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Collectors ‘spring’ into action

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THE BOYS OF SPRING ’21 — Ah, the smell of spring and the joys it can bring—particularly this year, as the world continues the fight against COVID-19. The best indicator of spring? Baseball, of course.

With spring training in full swing, collectors are fully on board. You’ll see “evergreen” names like Rickey Henderson, Pete Rose, Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth on our Top 10 chart, but current stars are also sparking bidding activity.


At the head of the class is Mike Trout. In February, an eBay seller got $89,100 on 79 bids for a 2009 Bowman Chrome Trout Gold Refractor. Graded PSA 9, the signed card was marked #7 of 50. Earlier this year, a PSA 10 specimen of the card brought $215,000.

By the way, don’t look now, but Trout will turn 30 this season. The 10-year vet is a career .304 hitter and has totaled 302 homers and 201 steals.

Other big prices paid for cards related to current players:

$50,623 on 69 bids for a 2019 Topps Chrome Sapphire Red Refractor card of Fernando Tatis Jr. One of only five made, the card was graded BGS 10. The centerpiece of San Diego’s impressive young offense, Tatis enters this season with a .301 average, 39 HRs and 27 steals in just 558 career at-bats.

$16,500 (50 bids) and $15,899 (31 bids) for two 2016 signed Bowman Chrome Green Refractor cards of Juan Soto. Both cards boasted grades of BGS 9.5. The uber-talented Soto carries a .295 average and 69 homers into his fourth season in the majors, all with the Washington Nationals.

$12,450 on 31 bids for a 2014 Bowman Chrome Green Refractor card of Mookie Betts. One of only 75 made, the autographed card was graded BGS 9.5. Betts is a career .301 hitter with 155 HRs and 136 steals in seven seasons.


JOLTIN’ JOE’S 56 — This summer marks the 80th anniversary of Joe DiMaggio’s estimable 56-game hitting streak. It’s a record that gets more impressive every year. Perhaps that’s why a mini bidding war broke out when an eBay seller listed an SGC 8/Near-Mint 1941 DiMaggio Play Ball card. After 55 bids, the card landed at $36,990.

It’s rare to see a 1941 Play Ball DiMaggio show up in such impressive condition. Lower-grade examples turn up more readily, of course, and can be had for budget-friendly prices. Recent examples:

● A PSA 5 example sold for $4,995 on a single bid.

● A PSA 3 brought $2,907 on 32 bids.

● An SGC 2 went for $1,800 on one bid.

● A PSA 1 fetched $1,195 on 41 bids.

MR. 61 — This summer marks another memorable anniversary: 60 years ago, Roger Maris chased down Babe Ruth’s hallowed 60-homer record.

As baseball fans know, 1961 was a dream season—one in which Maris stood up to intense pressure. Legions of fans simply didn’t want the Bambino’s record to fall. But in the Yankees’ last game of the season, Maris’ 61st homer put him one up on Ruth. While his batting average in 1961 was an underwhelming .269, Maris led the league in runs (132), RBI (141), total bases (366) and, of course, homers.


Yet Maris has always been undervalued among card collectors—mainly because of his exclusion from the Hall of Fame. Consider that even in today’s scorching-hot hobby, a PSA 8-graded specimen of Roger’s 1958 Topps card sold for just $2,321 on 29 bids. Yes, that’s his rookie card!

Plus, a half-dozen Maris rookies graded PSA 7 (strong condition for a 62-year-old card) got away for a range of collector-friendly prices:

● $1,525 on 40 bids

● $1,455 on 27 bids

● $1,225 on 30 bids

● $1,206 on 10 bids

● $1,100 on four bids

● $987 on 22 bids.

While 7- and 8-grade Maris rookies are affordable, a 9 commands prices well into five figures. They jump dramatically to nearly $20,000, based on recent auction house sales.

SWEET ’78 — Amid the baseball memorabilia market’s recent surge, certain under-appreciated cards have been lifted by the frenzy. One such example is the 1978 Topps “Rookie Shortstops” card featuring future Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Alan Trammel. In February, a PSA 10 specimen of that card sold for $51,101 on 59 bids. The quartet of players pictured on the card includes Mickey Klutts and U.L. Washington along with Molitor and Trammel.


Another traditionally undervalued card gaining steam is Dave Winfield’s rookie, a 1974 Topps issue. In February, we saw a PSA 10 example of the card sell for $43,627 on 81 bids.

Still another: Willie McCovey’s 1960 Topps rookie card. In late February, a PSA 9 example of McCovey’s first card sold for $18,521on 37 bids.


1. $225,600 on 96 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection LeBron James, #88/250, auto (BGS 9.5, auto 10)

2. $180,100 on 103 bids: 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson (PSA 10)

3. $168,600 on 112 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Black Refractor, #50/500 (BGS 9.5)

4. $155,095 on 89 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Basketball compete set with stickers (PSA 9)


5. $125,655 on 120 bids: 1986 Topps Jerry Rice (PSA 10)

6. $116,100 on 69 bids: 1963 Topps Pete Rose (PSA 9)

7. $115,100 on 143 bids: 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle (PSA 7)

8. $95,100 on 96 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (BGS 9.5)

9. $93,000 on 34 bids: 2019-20 Panini National Treasures Zion Williamson, #39/99, auto patch (ungraded)

10. $92,990 on 92 bids: 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth (PSA 6)

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN — Just outside our Top 10 at $90,300 was a double-signed Panini Flawless card featuring the autographs of Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes II. One of only five made, it groups the two quarterbacks who wound up meeting in the 2021 Super Bowl.

Brady, of course, got in the way of Mahomes’ bid for two straight Super Bowl wins. In the process, the 43-year-old won his seventh ring.

Brady and Mahomes also happen to be the hottest names in the football collectibles market. Brady especially is on fire. You’ll note that two other Brady items—both of them 2000 Playoff Contenders signed Rookie Tickets—populate the list directly below. And looking a little beyond our “next 10,” we can report that two other Brady Playoff Contenders rookies—both graded BGS 9—sold for prices of $84,900 and $79,100.

Those prices pale in comparison to the Brady Contenders rookie that sold for $555,988 in early February, as featured in this space last time out. That record-setting specimen was graded PSA 10.

On to our full “next 10” list:


$90,300 on 132 bids: 2019 Panini Flawless Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes II Dual Autographs, #2/5, auto (BGS 9.5)

$90,100 on 141 bids: 1980-81 Topps Larry Bird, Julius Irving, and Magic Johnson (PSA 9)

$89,100 on 79 bids: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Gold Refractor, #7/50, auto (PSA 9)

$88,988 on 108 bids: 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Kevin Durant Limited Logos, #14/50, auto patch (BGS 8.5)

$88,888 on 131 bids: 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection LeBron James and Kevin Durant, #5/5, auto patch (BGS 8)

$87,300 on 47 bids: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (BGS 9)

$87,100 on 56 bids: 1996-97 Skybox E-X2000 Kobe Bryant (PSA 10)

$87,033 on 25 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Refractor (BGS 9.5)

$85,100 on 109 bids: 2003 Panini Sports (soccer) Cristiano Renaldo (BGS 9.5)

$85,100 on 59 bids: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (BGS 9, auto 10)

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