her Olympic jersey and announced that she would donate all profits from the sale.
Gerbi, a 27-year-old Israeli who won a gold medal at the 2013 World Judo Championships, explained the offering like this: “For several years now, I have cherished Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center [the third-largest hospital complex in Israel]. All profit from this auction will be used as a donation [so the Medical Center can purchase] important medical equipment.”
Gerbi also pledged to personalize and autograph the patch for the winning bidder.
Olympic collectors showed up for the online sale in droves. By the time it ended, Gerbi’s uniform patch—which reads “Y. Gerbi/ISR/Rio 2016”— drew an impressive 87 bids, sending the price skyrocketing. It went from a humble $100 opening bid all the way to $52,100. Now that deserves a standing ovation!
A Cowboy to Watch
If you go by fantasy football drafts all over the nation, Ezekiel Elliott is a name to remember. The rookie Cowboys running back, if you listen to NFL prognosticators, is poised to become the next Emmitt Smith. Collectors are already starting to jump aboard: In late August, an eBay bidder spent $710 for a 1-of-1 Panini autographed Origins “booklet on card” issue bearing a game-used jersey patch. Without the patch, the Origins card sells for $50 to $100.
Say It Aint So
A rare 1909 American Caramel card of Joe Jackson, catalogued E90-1, sold for $35,100 in an online auction in September. The seller, longtime eBay dealer PWCC, called it “the finest copy we’ve brokered in recent times.”
The card’s front offers an illustration of Shoeless Joe very early in his career; he arrived in 1908 but played in only 30 games his first three seasons. It wasn’t until 1911 that he took off, batting .408 and banging out 233 hits in 571 at-bats. The card’s flip side notes that it’s one of 100 in Philadelphia-based American Caramel Co.’s “Base Ball Caramels” series.