Willie Mays’ on-the-rise card from Topps’ ever-popular 1952 set paced our Top 10 chart this week, with a near-perfect, Gem-Mint PSA 9 example selling for an astonishing $235,202 on 41 bids.
Just as with Mickey Mantle, Mays’ true rookie card, his 1951 Bowman, sells for quite a bit less. In fact, we can give you an up-to-date example: Two weeks after the 1952 Mays card surged to $235,202, a Near-Mint specimen of his ’51 Bowman — it was graded SGC 84 — sold for a relative bargain of a price: $16,500. The same week, a PSA 7 version of the card brought $13,500.
The front of the card features a colorful illustration of Mays against a bright orange backdrop. The reverse notes that young Willie — at age 20 — had just graduated from high school in 1950, and that during the new 1951 season, he was hitting .477 though 35 games for the minor-league Minneapolis Millers when the Giants called him up.
PERFECT 10s, FOOTBALL
Last time out, we gave you a look at recent eBay sales featuring 1960s-era baseball and hockey cards. We highlighted Gem-Mint, 10-quality cards featuring the likes of Hank Aaron (1966 Topps, $13,988), Catfish Hunter (1965 Rookie Stars card, $8,109) and hockey’s Johnny Bucyk (1963 Topps, $2,445). As promised, we’ll hit some other sports this time around, starting on the gridiron.
• 1964 Philadelphia Frank Gifford (PSA 10): $2,200, Buy It Now sale.
Gifford’s 1964 Philly is a $40 to $60 card if in 8 or 9 condition; this Gem-Mint example brought 10 times that lower end. Gifford was New York Giants star for 12 seasons who made the Pro Football Hall of Fame largely for his versatility. The halfback/flanker never gained 1,000 yards rushing in a season, but over his career, he amassed 3,609 yards on the ground and another 5,434 yards as a receiver, scoring 77 TDs along the way. The all-purpose back was also a passing threat, throwing 14 TD passes on halfback option plays during his career.
• 1969 Topps Dick Anderson (PSA 10): $2,313 on 16 bids.
Anderson was a stalwart on the dominant Dolphins teams of the 1970s, including the 17-0 team of 1972. His pro career began in 1968 and lasted 10 years, during which he made three Pro Bowls and intercepted 34 passes, returning three of them for TDs. It’s rare to find his colorful 1969 card in perfect-10 condition — hence the $2,313 price for this one. If a PSA 8 or 9 will suffice, you can get one for $60 or under.
• 1968 Topps Mike Ditka (PSA 10): $2,027 on 37 bids.
One of the toughest men to play pro football, Ditka was a brutal blocker who could also catch the ball (427 receptions and 43 TDs over 12 years) and run with it (5,812 yards and a 13.6 yards-per catch average). He played on five Pro Bowl teams, and later went on to a successful coaching career, leading “Da Bears” to a Super Bowl win in 1986. You can typically pick up his 1968 Topps card for $40 in PSA 8 condition. Obviously, a grade of PSA 10 spikes it past $2,000.
PERFECT 10s, BASKETBALL
Among the rare sightings of perfect-10 hoop cards from the 1960s were these two gems featuring multi-talented stars from the L.A. Lakers.
• 1961-62 Fleer Elgin Baylor action card (PSA 10): $8,512 on 30 bids.
The line “Elgin Baylor Sinks a Basket” appears on the front of this vintage “in action” card (#46 in Fleer’s 1961-62 set). Its $8,512 price is in stark contrast to two PSA 8 examples of the card: $220 and $150, both of which sold in the same period. Baylor, the Lakers’ star power forward for 14 seasons (1958-59 season through 1971-72), was a multiple threat who averaged 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in his career.
• 1969-70 Topps Ruler Wilt Chamberlain (PSA 10): $2,182 on 24 bids.
Chamberlain joined Baylor in the Lakers’ front court for the 1968-69 season. He was, at the time, a 32-year-old stud center who had been dominant for six seasons with the Warriors (averaging 41.5 points and 25.1 rebounds per game) and five seasons with the 76ers (27.6 points and 23.9 rebounds per game). But he proved he still had gas in the tank, helping the Lakers to a championship in 1971-72. Wilt’s special Topps “Ruler” card is an oddity you can find for $50 or so — unless it’s in perfect-10 condition, in which case it gets well into four figures, as this sale shows.
PERFECT 10, BOXING
We can’t forget “The Greatest”! Last month, a rare PSA 10 Bancroft Tiddlers Olympics card of Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali sold for $2,500. But there’s a twist here: The reverse of the Clay card carries text related to French skiing sisters Christine and Marielle Goitschel. The seller included in the lot an Alain Calmat (figure-skater) PSA 10 card on which the back features text about Clay.
Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is the King not only on the court, but in the current hoops-collecting marketplace. That’s why you see bidding wars erupt when a key LeBron rookie card in pristine condition turns up.
On March 21, for example, 59 bids sent the price of a 2003-04 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection autographed James rookie card soaring to $15,123. Its condition — PSA 10 — added a premium to the card. Meanwhile, 56 bids sent a PSA 10 example of James’ 2003-04 Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor card all the way to $13,600. Still another listing saw a 2003-04 UD SP Authentic signed rookie card (also graded PSA 10) sell for $12,600 on 43 bids.