How collecting hobby reacted to deaths of sports heroes - Sports Collectors Digest
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Interest spikes but values don’t on passing of sports heroes

Online Auctioneer

GLORY DAYS — In the space of a few weeks, Major League Baseball lost three familiar names from those glory days of the 1960s and ’70s. Typically, collecting interest in our athletic heroes surges upon their passing. In the cases of Tom Seaver and Lou Brock—both Hall of Famers—and longtime Yankee Horace Clarke, that’s exactly what happened, even though values didn’t spike along with interest. Let’s take a look….

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THE HOSS — Horace Clarke became the face of that “flat” period in Yankee history between the Mickey Mantle era and the blossoming of the Thurman Munson-led title teams. The so-called “Horace Clarke Era” started in earnest in 1965, when he came up while Mickey Mantle’s storied career was winding down. The era ended in May 1974, when the Yanks sold Clarke to San Diego.

“Hoss” was never an All-Star, but he was a workmanlike, reliable, switch-hitting infielder good enough to bat leadoff. He had a .256 career average (with a high of .285 in 1969), and he could run, stealing 151 bases in his career (including 33 in 1969). And he rarely missed a day.

Because Clarke was tagged as the face of an uneventful era, he earned notoriety among fans and, by extension, collectors. The Clarke card that attracts the most attention is his 1966 Topps rookie, a high-numbered (and thus scarcer) piece from a good-looking set.

In 2019, we saw a Gem Mint PSA 10 specimen of Clarke’s card sell for $900—not bad for a non-Hall of Famer. When graded 9, it sells for closer to $500, and when graded 8, it’s around $250.

On eBay in the days following Clarke’s passing on Aug. 5, we saw PSA 7 examples of his rookie card sell for prices of $140 (on 28 bids) and $122 (on 15 bids). We also saw a PSA 6 sell for $110 on 15 bids.

The other Clarke card typically in demand is another high-number issue, this one from 1971. The big factor here: condition sensitivity. With Topps’ black-bordered design, dings and chips along the edges seem magnified. Shortly before Clarke’s death, a rare PSA 9 specimen of his 1971 card sold for $561 on 16 bids.

Two other notable Clarke issues were his 1968 and 1969 Topps cards, which feature photos from the same session. You can pick up either in 8 condition for less than $50. Clarke-signed baseballs, photos and cards also can be had for less than $50.

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THE FRANCHISE — Your Online Auctioneer columnist contributed a feature on Tom Seaver for this issue of SCD, so we’ll be brief here, adding some eBay sales data. Even after Seaver’s passing—on Aug. 31, four weeks after Clarke’s—there were relative bargains to be found. For example, a PSA 8 specimen of his rookie card sold for $3,361 on 37 bids, while another PSA 8 got away for $1,750 on a single bid. That range is very much in line with prices in recent years. We also saw more than a half-dozen PSA 6-graded examples of Seaver’s rookie sell for sums between $1,000 and $1,600—again, in line with current data.

But Seaver’s passing brought out all kinds of gems besides his rookie card. Examples:

• A PSA 10-graded 1982 Topps card of Seaver (as a Cincinnati Reds hurler) sold for $2,655 on 49 bids.

• A full game ticket from the contest in which Seaver earned his 3,000th career strikeout (April 18, 1981) sold for $2,166. The ticket was signed by Seaver and authenticated and graded 8 by PSA.

• A 1968 Seaver Topps card (bearing the classic Topps All-Star Rookie graphic) sold for $1,625 on 31 bids.

• A 1969 Transogram Seaver card graded PSA 7.5 sold for $635 on nine bids. This rarity uses the same photo we see on Seaver’s 1968 Topps card.

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SWEET LOU — Speed was Lou Brock’s game, and he used it to great effect. During his illustrious 19-year career, he set a new standard for stolen bases, pilfering 938 of them, including his record-breaking 1974 season, when he swiped 118. Never mind that Rickey Henderson would come along and break those marks. Brock got there first, and in style.

Sadly, Brock died at age 81, just a week after Tom Seaver’s passing. As with Seaver, eBay bidders came out and bought, but prices were level. Shortly after Brock died, we saw a PSA 8 example of his 1962 Topps rookie card fetch $1,500 on 42 bids and a PSA 7 go for $635 on 21 bids.

