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Collecting Ironmen Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken Jr. at auction

Online Auctioneer
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IRON HORSE — The Goudey Gum Co.’s 1934 baseball set includes not one but two Lou Gehrig cards—and with good reason. Both Gehrig and the 1933 National League Triple Crown winner, outfielder Chuck Klein, endorsed the set. Each of the 96 cards—all with painted player illustrations—features a “Lou Gehrig says…” or “Chuck Klein says…” teaser on the front and scouting report, stats, advice or factoids on the back.

One of the two Gehrig cards features a portrait with a yellow background (#37). The other has a bat-on-shoulder illustration with a green background (#61). In late September, we saw high-grade examples of both cards turn up on eBay, listed by longtime seller PWCC Auctions.

The green-background Gehrig was graded PSA 8 and sold for $29,500 on 60 bids. The yellow-background Gehrig drew 74 bids and fetched $15,600 on 74 bids.

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The 1934 season was a spectacular one for the Iron Horse. Gehrig was in the midst of mashing opposing pitchers to the tune of .363 while hitting 49 homers and driving in 166 runs—numbers that brought him the American League Triple Crown.

As we know, Gehrig’s all-too-short life was over just seven years later. In June 1941, he died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an affliction more commonly known, of course, as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

IRON CAL — Speaking of Lou Gehrig, he owned one of baseball’s most remarkable records—2,130 consecutive games played—for 56 years. Then Cal Ripken Jr. came along and broke the record by 501. It’s hard to imagine anyone ever reaching his mark of 2,632 consecutive games, right? It’s a feat that keeps “Iron Cal” among baseball’s most revered legends. But it’s not the only thing: Ripken was a producer, too, accounting for 3,184 hits, 431 HRs, 1,695 RBI, two Gold Gloves and two MVP awards.

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Yet we wonder if Ripken’s rookie card might be undervalued. Actually, we should say rookie “cards”—he appeared in 1982 sets issued by all three major manufacturers of the time: Donruss, Fleer and Topps. In fact, his very first Topps issue—the 1982 Orioles “Future Stars” card, on which he shared space with Bob Bonner and Jeff Schneider—isn’t even his most popular 1982 Topps rookie. That would be his first solo card, from Topps’ late-season Traded set.

We’ve seen Gem-Mint 10 specimens of Ripken’s 1982 Traded card sell for prices between $2,500 and $3,300 in recent weeks, typically drawing between 25 and 50 bids on eBay. Compare that to the prices his “Future Stars” card has been drawing if in 10 condition: $800 to $1,200

Gem-Mint examples of his 1982 Fleer card, meanwhile, can be had for $1,000 to $1,400. His 1982 Donruss issue is even more budget-friendly, typically auctioning for $300 to $500.

Compare the price of Ripken’s 1982 cards to other stars from the era.

• Gem-Mint examples of Rickey Henderson’s 1980 Topps rookie—just two years older than Ripken’s rookies—has sold in recent auctions for prices of $30,100 and $28,666.

• In 2017, we reported on an Ozzie Smith 1979 Topps rookie that sold for $30,702.

• Switching sports, a PSA 10 specimen of Joe Montana’s 1981 Topps rookie sold in late October for $21,500 on 47 bids.

• A PSA 10 example of Magic Johnson’s first full card, from Topps 1981-82, auctioned for $10,501 on 34 bids. Likewise, a specimen of Larry Bird’s first full card, also from Topps 1981-82, sold for $10,099 on 48 bids. (We won’t even bother using the triple-player 1980-81 Topps card of Magic, Bird and Julius Erving as a comparison; that one can push $100,000 if in 10 condition.)

Compared to those landmark cards, Ripken’s rookies are steals and, if you don’t own one, may be worth a look.

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ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN — Jim Thorpe made an indelible impact on the world of sports in remarkable ways. He was an Olympic gold medalist. College football star. Pro football star. Major League Baseball player. Basketball barnstormer with a team of Native Americans.

