OLD-SCHOOL AND AWESOME — How many postcards have you received the past few years? Not many, we’d bet. It’s a lost form of information-sharing, considering that we’re headlong into an era where cellphones allow us to send images instantaneously.
But there was a time when the postcard world was hoppin’—when publishers printed a healthy and steady supply of picture cards designed to be “snail-mailed.” And if you liked sports, you’d find all kinds of examples. Especially popular were postcards featuring ballplayers.
On eBay in July, we spotted a beauty of an old player postcard: a Ty Cobb piece made and distributed between 1907 and 1909. It drew 91 bids and sold for $21,400, elevated by its impressive condition (PSA 6) and rarity.
Produced by A.C. Dietsche, a Detroit-based firm, the postcard was part of a celebratory series first circulated during the 1907 World Series, during which the Tigers faced off against the eventual champion Chicago Cubs. The image shows Cobb batting (one of two Ty cards in the series). He was only 20 at the time but had already proven himself as an elite batsman. After joining the Tigers at age 18, he played in 41 games in 1905 and 98 in 1906. But in 1907, he became a fixture in the Tigers’ outfield, thanks to some otherworldly stats: a .350 average with 212 hits, 119 RBI and 53 steals—all tops in the American League.
The back of the postcard has no writing, and the corners, judging by the photo, are surprisingly sharp, given the age of the piece.
In May 2020, a lesser-condition Cobb (SGC 4) sold for $7,240. Common players in the series, if in similar condition, sell for $25 to $100. Recent examples on eBay: outfielder Frank “Wildfire” Schulte, a career .270 hitter over 15 seasons ($100); pitcher Bill Donovan, who had his best season in 1907, posting a 25-4 record ($75); and catcher Charley “Boss” Schmidt ($44).
IT FIGURES — Michael Jordan’s vintage hoop cards have been jumping in value by leaps and bounds, as we’ve reported in recent Online Auctioneer columns. But his hobby “Airness” doesn’t end with his cards. Any and every vintage Jordan item from an NBA-licensed company draws attention. Even Jordan’s Kenner Starting Lineup (SLU) figures are in demand.
In a recent eBay sale, for example, some 50 bids pushed the price of a 1988 Jordan SLU to $4,050. The figure was graded a near-perfect AFA 95. (AFA stands for Action Figure Authority, a company offering “evaluation, preservation, and authentication” of collectible figures and similar items.)
Adding a Jordan SLU to your collection, however, doesn’t necessarily require a four-figure price. We’ve seen slightly lower-grade (AFA 85) examples of his 1988 SLU sell for prices of $810 on 39 bids and $775 on a single bid. Also, a listing of a 1988 Jordan SLU paired with a 1988 Scottie Pippen SLU—both graded AFA 80—went for $495 in a Buy It Now deal.
The above SLU auctions, of course, involved figures still in their original packaging. Want an out-of-package Jordan SLU to prop up on your desk? You can pick one up for $10 to $40.
ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN — Despite the statistics showing COVID-19 running rampant, it’s looking like the NFL season will start on time—albeit without a preseason ramp-up. None of that is dampening the spirits of football collectors. Note that the next two items outside our Top 10 chart are both gridiron heroes—a current QB hero and an iconic WR. (Wouldn’t it be cool to see Patrick Mahomes II throwing to Jerry Rice?)
Mahomes autographed patch cards have been flying high for the past year. Last time out, we reported on a Gem-Mint 2017 Panini Flawless auto-patch Mahomes card (one of only 25 made) that sold for $37,700 on 100 bids. Our Top 10 shows a Mahomes insert that approached $60,000. And just below, you’ll see an autographed 2017 National Treasures with a patch framed by a silver holograph. Graded BGS 9.5, it sold for quite a bit less but still topped the $30,000 mark.
And last time out, within this very space, we highlighted a PSA 10-graded Rice rookie that brought $32,877 on 57 bids. Below, you’ll see another PSA 10 Rice rook that inspired even more bids (96) but fell a little short of that sum. As we noted, Rice rookies have been on a dramatic rise upward the past several years. In 2016, we were reporting on Gem-Mint examples selling for prices between $10,000 and $15,000. Now they sometimes triple the low end of that range.
Here’s our full list of “the next 10”:
• $30,100 on 70 bids: 2017 Panini National Treasures Patrick Mahomes II, #19/25, auto patch (BGS 9.5)
• $29,902 on 96 bids: 1986 Topps Jerry Rice (PSA 10)
• $26,200 on 56 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (BGS 9.5)
• $25,107 on 41 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 3)
• $25,101 on 49 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (BGS 9.5)
•$23,933 on 39 bids: 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout Diamond Anniversary, auto (PSA 10, auto 10)
• $22,800 on 55 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (BGS 9.5)
• $22,557 on 53 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Refractor (PSA 9)
• $22,000 on 47 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection LeBron James, auto (BGS 9.5, auto 10)
• $21,400 on 91 bids: 1907–09 A.C. Dietsche Ty Cobb, batting pose (PSA 6)
HONDO! — Considering the rich history of the Boston Celtics—a franchise known for NBA legends like Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and Larry Bird—it’s easy to overlook John Havlicek. But “Hondo” belongs with the team’s iconic figures.
He established himself as a sixth man, coming off the bench in his early years to spark the Celtics. By the time he was done—he played from 1962 to 1978—he had become an All-Star and Hall of Famer, averaging 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game during his career.
We mention Havlicek because of the sale on eBay of a 1968 Topps test card that sold for $22,100 on 48 bids. It was graded PSA 8. In 2013, by comparison, another PSA 8 Havlicek test card sold for $6,600.
If you follow the basketball card market, you know Topps’ 1968 test hoop cards are rare. A Havlicek in top condition is a prize. And it’s worth noting that Topps misspelled his name as “Havilcek,” giving it extra appeal to error collectors.
The test set, which employed black-and-white photos on the front, marked Topps’ first effort in the basketball arena since its popular 1957-58 set. The company featured 22 different players in the test set. PSA speculates that only a few hundred sets were manufactured, noting that major finds are typically connected to former Topps employees.
Any cards from the test set will draw bidders; consider that half of the 22 featured players are Hall of Famers. Among them are some of the game’s great big men—Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Willis Reed—along with playmakers like Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Len Wilkens.
Recent sales of 1968 Topps test cards on eBay include a PSA 8 Nate Thurmond ($4,272 on 32 bids), a PSA 7 Willis Reed ($4,058 on 36 bids) and a PSA 8 Dave DeBusschere ($2,025 on 28 bids).
TOP 10 CHART
1. $92,701 on 70 bids: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Gold Refractor, #19/50, auto (BGS 9.5)
2. $82,401 on 57 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 6)
3. $71,200 on 136 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Black Label (BGS 10)
4. $59,100 on 60 bids: 2017 Panini National Treasures Patrick Mahomes, #48/99, auto patch (PSA 9
5. $50,125 on 28 bids: 1996-97 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant Refractor (ungraded)
6. $45,100 on 66 bids: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (BGS 9.5, auto 10)
7. $40,686 on 65 bids: 1979-80 OPC Wayne Gretzky (BGS 9)
8. $37,100 on 57 bids: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (BGS 9, auto 10)
9. $34,350 on 71 bids: 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle (PSA 7)
10. $32,655 on 74 bids: 2003-04 Bowman Chrome LeBron James Xfractor, #140/150 (BGS 9.5)