By Larry Canale
We don’t see many 1978 cards drawing five-figure prices. But when it’s a card of Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, and when it’s a Mint-Condition specimen (graded PSA 10), it does happen. In July, we saw just such a card sell on eBay, attracting 39 bids and pulling down a price of $15,652.
Typically, Murray cards in PSA 9 condition can be had for sub-$1,000 prices. Examples in recent months: four PSA 9 Murray rookies sold for $765, $715, $565 and $515. And PSA 8 rookie cards of Murray are typically getting $50 to $100.
Murray was a stalwart first-baseman and designated hitter for 21 seasons, playing most of his career with the Orioles but also appearing Dodgers, Indians, Mets, and Angels. He batted .287 and hit 504 homers, driving in 1,917 runs along the way.
DESERT DIAMOND — In 1991, Topps issued a special variation of its regular baseball series: Desert Shield. Supposedly, Topps produced only around 7,000 sets to give to troops fighting in the first Gulf War. The cards in the set look identical to the regular-series issues, but with the addition of a gold-foil Desert Shield logo on the front. Because of the way the cards were distributed (and not necessarily preserved), they’re supposedly very scarce today—especially in Mint condition. So the realized auction prices of two 1991 Chipper Jones Desert Shield cards—both of which graded out at PSA 10—shouldn’t be surprising: $13,315 and $12,999.
Both cards sold in July, the former in an auction (37 bids) and the latter in a Buy It Now deal. The same card in 9 condition tends to bring between $1,000 and $2,000. If graded at 8, it can be had for around $50.
The card captures young Chipper in his high school uniform coming off a stellar school career (.382, 14 homers and 43 steals in 259 at-bats). He became the nation’s first selection in MLB’s 1990 draft, going to the Atlanta Braves as a highly touted shortstop. Later, of course, he’d switch to third base, then left field, then third base again. But all along, he hit. During his 19-year career, Jones batted .303 with 468 homers, 1,619 runs and 1,623 RBI.
GET YER PROGRAM! — World Series history is loaded with highlights, but it’s got its lowlights too—the most notorious of which happened in 1919. That was the year the controversial “Black Sox” series, when the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox tangled in a best-of-nine series. Behind-the-scenes allegations of gambling on the part of some White Sox players purposely throwing the Series left a black mark on the game.
Shoeless Joe Jackson—one of baseball’s all-time greats—was among those alleged to have thrown the Series, and he wound up banished from Major League Baseball. But to this day, legions of fans believe he was innocent, pointing to his impressive performance—he hit .375 in the series.
The real story will be forever shrouded in mystery, adding desirability to vintage memorabilia related to the 1919 World Series. We saw a stunning example turn up on eBay recently—an official scorecard.
The cover of the 52-page, 9 by 12-inch publication reads:
Official Souvenir Score Card
The cover also notes the venue (Redland Field, which would be renamed Crosley Field in 1934) and program price (25 cents).
The interior of program includes team photos of the White Sox and the Reds along with lineups and scoresheet pages. The program also includes a healthy number of interesting period ads ranging from Bicycle playing cards to local banks, and from cigarettes to soda (a full-page Coca-Cola ad encourages reader to “Buy by the Case”).
The program was ungraded but in outstanding condition: The seller gave it an EX-NM assessment that seems fair, based on the photographs with the listing. The program appears to be clean, untorn and intact. As such, it inspired 63 bids and sold for $2,503.
DEM BUMS — Speaking of classic baseball publications, one eBay seller listed a clean, excellent-condition specimen of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers yearbook. As fans know, this was a landmark season for the Dodgers, one in which they would upend the Yankees in the World Series. The yearbook has an illustration of a character representing “Dem Bums,” the nickname fondly bestowed on the team by sports cartoonist Willard Mullin, who (as legend has it) got the phrase from a cab driver. The program, reflecting an amazing collection of players, from Jackie Robinson and MVP Roy Campanella to Gil Hodges and Duke Snider, sold for $307.
ON THE OUTSIDE — Just like in real life, it was LeBron James on the outside, looking in. Well, even though James’s Cleveland Cavs got shut down and shut out by the Golden State Warriors (see No. 3 on our Top 10 chart), it’s hard to feel sorry for him. In July, he signed a four-year contract with the Lakers for $153.3 million. Whew.
We got a good look at a young LeBron on the card that landed just outside our Top 10 list: an autographed 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Authentic card that sold for $17,756. The card was numbered 148 of 500 and had been graded 10 by PSA .
STEEL BRADSHAW — What’s the most underrated vintage football card release? How about Topps’ 1971 set? It may not be the most artistic design, and it’s missing some stars who could have been included (Willie Lanier, Kenny Stabler and Roger Staubach, for example). But the 263-card set is nonetheless worthy of a chase, thanks to its bold look and unmistakably 1970s-era design, not to mention its impressive run of stars. Among the big names in this set: future Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Sonny Jurgensen, Don Maynard, Dick Butkus, Charley Taylor and Larry Csonka, among others. And, of course, there’s the star rookie of the set: Terry Bradshaw.
PSA, at its online price guide, puts the value of a Mint-9-condition Bradshaw rook at $18,500. In early July, we saw just such an animal land on eBay. It didn’t quite hit the level quoted at PSA’s website, but it did attract $14,600, thanks to 51 bids.
Bradshaw rookies in only slightly lesser condition can be had for sub-$1,000 prices. Over the past few months, we’ve seen PSA 8 specimens of the card sell for prices of $955 and $931, and we saw a BVG 8 get away for $555.
In 1971, by the way, Bradshaw was coming off a messy rookie season for the Steelers. He completed just 83 passes in 218 attempts (a meager 38.1 completion) and threw only six TDs vs. 24 interceptions. Fortunately for the Steelers, Bradshaw—after muddling through another trying season in 1971—would eventually blossom. He wound up winning four Super Bowl rings and a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.