By Bert Lehman
Long-time dealer Rob Rosen has made it a habit to peruse eBay listings looking for baseball cards of Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, and other Hall of Fame baseball players. During a recent scroll through eBay listings, Rosen noticed something different about a 1955 Topps Jackie Robinson card.
“I’m looking back and forth and I saw this one and something just didn’t look right on it,” Rosen said. “It looked like it was shifted, or there was something about it that didn’t look right. I focused on it and noticed that in the logo, that little diamond, that there was a spot missing.”
Thinking the card surface may have been scraped Rosen immediately emailed the eBay seller and asked if the there was a scrape on the card. The eBay seller replied back, stating the card did not contain a scrape.
“So I bought the card, I think I bought it for $150 or something like that,” Rosen said.
When Rosen received the card in the mail, he said he was pleased with it.
“It wasn’t scraped or scratched or painted over,” he said. “Those were my worst fears.”
After personally seeing the physical card, Rosen said he wondered how he, and the rest of the Hobby missed the variation over the years.
“Especially considering the small variations out there like the (Gene) Baker error (card in 1957 Topps),” Rosen said. “This is obviously much bigger of a player and it’s right there in front of you.”
Rosen, who at one time worked for Kit Young, added that the card is not miscut because the white border on the left side of the card is present.
With the card in hand, Rosen contacted Sportscard Guaranty (SGC) to see if the company would grade the card as variation. He said he was told that multiple cards with part of the diamond portion of the card missing would need to be found and submitted for it to be graded and labeled as a variation.
“I started looking for more and didn’t find a single one until I went to the Philly show and in the entire show I found one and bought it,” Rosen said. “It was the exact same thing, missing that third base area.
“Then I started looking more and more and didn’t find any. So on top of it being a variation, it’s potentially a very tough variation. Unless everyone who has a 1955 Jackie Robinson has them in their collections and don’t know it.”
Rosen said it took about six months for him to find a third card with part of the diamond logo missing.
He took the cards to the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland and spoke with a dealer who had a stack of 12 1955 Topps Jackie Robinson cards at his booth. Rosen showed one of his Robinson cards to the dealer and asked if he had one like it. Rosen said the dealer didn’t notice the partial diamond on the card.
“He said, ‘Holy cow, I didn’t even see it,’” Rosen said. “It’s not recognizable, and I think that’s why it slipped through all these years.”
Of the 12 1955 Topps Jackie Robinson cards the dealer had, none of them were missing part of the diamond logo on the card.
Not only did Rosen search for more Robinson cards, he also searched for all Dodgers cards from the 1955 Topps Baseball set to see if it was an issue with cards featuring the Dodgers logo. None of the Dodgers cards he saw were missing part of the diamond logo.
Rosen said he is aware of a Robinson card in the Hobby with part of the diamond logo missing that has been graded an 8.
“However it’s not marked as a variation because he had it slabbed before,” Rosen said.
The three Robinson partial diamond cards Rosen has were graded by SGC, with two of them receiving grades of 5, and the other receiving a grade of 1.5. The label for each graded cards contains the designation “Partial Diamond.”
“To me it’s legitimately scarce,” Rosen said. “I go to all the shows and my biggest surprise (is I couldn’t find more cards of the partial diamond variation),” Rosen said. “It’s wasn’t like I was trying to make a splash at the National as far as headlines. I was looking to pick up some more. There wasn’t one at the National.”
He said that he’s not sure what he will do with the three variation cards he does have.
“There are some people who really don’t care about variations, but there are some people that you know, if this is deemed a true variation, which it has been, I think people that build master sets and stuff like that are going to need it,” he said. “Even if you are a star card collector you want the Jackie Robinson variation. I’m not saying price-wise it’s going to be the same but it’s the same caliber of variation.”
The Hobby will have to wait and see if more 1955 Topps Jackie Robinson cards surface that have part of the diamond logo missing.
Bert Lehman is the editor of Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at Bert.Lehman@fwmedia.com.