THE WAIT IS ON — That buzz surrounding the Yankees during the long offseason has been coming from the direction of prized prospect Jasson Dominguez, a Dominican Republic import. But don’t look for him to make a splash during this baseball-lite season—a coronavirus-shortened 60-game schedule. The Yankees left Dominguez off their 60-man roster, reflecting the fact that they’re going for all the marbles. Yankee GM Brian Cashman told reporters, “We have a 60-game sprint in a COVID environment to qualify for the playoffs and take a shot at a 2020 world championship title.”
Besides, Dominguez is but 17 years old and hasn’t had an at-bat in pro baseball in the U.S. The Yankees just signed him in July 2019, so he’ll need development time before we see him in the Bronx.
For collectors, the waiting is the hardest part, as Tom Petty once said. That’s why speculator types are showing itchy trigger fingers during eBay auctions of Dominguez cards. His 2020 Bowman Chrome Orange Refractor, produced in a quantity of 25, is the holy grail for now. Consider:
• In late June, 51 bids pushed the price of an ungraded Dominguez Orange Refractor (marked #23/25) to an astonishing $19,550.
• A week earlier, a specimen of the same card graded BGS 9.5 (#9/25) sold for $17,495 on 43 bids.
• Earlier in June, still another Orange Refractor (#21/25, ungraded) brought $16,200 on 51 bids.
• Also in early June, an ungraded Orange Refractor (#12/25) sold for $13,988 on 49 bids.
One seller, obviously influenced by the momentum of these sales, has offered an Orange Refractor (#10/25) for $20,000 in a Buy It Now deal.
What’s Dominguez done to deserve such instant hobby devotion? A five-tool talent, he’s nicknamed “The Martian” because of his “otherworldly talents,” as noted on the reverse side of his Orange Refractor. Baseball America says his “blend of power, speed and arm strength all earn ‘plus’ or better grades. He’s an explosive, quick-burst athlete who plays a premium position in center field.” MLB.com and FanGraphs both ranked the 5-foot-10, 190-pound switch-hitting outfielder No. 1 among international prospects.
Sadly, the 2020 minor league season is canceled, so barring the unexpected, we’ll have to wait a while to see The Martian. But fast-forward to maybe 2022 and think about Dominguez positioned between Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge—a new Murderer’s Row, all in the Yankees’ outfield.
UNAVOIDABLE? — As badly as we wanted baseball this summer, we also realize the COVID-19 pandemic presents a risk for players, coaches, announcers, staff and others associated with the game. Despite safety precautions in the early going of baseball’s June spring training camps, we’re already hearing about players getting infected with COVID-19.
Teams aren’t required to reveal names, but ESPN reported in early July that Freddie Freeman and three other Atlanta Braves have tested positive. Freeman’s wife, Chelsea Freeman, noted on social media that the virus “hit him like a ton of bricks.” She also wrote, “Please take this virus seriously—wear a mask when in public and wash your hands frequently.”
Freeman, fresh off a .295, 38-HR, 121-RBI season—is one of the game’s top sluggers. Teammate Ronald Acuna overshadows him in the collectibles market, but Freeman still draws plenty of interest, as these recent prices illustrate:
• $752 on 31 bids for a 2009 Bowman Chrome signed Prospects card graded PSA 10.
• $660 on 34 bids for a Blue Refractor version of the same card.
• $520 on 10 bids for a 2011 Topps Diamond Anniversary ungraded “Hope Diamond” card (#13/60).
• $502 on 27 bids for a 2011 Bowman Sterling signed Gold Refractor graded PSA 10 (#42/50).
Here’s hoping for a quick recovery and return for Freeman and his teammates, closer Will Smith, infielder Pete Kozma and pitcher Touki Toussant.
THE SUMMER OF ’53 — Topps’ highly regarded 1953 baseball set is a prize—a colorful collection reflecting a long-ago era when kids spent summer days flipping baseball cards, pinning them to bicycle spokes or stashing them in the ol’ back pocket. The set features Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson—cards that can sell for tens of thousands if in 8 condition.
In a June auction, an eBay buyer won a complete 1953 set for $17,400—not a bad deal. The seller called it a high-grade set (although “high-grade” is a relative term when you’re talking about mid-20th-century cards). Among the set’s 274 cards, 41 had been assessed by PSA and drew a mix of grades between 4 and 8. The seller estimated the remaining cards to be anywhere from Excellent to Near-Mint.
