By Larry Canale
Angels megastar Mike Trout takes up half of our Top 10 list this time out—five items that ended up well north of $15,000. And there were plenty of other Trout pieces that sold for prices not far below $15,000. What’s a budget-conscious collector to do?
Well, remember that for every Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Refractor, there are many, many multiples of worthy items you can snag for under $500. Let’s put a few in front of you right now, basing them on realized prices at eBay over the past several weeks.
• 2011 Topps Update: For a little below $500, you can find a NM-condition (9 to 9.5) specimen of Topps’ 2011 Update card of then-rookie phenom Trout.
• 2010 Bowman Platinum Refractor Prospect: For $400 to $450, you could score one of these classics, complete with Trout’s sig, in 9 condition.
• 2013 Topps Finest Prodigies. Limited to a run of 10, you’d think this autographed rarity would be out of sight, dollar-wise. But in May, we saw one sell for $400.
• Autographed baseballs. Prices vary quite a bit, based on the type of ball, authentication, and condition. However, we saw a host of Trout-signed baseballs with convincing provenance sell for $300 to $400 at eBay between May and August.
• Autographed photos. Likewise, signed photograph prices vary, ranging from $75 to $350 and sometimes higher. Take an “answer-is-in-the-middle” approach and you can count on spending $200 to $250 to get an attractive Trout action photo with an authenticated sig.
THE VINTAGE CHARM OF ’57
If you love vintage-looking color photography, you no doubt appreciate Topps’ 1957 baseball set. Most of the product’s player portraits and poses have a sort of early-Kodachrome look—somewhat muted colors that reflect the era’s photographic limitations.
An eBay seller put up a complete set of ’57s in July and earned $14,500. Most of the set was graded PSA 6, 7 or 8, with the bulk of the cards landing at an impressive PSA 8.
How about the key cards?
• The classic Mickey Mantle in the set was a PSA 7, as was Don Drysdale’s card.
• The “Yankees’ Power Hitters” card—featuring Mantle with Yogi Berra—was a PSA 6, as were the cards of Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, and Sandy Koufax. (The Aaron card is a particular favorite of collectors: It features that flipped-negative shot in which the righty-hitting slugger is shown as a lefty.)
• All sorts of commons along with some stars, including Roy Campanella, were graded PSA 8.
The seller also included a run of 1957 checklists, plus the set’s “Lucky Penny” insert card. Graded PSA 8, the latter entitled the holder to a “lucky penny charm and key chain—FREE!” In 8 condition, the card by itself can fetch upwards of $1,000.
Was the final auction price a bargain? Well, a 1957 Mantle card by itself can sell for $2,000 in 7-grade condition. The six star cards we mentioned earlier all were PSA 6s that by themselves can bring around $300 to $600. And even common cards in this 61-year-old set that have a PSA 8 slab can sell for hundreds of dollars. So, overall, the buyer got respectable value for the price.
AN MJ RARITY
We’re accustomed to seeing Michael Jordan’s 1986-87 Fleer card on our Top 10 list, and this time out, it indeed shows up. But we also get a look at an MJ rarity: a 2006-07 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection “Emblems of Endorsements” card bearing a game-used uniform patch and Jordan’s distinctive sig. The card, one of only 15 made, attracted 45 bids and soared to $14,313.
We hope you caught Doug Koztoski’s feature on magazine-collecting in the most recent issue of Sports Collectors Digest (dated Aug. 17, 2018). It nicely sized up one of our favorite (and most underrated) aspects of the sports memorabilia market: magazine collecting.
It’s a niche that’s rich in inventory. You’ll find intriguing magazines from the past at most card and autograph shows, and also at flea markets and yard sales and antiques malls. There’s also a nonstop supply of old magazines on eBay—some that will look instantly familiar, and many that you’ve never seen.
So let’s give you a peek at some beauties that changed hands over the past several weeks.
• On the high end are magazines that have been graded in top condition. Example: A copy of the July 3, 1967 issue of Sports Illustrated graded CGC 9 sold for $4,995. The cover boy—Roberto Clemente, as captured in a beautiful post-swing action shot—helped drive the sale. A CGC 9-graded issue of the June 18, 1956 issue of Sports Illustrated brought $2,500. Again, the cover boy was a big part of the appeal: Mickey Mantle. And an ungraded but top-condition issue of Sport Illustrated from Aug. 1, 1955 brought $1,999. This one featured Ted Williams in a colorful cover shot.
• Baseball Magazine is popular among sports collectors, not surprisingly. We saw an ungraded but top-condition example of that magazine’s April 1915 issue sell for a robust $1,400. The cover featured an illustration of The Big Train, Walter Johnson. Artist J.F. Kernan captured the star pitcher holding a pencil in his right hand and a piece of paper in his left bearing the words “Why I signed with the Federals.” Johnson, of course, played his entire career for the Washington Senators, but at that juncture, in early 1915, he appeared headed for the renegade Federal League, signing a three-year contract with the Chicago Whales. His salary was to be $17,500 per year, with a $6,000 signing bonus.
Fortunately for the city of Washington, he ended up staying, thanks to an increase in salary to $12,500 (a figure still shy of the Chicago offer). But at least the Senators’ owner, Clark Griffith, tendered Johnson the $6,000 signing bonus he would have had by going to the Federal League.
At the time of the Baseball Magazine cover, Johnson was coming off a season in which he pitched a career-high 371 innings (with 33 complete games), compiling a 28-18 record and an ERA of 1.72. He would be just as effective in 1915: 27-13 with a 1.55 ERA in 336 innings.
• In your collecting pursuit, look beyond pure sports magazines—all sorts of mainstream titles occasionally splash an athlete or athletes on a given cover. Example: The Oct. 5, 1936 issue of Time featured Yankee Lou Gehrig and Giant Cal Hubbell in a “split-screen” cover. The high-contrast black-and-white photos of the two stars are striking inside Time’s patented red border.
The issue was in very nice condition, and it was a newsstand copy, meaning there’s no subscriber label obscuring a part of the cover. And it wasn’t all that expensive, getting away for $110.