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Vintage baseball programs are an affordable collectible

EMPTY DIAMONDS: FILLING BASEBALL’S VOID— A summer with no baseball? The very idea is heartbreaking, but the priority in America—around the globe—is to overcome coronavirus. At this writing, there’s still talk of a shortened season, but there’s also a possibility we may not see baseball until 2021.

While we wait, it might be therapeutic to build a collection of vintage baseball programs. They’re easy on the wallet, usually, the supply is healthy, and they connect you to your favorite team or teams of the past. There are programs from regular-season games, playoff games and World Series matchups. Sometimes, you’ll find examples in which a baseball fan from the past carefully kept score, batter by batter. Or, if you’re more of a near-mint person, you’ll find clean, unused specimens, too.

These recent sales of World Series programs on eBay might spark your interest:

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• 1933 World Series program: New York Giants at Washington Senators (a.k.a. the Nationals), Game 4. The cover of this 16-page, good-looking memento features photos of the opposing managers in the 1933 Series—Joe Cronin of Washington and Bill Terry of the Giants. The interior pages feature photos and biographies of players from both teams along with preprinted lineups. The original owner of this one kept score in pencil from Game 4, won in 11 innings by the Giants. Carl Hubbell’s complete-game victory gave the New Yorkers a 3-1 series advantage. The following day, they won the decisive Game 5. The program sold for $525.

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• 1939 World Series program: Cincinnati Reds at New York Yankees. Joe DiMaggio was only 24, but this Fall Classic marked his fourth World Series—and the fourth year in a row that he helped the Yankees to a championship. The Bronx Bombers swept the Reds in convincing fashion, with Charlie Keller’s three homers leading the way. The program, unscored, sold for $275. It’s especially noteworthy for the cover illustration of Lou Gehrig swinging a bat. Just three months earlier, on the Fourth of July, the Yankees celebrated Gehrig’s career and life in between games of a doubleheader. It was the unforgettable ceremony during which the Iron Horse called himself “the luckiest man alive.” He had retired shortly into the 1939 season because of his incurable illness, and he died two years later.

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• 1944 World Series program: St. Louis Cardinals at St. Louis Browns. This relic features the line “Dedicated and broadcast to all members of our armed forces throughout the world.” During World War II, baseball was thrown into disarray, with certain top players (including Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Bob Feller) absent from their lineups while serving in the military. The situation helped the old St. Louis Browns—a perennial second-division team—get into the World Series, where they faced the crosstown rival Cardinals. Alas, the Browns lost in six games. This unscored program sold for $311. (Note: The Browns later became the Baltimore Orioles.)

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• 1956 World Series program: Brooklyn Dodgers at New York Yankees. Illustrations of managers Walt Alston and Casey Stengel on the cover make this one especially desirable. The program—unscored and in top condition—got away for the reasonable price of $250. On the diamond, the Yankees were victorious, breaking a knotted series with a loud 9-0 win in Game 7. Johnny Kucks threw a three-hit shutout and Yogi Berra ripped two homers.

ARE TWO SIGS BETTER THAN ONE? —One star athlete’s signature on a card is enticing enough. When it’s accompanied by another, all the better. We reported on one prime example two weeks ago: a 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection card featuring the autographs (and game-used jersey patches) of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. The so-called Dual Scripted Swatches card, one of only five made, sold for $35,300 on 64 bids. It was ungraded.

Another recent example also featured Jordan, but on this one—also a 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection card—he was paired with LeBron James. Marked #15 of 23, the Dual Autograph Exclusives card was PSA-authenticated but ungraded and sold for $25,000 in a Buy It Now transaction.

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Here’s a football example: In May, a listing for a 2019 Panini Flawless card signed by both Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes II sold for $20,100 on 39 bids. It was marked #2 of 5 and ungraded.

A recent baseball-related listing shows that the concept of multiple-autograph insert cards has been around a while. Two different sellers offered a Score 1992 autograph card signed by the estimable trio of Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski. One of the listings brought $1,413 on 32 bids, the other $1,110 on 33 bids. Considering the five-figure prices of the examples mentioned above, those prices are more than collector-friendly. Musial, Mantle and Yaz, all on one card—that’s a baseball treasure!

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN — The runners-up to our Top 10 chart (which can be seen below):

• $24,600 on 37 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (SGC 9.5)

• $23,445 on 51 bids: 2006-07 Upper Deck Black LeBron James Jersey Tag Autograph, #1/1, auto patch, Logoman (ungraded, BGS authenticated)

• $22,800 on 105 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Basketball complete set (132 cards) with stickers (1–11) (PSA 9)

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• $21,877 on 52 bids: 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Kevin Durant, #33/99, auto patch (BGS 9, auto 10)

• $21,100 on 68 bids: 1986-87 signed Fleer Michael Jordan (ungraded, auto authenticated by PSA/DNA)

• $20,600 on 40 bids: 1998-99 Upper Deck Authentic Michael Jordan Gold Sign of the Times, auto die-cut (PSA 9)

• $20,100 on 35 bids: 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Kevin Durant, #68/99, auto patch (BGS 9)

$20,100 on 39 bids: 2019 Panini Flawless Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes II, #2/5, dual auto (ungraded)

• $18,100 on 62 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Black Diamond LeBron James 24 Karat Signatures (PSA 10, auto 10)

• $18,000 on 54 bids: 2008-09 Topps Chrome LeBron James Gold Refractor, #/50 (BGS 9.5)

Can you tell collectors miss basketball? Nine of these 10 cards are from the hoop world, with Michael Jordan represented in four cases—including the 1986-87 Fleer complete set of PSA 9 cards. It’s Jordan’s first major card, after all, that drives the value of that set.

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But make no mistake: Jordan had good company within the set. There were 27 other Hall of Famers included. They’re too numerous to mention here, but we’ll note that Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Julius “Dr. J.” Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish are among them. Also within the set are rookie cards of nearly a dozen other Hall of Famers, including HOFers Charles Barkley, Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dominique Wilkins and James Worthy.

When you consider all those attractions along with Jordan, the $22,800 price is a steal. It’s even more of a bargain when you consider the set was accompanied by all 11 stickers. The Jordan 1986-87 sticker alone has been on fire, hitting our Top 10 chart in this installment when a PSA 10 specimen sold for $25,100.

TOP 10 CHART

5/11/20

1. $66,124 on 51 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Michael Jordan Limited Logos, #12/75, auto patch (BGS 9.5)

2. $61,576 on 45 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection LeBron James, #47/250, auto (BGS 10)

3. $55,255 on 35 bids: 2007-08 Upper Deck Rookie Exquisite Collection Kevin Durant, #31/35, auto patch (BGS 9)

4. $41,340 on 59 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (SGC 10)

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5. $30,267 on 47 bids: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Xfractor, #/225, auto (PSA 10)

6. $26,612 on 71 bids: 1997-98 Upper Deck SPx ProMotion Michael Jordan, #17/100, auto die-cut (PSA 10)

7. $26,100 on 74 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (BGS 9.5)

8. $25,544 on 79 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Sticker Michael Jordan (PSA 10)

9. $25,300 on 42 bids: 2019-20 Panini Prizm Zion Williamson, #1/10, auto patch (ungraded)

10. $25,100 on 65 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Sticker Michael Jordan (PSA 10)

Auction of the Week

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Collect Auctions Summer Auction

Collect Auctions bidding ends August 6 and bidders can view each lot on our website at www.collectauctions.net. There are more than 1,000 lots of vintage sports cards and sets; what we believe is the strongest unopened lineup any auction house has ever offered. Bidding ends Thursday, August 6 at 9:00 p.m. CST (10:00 EST).