But what about the condition of the aforementioned Mantle, Mays and Robinson cards? The Mantle card has a PSA 4 grade—which typically means a value of $2,000 to $3,000. The Mays card has a PSA 5 grade (typically $2,000 to $3,000). And the Robinson was graded PSA 6 (typically $1,500 to $2,500).
Higher-graded cards in the set included Chuck Dressen and Eddie Miksis (PSA 8), Yogi Berra and Pee Wee Reese (PSA 7.5) and Bob Feller, Gus Bell and Harvey Haddix (PSA 7).
THE NEXT 10 — Three of the 10 items that fell outside our Top 10 chart (shown at bottom) were related to Michael Jordan. But wedged between those cards were two football favorites: Steve Young and Jerry Rice. Gem-Mint 1986 Topps cards of the 49er teammates attracted more than 50 bids each and soared well above the $30,000 mark.
Rice’s rookie has been on the rise. Just four years ago, we were reporting on Rice rookies selling for prices between $10,000 and $15,000. In April 2020, we reported on a PSA 10 specimen that sold for $24,700. In May, another PSA 10 example brought $31,655.
The price paid for Young’s 1986 card also represents a dramatic increase. In early 2016, we reported on a pair of PSA 10-graded 1986 Young cards that auctioned for prices of $18,600 and $16,400. The June 2020 price listed below—$35,302—is nearly double those figures. It may have emboldened at least one eBay seller: At press time, a 1986 PSA 10 Young card popped up in a Buy It Now deal with an asking price of $33,000. As of this writing, there were no takers.
Young’s 1986 issue, by the way, is his first card as an NFL player, but remember that the lefty QB appeared in Topps’ USFL sets in 1984 and 1985. His 1984 rookie—picturing him as a member of the L.A. Express—seems to be losing out to his 1986 NFL debut card. We reported in 2016 that a 1984 Topps Young auctioned for $12,099. In June 2020, we saw a Gem-Mint (SGC 10) example of that same card sell for just $2,300—and that was after 81 bids.
Anyway, let’s get to the 10 cards that fell outside our chart:
• $35,655 on 46 bids: 1984-85 Star Michael Jordan (BGS 9)
• $35,302 on 50 bids: 1986 Topps Steve Young (PSA 10)
• $35,100 on 27 bids: 1984-85 Star Michael Jordan (BGS 9)
• $32,877 on 57 bids: 1986 Topps Jerry Rice (PSA 10)
• $32,777 on 69 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (BGS 9.5)
• $32,100 on 52 bids: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (BGS 9, auto 10)
• $27,609 on 45 bids: 2009-10 Topps Chrome LeBron James Gold Refractor, #19/50 (BGS 9.5)
• $27,300 on 43 bids: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (BGS 8.5, auto 10)
• $25,988 on 71 bids: 1997-98 Skybox E-X2001 Jambalaya Die-Cut Kobe Bryant (PSA 10)
• $25,787 on 87 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection basketball factor sealed hobby box
TOP 10 CHART
1. $125,200 on 56 bids: 2005-06 Upper Deck The Cup Sidney Crosby, #52/99, auto patch (BGS 10)
2. $90,300 on 91 bids: 2019-20 Panini National Treasures Zion Williamson, #3/30, auto patch (BGS9)
3. $77,100 on 69 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (PSA 10)
4. $74,600 on 43 bids: 2019-20 Panini National Treasures Zion Williamson, #67/99, auto patch (ungraded)
5. $72,568 on 57 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (SGC 5.5)
6. $66,624 on 105 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection LeBron James, #90/100, auto patch (BGS 9)
7. $47,988 on 66 bids: 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Parallel Kevin Durant, #15/35, auto patch (BGS 8.5)
8. $47,600 on 35 bids: 2003/04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Michael Jordan Limited Logos, #16/75, auto patch (BGS 9)
9. $42,500 on 53 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Authentic Signatures LeBron James, #LJ-A, auto (PSA 10)
10. $37,700 on 100 bids: 2017 Panini Flawless Patrick Mahomes II, #6/25, auto patch (PSA 10)