By Larry Canale
On eBay, the past month has been rich for buyers and sellers of vintage baseball cards, as you’ll read below. But we’ll lead off with an even bigger story: Tiger Woods. The living golf legend completed an amazing comeback story and won international headlines on April 14 when he won his first major tournament in more than a decade, taking top honors at the 2019 Masters. It was the fifth time he won the famed green jacket for that tournament, and it was his 15th major tournament win overall.
Back in the 1990s and 2000s, Woods was a hot name in the collectibles market. When injuries and personal issues began affecting his game, he seemed to have disappeared. But this year, he returned to prominence, and collectors are on board. Check out some of the prices paid on eBay for choice Woods collectibles since his big Masters win:
• $14,955 for an Upper Deck Tiger Woods rookie buy-back auto card, an ungraded 1-of-1 redemption card issued in 2001.
• $10,253 for a 2001 UD SP Authentic autograph card of Woods graded PSA 10. Two other examples of the same card sold for $10,000 each.
• $4,000 for a 2001 UD SP Authentic red Sign of the Times card graded BGS 9.5.
• $2,750 for a 2009-10 Upper Deck The Cup Sidney Crosby Tribute auto patch card, one of only 10 made. It had been graded PSA 9.
• $1,095 for an autographed 16 x 20-inch signed and authenticated color photograph called “Exultation.” It’s from an Upper Deck edition of 100 pieces.
A SPLENDID TED CLASSIC
Here’s a card we haven’t had on our Top 10 chart: a 1958 Topps Ted Williams. It’s from later in the Red Sox great’s career, but it attracted bidder attention because it’s so remarkably preserved, having drawn a PSA 9 grade.
Williams’ 1958 card is almost impossible to find in Near-Mint condition. Because it was No. 1 in that Topps series, Williams’ card was prone to the habits of the day, often getting rubber-banded at the top of a stack of prized cards. But this amazing example features sharp corners, vivid colors and centering that’s close to perfect. According to seller PWCC, “The faintest of chipping along the lower right edge may be all that kept this gem from grading even higher.”
When the card came out, Williams was nearing 40 but still a feared slugger. As the card’s reverse-side text tells us, “At 39, Ted became the oldest player to ever win the batting title. He finished 23 points higher than Mantle and belted four more homers than the Yankee youngster. Father Time? Ted never heard of him!”
The card also notes that Williams’ 1957 batting title was the fifth of his career. He hit .388 with 38 homers, 96 runs and 87 RBI.
Speaking of condition perfection, how about a perfect-10 1957 card of a top Yankees star? The same eBay seller that listed the 1958 PSA 9 Ted Williams card above also offered a PSA 10 Whitey Ford card from the 1957 Topps set. Calling it “an absolute freak of nature,” PWCC listed the treasure in early April and enjoyed 58 bids that drove the price to $15,655.
Ford, nicknamed “The Chairman of the Board,” was coming off a spectacular 1956 season. He had a league-leading 2.47 ERA and a record of 19-6, with another victory in the Yankees’ World Series win over the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Among Upper Deck’s controversial moves of the past was its purchase of a pair of pants Babe Ruth wore while playing for the New York Yankees. Pieces of the pinstriped pants were included in such products as UD’s 2001 SP Authentic “Sultan of Swatch” insert cards. Recently on eBay, a bidder paid $22,322 for one such card. It includes not only the swatch of Ruth’s pants, but a cut signature. It was marked No. 2 of 3.
The “Sultan of Swatch” card was controversial because to many, the act of cutting swatches out of pants (or slivers from game-used bats) essentially destroys important memorabilia. Proponents, on the other hand, would say that the tactic allows sharing of that memorabilia.
STAN THE MAN
While we’re on the subject of baseball legends, let’s give you a look at Stan “The Man” Musial, the great St. Louis Cardinals outfielder. Musial turned up in our research in the past month because of the sale of a PSA 7 specimen of his 1948 Leaf card for $15,200.
When that ’47 Leaf card was issued, Musial was coming off a major comeback. After serving in the U.S. military for a year and missing the entire 1945 season, he returned in 1946 to hit a league-leading .365. He also led the league in hits (228), at-bats (624), runs (124), doubles (50), triples (20) and games played (156). For good measure, he also hit 16 HRs and drove in 103 runs.
At the time, Musial was 25, and he would play for 17 more years. He retired after the 1963 season with a .331 career average and 475 homers.
A PRICEY CHECKLIST
Without a doubt, $16,500 is a lot to pay for a card with no photographs and player stats. But this one’s all about condition. The winning bidder got a PSA 9/Mint specimen of a card that typically got filled with checkmarks and x’es by young collectors of the day.
Within the checklist, you’ll see the names of a host of NBA legends, from Wilt Chamberlain—honored with card No. 1—to John Havlicek, Lew Alcindor and Bill Bradley to Oscar Robertson, Willis Reed and Walt Frazier, among other Hall of Famers. And that’s only Series 1. This ultra-clean checklist shows just how star-studded that classic Topps set is.