THAT’S JO, WITHOUT AN “E” — One of baseball’s highly anticipated rookies—Jo Adell of the Los Angeles Angels—got a call to the bigs this week. The 21-year-old is slated to get plenty of playing time on either side of center fielder Mike Trout. Tall and strong at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Adell began his minor league career in 2017 and since then has compiled 35 homers and 143 RBI in 904 at-bats while hitting .298.
Even before Adell’s call-up, collectors were starting to stock up. The card of choice is his 2017 signed Bowman Chrome. In June, a Gold Refractor version of that card brought $5,585 on 22 bids. It was marked #19/50 and graded BGS 9.5. A month earlier, another example brought $2,425 on 93 bids, despite having the higher grade of PSA 10.
While that card shows Adell in a hitting pose, a more readily available 2017 autographed Bowman Chrome variation—from an edition of 99—shows a portrait pose of the smiling young star-in-the-making. A PSA 10 example of that card sold in June for $2,200.
His unsigned cards, of course, are more budget-friendly. You’ll find a big selection of his 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Adell cards for well under $50 (for now!).
WORLDWIDE FOOTBALL — Soccer’s most famous card? It can only be the 1958 rookie card of longtime superstar Pelé.
Made by a company called Alifabolaget, the Pelé rook came to our attention recently when a specimen graded PSA 7 sold for $43,511 on 88 bids. The card shows Pelé as a youthful 17-year-old in Brazil, not long after the start of his unparalleled career. (If you want a little taste of what made him special, go to YouTube and search “Pelé top 10 impossible goals” for highlights or “Pelé king of football” for a documentary.)
The legendary soccer forward began playing for Brazil’s national team at age 16. He would go on to win three FIFA World Cup titles (1958, 1962 and 1970), the only player ever to do so. Pelé played until 1977, and is known for popularizing the phrase “the beautiful game” in reference to soccer (or football, as it’s known everywhere except the United States).
Pelé's given name, by the way, is Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Memorize that and you’ll be able to stump most sports fans!
THE “OTHER” FOOTBALL — If you had to choose the top football card from the 1960s, Joe Namath’s rookie most certainly would be on the short list. If you did the same for the 1970s, Walter Payton’s rookie would be in the conversation. Not coincidentally, both cards made noise during the past month when they inspired bidding wars on eBay.
In July, a 1965 Namath rookie graded PSA 8 sold for $35,000 on 65 bids. It comes from Topps’ distinctive “tall-boy” set—cards that measured 5 inches tall. When you hold one in your hand, you almost wish the size had become standard for all future sets. The extra real estate allows for higher-impact photos on the front and more stats on the back.
As it was, Topps quickly reverted to the standard 2.5 x 3.5-inch card size in 1966, so Namath’s second-year card doesn’t have quite the impact. Even so, it’s got vintage eye appeal, thanks to those “old TV set” borders surrounding each player’s face.
By 1966, Namath was already the talk of pro football. He didn’t disappoint early collectors (or fans), leading the AFL in passing yards in both 1966 and 1967, and leading his New York Jets to an upset win over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in 1969. Never mind that Joe Willie would throw more interceptions (220) than touchdown passes (173) in his career. His Super Bowl III surprise secured his place in NFL history. And throughout his career, he was more fun to watch than just about anyone.
As for Walter Payton, his rookie card appeared in Topps’ 1976 set and featured the Bears legend in a smiling, baby-faced portrait. The “sweetness” look belied his ferocious, take-no-prisoners style of running. During an uber-productive career, Payton rushed for 16,276 yards and 110 touchdowns on the ground and gained another 4,538 yards with 15 TDs as a receiver.
In late July, a Payton rookie graded SGC 10 touched off a tough bidding war on eBay, eventually landing at $42,600—after an amazing 103 bids. It’s a stunning price when you consider that in late May, a PSA 10 Payton rookie sold for $20,234 on 42 bids.
On a related note, we think one eBay seller is confusing Payton’s second-year card with his rookie. He’s asking $12,000 for a 1977 Topps Payton in a Buy It Now offer but hasn’t had a bite since listing it in May. Yes, it’s a Gem-Mint card (PSA 10), but he’s got one zero too many in his asking price. Another seller recently offered a Gem-Mint-10 Payton rookie for $1,275—and that one had no takers. Meanwhile, PSA 9 examples of Payton’s 1977 card have sold recently for prices of $730, $575 and $519.
ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN — These 10 items placed just outside our chart:
• $60,100 on 49 bids: 2019-20 Panini National Treasures Ja Morant Emerald, #1/5, auto patch (ungraded)
• $58,600 on 74 bids: 2019-20 Panini National Treasures Zion Williamson, #13/99, auto patch (ungraded)
• $57,100 on 24 bids: 2008-09 Upper Deck Metal Universe LeBron James Precious Metal Gems, #/50 (BGS 9)
• $56,623 on 42 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Limited Michael Jordan, #/75, auto patch (BGS 9.5)
• $55,655 on 104 bids: 1958-59 Topps Bobby Hull (PSA 8)
• $55,101 on 104 bids: 2003-04 Bowman Chrome LeBron James Refractor, #7/300 (PSA 10)
• $55,100 on 85 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome R&S LeBron James Refractor (BGS 9.5)
• $52,865 on 73 bids: 2019 Panini Donruss Optic Zion Williamson Gold Vinyl, #1/1 (BGS 9)
• $50,000 on 52 bids: 2019-20 Panini National Treasures Zion Williamson, #22/99, auto patch (ungraded)
• $46,100 on 83 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome Dwayne Wade Gold Refractor, #/50 (PSA 10)
TOP 10 CHART
1. $150,200 on 26 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Refractor (BGS 10)
2. $115,200 on 85 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Refractor (BGS 10)
3. $105,700 on 76 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Inkredible Inkscriptions LeBron James, #/25, auto (PSA 10)
4. $81,988 on 59 bids: 2009-10 Panini National Treasures Stephen Curry, #29/99, auto patch (BGS 9.5)
5. $77,650 on 42 bids: 2019-20 Panini National Treasures Zion Williamson, #29/30, auto patch (BGS 9)
6. $72,100 on 132 bids: 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Luka Doncic, #39/99, auto patch (PSA 9, auto 10)
7. $71,100 on 75 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (PSA 10)
8. $70,000 on 45 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection LeBron James, #215/250, patch (BGS 9.5)
9. $69,288 on 54 bids: 2009-10 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Michael Jordan, #/23, auto patch (BGS 8.5)
10. $60,100 on 51 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection LeBron James, #/25, auto patch (BGS 8.5)