After his playing days, Thorpe hit hard times, doing odd jobs during the Great Depression and struggling with alcoholism and relationships (he was married three times and had eight children). Nevertheless, he won all kinds of accolades. The Associated Press named him the greatest athlete from the first half of the 20th Century, for example, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame made him part of its inaugural class (1963).

Among collectors of vintage memorabilia, Thorpe is a magical name. When a Thorpe rarity turns up for sale, it finds ready buyers. So it was with a 1916 Sporting News baseball card from the set catalogued as M101-5. Graded an impeccable (for its age) PSA 8.5, the Thorpe card inspired 56 bids and approached $50,000 in an October sale. It’s the only mainstream card to feature Thorpe as a professional baseball player.

Here’s the full list of our “next 10”:

• $53,433 on 75 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (SGC 7.5)

• $49,100 on 56 bids: 1916 M101-5 Sporting News Jim Thorpe (PSA 8.5)

• $47,100 on 32 bids: 2000 Upper Deck SP Authentic Tom Brady, #32/1250, auto (BGS 9.5, auto 9)

• $46,102 on 58 bids: 2000 Upper Deck SP Authentic Tom Brady, #1013/1250, auto (PSA 10)

• $45,100 on 58 bids: 1921 E121 American Caramel “Series of 80” Babe Ruth (SGC 4)

• $43,101 on 40 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 4)

• $42,100 on 81 bids: 1996-97 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant Refractor (PSA 9)

• $40,100 on 73 bids: 2018-19 Panini Prizm Luka Doncic Blue Ice, #44/99 (PSA 10)

• $39,900 on 28 bids: 2007-07 Upper Deck Black Quad Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, #9/10, four autos (ungraded)

• $38,100 on 60 bids: 1958 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 9)

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PRECIOUS METAL JORDAN — The No. 2 item on our Top 10 chart this time out is a red Precious Metal Gems card of Michael Jordan from Fleer’s iconic 1997-98 Metal Universe set. Our entry, you’ll notice, includes the word “altered.” Yes, this highly desirable card was lightly trimmed, per authenticator BGS. Yet that didn’t discourage prospective buyers: It drew 76 bids on its way to a price of $151,926.

The listing notes it was one of only 90 copies ever made by Fleer. Despite the trimming, the card has great eye appeal—"wonderful preservation,” according to the listing, and a defect-free surface, which is rare for Precious Metal cards.

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THE EIGHTH WONDER — Who among us didn’t spend some idle time, somewhere along the way, watching the foibles of pro wrestling? We were reminded of the entertaining characters of the squared circle when we saw a 1982 Wrestling All Stars card of Andre the Giant sell on eBay for $1,000 on 43 bids.

Andre Rene Roussimoff, known as “The Eighth Wonder of the World,” was 7-foot-4 and weighed upwards of 500 pounds. He was generally one of the wrestling world’s most popular figures, usually a “babyface” (a good guy), other than a stretch in the late 1980s when he played a “heel.” Andre the Giant died at age 46 in 1993.

TOP 10 CHART

10/26/20

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1. $200,100 on 72 bids: 2000-01 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Michael Jordan Ultimate Signatures Gold, #/25, auto (PSA 10)

2. $151,926 on 76 bids: 1997-98 Fleer Metal Universe Michael Jordan Precious Metal Gems Red, #/100 (altered, BGS Authentic, ungraded)

3. $95,100 on 58 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection LeBron James Exquisite Rookie, #1/25, auto patch (ungraded)

4. $90,100 on 56 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome Refractor LeBron James (BGS 10)

5. $81,059 on 53 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 6)

6. $67,802 on 84 bids: 2018-19 Panini Contenders Luka Doncic Optic Gold, 1 of 10, auto (PSA 10)

7. $65,700 on 67 bids: 1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson (SGC 7.5)

8. $60,201 on 43 bids: 2009-10 Topps Chrome Stephen Curry Refractor, #95/500 (PSA 10)

9. $57,676 on 30 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck SP LeBron James Inkredible Inkscriptions, #8/25, auto (ungraded)

10. $56,100 on 47 bids: 2017 Panini National Treasures Patrick Mahomes II, #59/99, auto patch (ungraded)