By Larry Canale
How about Giancarlo Stanton’s mid-season surge? The Miami Marlins outfielder, two seasons removed from the frightening beaning he incurred in 2014, when he was hit in the face with a pitch, is baseball’s hottest hitter. After this year’s All Star Game, he went on a home-run binge, hitting 13 round-trippers in August (a club record for a month — with nine days to go). At press time, his season total had reached 46 and counting.
The daily HR news surrounding Giancarlo has him more solidly on collectors’ radar than ever. Recent results are worthy of his impact on the field. Consider:
• A 2008 Playoff Contenders autographed Stanton card graded BGS 10 sold for $15,000.
• An autographed 2008 Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor (one of only 50) sold for $2,889. Another lesser-grade example — graded BGS 8.5 — brought $1,579.
• A signed game-used bat authenticated by MLB and PSA brought $1,495 — a figure that a few years from now might seem like a bargain.
Believe it or not, there are collector-friendly Stanton items still available —including autographed baseballs. We’re seeing authenticated examples selling within the perhaps surprising range of $50 to $200.
By the way, there’s talk of an impending bidding war for Stanton’s services between the Yankees and Red Sox. The slugger is in the third year of a 13-year, heavily back-loaded $325 million contract, and the Miami Marlins are known for getting out from underneath huge paychecks. Imagine the collector attention Stanton would draw in New York or Boston.
There was a point in time, shortly after Eddie Mathews retired in 1968, when the third baseman ranked sixth on the all-time home run chart. The slugger had 512 lifetime ’taters, ranking him at the time behind only Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx. By now, with the game having become more of a home run derby, he has dropped into a tie (with Ernie Banks) for 23rd place. But make no mistake: Mathews was one of the game’s most prodigious sluggers during his 17-year career.
Among collectors, however, Mathews has never had the marquee value of a Ruth or Mays or Williams. In fact, despite his status as an early member of the 500 Home Run Club, his memorabilia can sometimes be surprisingly inexpensive. You can find signed and authenticated Mathews baseballs for less than $150; he was fairly active on the autograph show circuit before his passing in 2001, so there’s a decent supply.
Then again, there’s Mathews’ rookie card, from Topps’ always-coveted 1952 set.
Auctions aren’t exactly littered with Mathews rookies, so when a top-condition specimen comes up for bidding, it can spark some frenzy. Consider the PSA 8 example that landed on eBay in early August: On the strength of 53 bids, it soared to $67,956. Earlier this year, keep in mind, two different Mathews PSA 8 rookies sold at Heritage Auctions for prices of $50,400 and $60,000.
Interested in budget-friendly Mathews items? Consider these desirable vintage pieces:
• His 1953 Bowman color card, which featured a clean and classic photo of Mathews in a post-swing pose. Two recent sales of PSA 7 examples produced prices of $389 and $480. A PSA 8 version kicked up to $1,280 on 25 bids.
• His 1958 Topps “Fence Busters” card, which gave us a quartet of Milwaukee Braves power hitters. The photo finds Mathews surrounded by teammates Del Crandell, Hank Aaron and Joe Adcock. A PSA 8 example of the card recently sold for $318 on 33 bids.
• His 1959 Home Run Derby card, a promo item featuring a friendly black-and-white photo of Mathews. Created to promote the then-popular TV show Home Run Derby, the card can sell for $200 to $300, as we saw with a version graded SGC 50 that fetched $21. Only one other example of the card was listed at press time: a PSA 3 version that has a $650 bid.
THE PERFECT SIG?
One of the most enticing items we’ve seen lately has been a rare Babe Ruth autographed postcard. It dates to 1934 and features a gorgeous game shot of Ruth in a post-swing follow-through.
The details are awesome — they include a clear look at Ruth’s face; that unmistakable Bambino physique; a catcher with his mitt poised to catch a pitch that clearly didn’t get past the Babe; the crowd looking on; and a photographer actually in the field of play, just a few yards from the batter’s box. And just look at that autograph: “Sincerely, Babe Ruth” — it’s big, bold, and clean. And it was authenticated by PSA/DNA.
Where did the postcard come from? The seller supplies some provenance (albeit speculative provenance).
“This is a rare treasure tucked away for many years. It was just put into a new PSA holder. [It’s from an] extremely rare postcard set identified by the company seal imprinted in the bottom right corner. I’ve seen only a handful of these over the years sold in auction houses but none in over a decade. The other cards in the set are of Lou Gehrig and Jimmy Fox and a group shot of the three, all from the 1934 Japan Tour. It’s my belief that the original developer was a local Japanese photographer who produced these and then returned to the [next] game and had them autographed by [Ruth]. He later sold the rights to the photo to a major American newspaper, because this is now a famous photo used in newspapers of the time and tribute cards of recent years.”
The seller was asking $115,000 but, alas, the sale ended without a buyer. We’ll be looking for it to re-emerge.
Top 10 Online Auctions
1. $68,988: 1980-81 Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Julius Erving (PSA 10)
2. $67,956: 1952 Topps Eddie Mathews (PSA 8)
3. $65,500: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 5)
4. $38,500: 1954 Topps Al Kaline (PSA 9)
5. $29,300: 1909 T204 Ramly Walter Johnson (PSA 5)
6. $28,600: 1957 Topps Bob Cousy (PSA 8.5)
7. $25,200: 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle (PSA 7)
8. $25,101: 1957 Topps Frank Robinson
9. $24,238: 1921 American Caramel E121 Babe Ruth (SGC 55)
10. $23,100: 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle (PSA 5.5)