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2016 Topps Archives Operation Desert Shield set assembled to perfection

During his time as a collector Mark Christmore has assembled high-grade sets of 1991 Topps Desert Shield and 2016 Topps Desert Shield.

By Larry Canale

The No. 10 item on our chart in the last installment of “Online Auctioneer” may or may not have caught your eye, so let’s give you a quick refresher on what it was—and the story behind it. 

The item was Topps’ 2016 Desert Shield baseball set, which borrowed the design of the company’s 1991 Desert Shield set. All 88 cards were graded PSA 10, which inspired the final auction price of $18,500.

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The seller was Mark Christmore. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because in 2012, Christmore made headlines by collecting and then selling a PSA 10 set of Topps’ original 1991 Desert Shield set. Christmore’s collection was the No. 1 PSA Set Registry set of that popular release, so when he put it up for sale at Mile High Auctions in May 2012, it brought $75,800.

“I still miss that set a lot, which is what got me into collecting the 2016 set,” Christmore told us. “The 2016 set is probably even more difficult, given how rare the cards are in any condition.”

But Christmore, based in San Diego, dug in on the 2016 set over many months, starting around the time Topps issued them.

“When the 2016 Desert Shield cards came out,” he said, “I bought every one I could get my hands on—even duplicates. I knew this set was rare, and that my best chance of putting together a complete PSA graded set was to get the cards while they were available. 

“I was fortunate to find a few guys who had differing groups of cards I needed, but a lot of the set was one card at a time,” he continued. “My goal was to get a complete PSA set put together by April 30, 2017, in order to get the 2017 PSA Registry Banner, which I barely achieved.”

Which 2016 Desert Shield card was the toughest to find?

“The one I had the most difficulty locating was the John Franco card, #218,” he said. “I finally found one and traded an arm and a leg to get it. Then I had to get it graded by PSA and added to my set just before the April 30 deadline. Since then, there has been a lot of interest generated in the 2016 Desert Shield cards, with several guys attempting to put the set together.”

The key cards to completing the set, Christmore added, are Corey Seager (#275), Chipper Jones (#256) and Nolan Ryan (#273).

MVP! MVP! MVP!

If you knew a year ago that Mookie Betts would drive in “only” 80 runs in 2018, you might have thought, “That’s okay, but it’s not MVP stuff.” Well, one stat category doesn’t define a season. Consider Betts’ 2018 batting average (.346, tops in baseball), runs (129, also tops in baseball), slugging percentage (.640, again, tops in baseball), homers (32) and steals (30). Whew!

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Betts was a dominant player last season and an easy AL MVP choice—he received 28 of 30 first-place votes (Mike Trout and J.D. Martinez got the other two). Now 26, he enters the 2019 season with a career .303 average and a fresh World Series ring.

Not surprisingly, Betts also has been attracting the attention of baseball collectors. The popular catch is his 2014 Bowman Chrome Refractor; in recent months, a Purple sold for $8,988, an Orange fetched $5,100 and a Blue brought $3,550. Betts-signed baseballs are selling for anywhere from $150 to $350, depending on condition and authentication. And a number of Betts-signed bats brought prices between $175 and $250 in recent months.

If you’re looking for Betts items at more reasonable prices, there’s plenty out there among the 11,500 listings on eBay. Here are examples that recently sold:

• 2014 Topps Update Chrome Refractor: The variation of this card with Betts in a batting pose is selling for $300 to $400 if in 10 condition. The version with Betts wearing a glove sells within a much wider range (again, in 10 condition)—from as low as $125 up to $660. Of course, you can get ungraded specimens of either card for $25 to $100, but as always, be careful of condition.

• 2014 Topps Heritage: You’ll find the “regular” version of this throwback card (it’s designed after the 1965 Topps set) for $250 to $400. There’s a Certified Autograph version, too; that one gets into the $500 to $800 range.

• 2018 Topps Allen & Ginter: Here’s a short-print card (limited to 75) that presents well and doesn’t cost a fortune. The vintage design benefits a nice portrait of Betts, and the gold-stamped number marking at the top shows you have something relatively rare. We’re seeing this one sell for just $50 to $70, ungraded.

BRADY’S “OTHER” ROOK

Collectors have been going nuts over Tom Brady’s most hotly desired rookie card, his 2000 Upper Deck SP Authentic. It sells for upwards of $15,000 if in graded Mint condition. His 2000 Playoff Contenders Rookie Ticket is in the same neighborhood, as is his 2000 Leaf Limited Edition rookie.

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But what about Brady’s 2000 Bowman Chrome Refractor? That one is a little cheaper—but not too much. We saw a specimen graded SGC 98 sell for $13,401 on 55 bids in early January. Lesser-grade examples (like, 8 or 9) are going for between $4,000 and $8,000.

JETER’S “OTHER” ROOK

Similarly, collectors always put on the full-court press to get Derek Jeter’s most popular rookie card, his 1993 Upper Deck SP Foil. A Gem-Mint PSA 10 specimen of the card made news when it sold for $99,100 in the summer of 2018. It’s tough to find it in pristine condition. As PSA notes, “The dark edges, coupled with the foil coating, give this issue problems, with many of these rookie cards exhibiting wear from the moment they are removed from a pack.”

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In lieu of that card, here’s another one to watch—Jeter’s 1996 Pinnacle Select Certified card. A PSA 10 example of a Mirror Red version of the card recently sold for $9,100 on 42 bids. The price is on the rise; just last November, the auction house Small Traditions sold one graded PSA 10 for $5,617. Pinnacle produced this insert card in an edition of just 90.

A BABE BEAUTY

A 2005 Upper Deck Babe Ruth Cooperstown Cuts card appeared on our Top 10 chart two issues ago, but we didn’t give it any ink beyond that. Before it slides too much into the past, let’s give you a closer look at this treasure.

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The card bears a sliver of a Ruth game-used bat along with a beautiful cut signature. It was a 1-of-1 issue (obviously) and had been graded BGS 9.5 Gem Mint, with a perfect 10 for the sig. The card��s selling price? A cool $15,899 on 30 bids.

ANOTHER BABE

Speaking of the Mighty Bambino, we thought we’d give you a look at another classic piece, a vintage 1921 Exhibits photo card that turned up on eBay in December. The blank-back card features a photograph of Ruth in an outfielder’s pose, hands on knees, as he looks toward the infield. Graded PSA 6, it attracted 39 bids and sold for $8,800. u

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