Overall, Brock items were as collector-friendly as Lou was fan-friendly. Prices noted on eBay included:

• $405 on 32 bids for a 1965 Topps card of Brock graded PSA 9.

• $310 on 34 bids for an ungraded (but top-condition) 1963 Topps card.

• $250 on 25 bids for a PSA 8-graded 1971 (black-bordered) Topps card.

Look for more on Brock in our next issue.

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FERNANDO! — Imagine the attention he’d be getting if he played New York. As it is, Fernando Tatis Jr. plays for the San Diego Padres, so his exploits often get overlooked, especially on the East Coast.

After hitting .317 with 22 HRs as a rookie in 2019, Tatis picked up where he left off, batting .286 with 15 homers through mid-September in this coronavirus-shortened season. Through 600 career at-bats, he had amassed 37 HRs to go with a robust .306 average. Those stats give us a clue as to what we can expect from the shortstop during a “normal” full season. At only 21, he’s clearly headed for big things, and collectors are on board. Check out these highlight prices from the past month:

• $37,200 on 123 bids for a 2016 Bowman Chrome autographed Gold Refractor. Marked #40 of 50, it was graded BGS 9.5. Just two weeks earlier, another example of the same card, marked #23 of 50 and also graded BGS 9.5, sold for almost half as much: $19,455 on 19 bids.That’s what a hot stretch of hitting will do for a player on a team fighting for a playoff spot.

• $25,701 on 71 bids for a 2016 Bowman Chrome signed Red Shimmer Refractor graded BGS 9.5. It was marked #10 of 10.

$15,800 on 69 bids for an ungraded 2019 Topps Chrome Update signed Superfractor, a 1-of-1 issue.

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN — Wondering what finished outside our Top 10 chart? Here you go—the next 10:

• $50,571 on 51 bids: 2017 Panini National Treasures Patrick Mahomes II, #4/25 auto patch, (BGS 9)

• $50,101 on 107 bids: 1960 Hemmets Journal Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) (PSA 9)

• $50,100 on 37 bids: 1948-49 Bowman George Mikan (PSA 8)

• $45,300 on 128 bids: 2019-20 Donruss Zion Williamson Optic Gold Vinyl, #1/1 (BGS 9)

• $45,100 on 54 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Refractor (BGS 9.5)

• $42,651 on 27 bids: 1997-08 Upper Deck SPx Michael Jordan Grand Finale Die-Cut, #22/50 (BGS 8.5)

• $42,600 on 63 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (BGS 9.5)

• $41,656 on 57 bids: 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Kevin Durant, Logoman Patch (PSA 19)

• $40,656 on 56 bids: 2009-10 Upper Deck SP LeBron James Game-Used Logomen, patch, #1/7 (ungraded)

• $40,199 on 36 bids: 1997-98 Skybox E-X2001 Michael Jordan Jambalaya (BGS 9.5)

TOP 10 CHART

9/14/20

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1. $230,100 on 82 bids: 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Luca Doncic, #54/99, auto patch (BGS 9.5)

2. $180,100 on 52 bids: 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Luca Doncic, #54/99, auto patch (BGS 9)

3. $81,700 on 123 bids: 2013-14 Panini National Treasures Giannis Antetokounmpo, #35/99, auto patch

4. $60,100 on 103 bids: 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Luca Doncic, #81/99 (BGS 8)

5. $59,999 on 1 bid: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Refractor (PSA 10)

6. $56,400 on 77 bids: 1996-97 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant Refractor (BGS 9.5)

7. $54,595 on 1 bid: Babe Ruth single-signed baseball (JSA, Mint)

8. $53,501 on 75 bids: 2017-18 Panini Donruns Jayson Tatum Optic Gold Vinyl, #1/1 (ungraded)

9. $52,777 on 45 bids: 2018-19 Panini Contenders Rookie Ticket Luka Doncic Cracked Ice, auto (PSA 10)

10. $51,877 on 100 bids: 1952 Topps Willie Mays (PSA 8)

Auction of the Week

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Collect Auctions Summer Auction

Collect Auctions bidding ends August 6 and bidders can view each lot on our website at www.collectauctions.net. There are more than 1,000 lots of vintage sports cards and sets; what we believe is the strongest unopened lineup any auction house has ever offered. Bidding ends Thursday, August 6 at 9:00 p.m. CST (10:00 EST).