By Larry Canale
Baseball has its current bumper crop of stars—the Mike Trouts and Mookie Bettses and Aaron Judges of the world. In Atlanta, the Braves have a 21-year-old centerfielder, Ronald Acuna Jr., poised to take his place among them. At least that’s what his rookie season promised: He batted a robust .293 last year with 26 homers, 26 doubles, four triples and 16 steals.
Not surprisingly, collectors are seeking out Acuna and adding him for impressive prices. Consider these recent prices paid at eBay for his 2017 Bowman Chrome cards in different colors:
• $17,000 in a Buy It Now deal for a Chrome Gold Refractor. Marked #9/50, the card is autographed and graded BGS 10.
• $11,100 on 25 bids for a signed Chrome Blue Refractor card graded BGS 10.
• $9,450 on 43 bids for a signed Chrome Green Refractor graded BGS 10.
• $6,650 on 23 bids for a signed Chrome Gold Refractor graded PSA 10.
Want something a bit less costly? Look for his 2018 Topps Heritage card. Yes, rarities signed in red ink (there were only 69 made) sell for several thousand, but if you go for his “regular” issue, you’ll find it for well under $500. It’s designed after Topps’ timeless 1969 set. The one pictured here sold for $316 on 18 bids; another went for $168 on 22 bids.
There are black-bordered variants of Acuna’s 2018 Heritage cards that sell in the same range ($150 to $350). Another variation features an action shot—Acuna swinging away in a game; several examples went for prices between $150 and $250.
ON THE OUTSIDE
As we’ve been doing lately, we give you a batch of “On the Outside Looking In” items. We can’t help it; the highlights that just miss our Top 10 list are always worth some ink. In this case, we see more Trout, more MJ, more LeBron, more Brady and more trending cards from Upper Deck’s popular “The Cup” offerings.
And, from the gridiron, we see a 2017 Patrick Mahomes autographed jersey card from National Treasures from Panini. This one, graded BGS 8, is an autographed patch card produced in an edition of five, so the $21,100 price is understandable. The hobby refers to it as a “Black” National Treasures card because of the border around the jersey patch. The card’s seller, PWCC, was more than enthusiastic, calling it “easily among the single most important and scarce Mahomes rookie cards ever produced.” Fair enough….
We’ve got more on QB sensation Mahomes in a minute. First, here are the 10 items that landed outside our Top 10:
• $27,500: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Blue Refractor, #70/150, auto (BGS 9.5, auto 10)
• $26,600: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (PSA 10)
• $25,500: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Xfractor, auto (PSA 10)
• $24,200: 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Authentic LeBron James Rookie Authentics, #156/500, auto (PSA 10, auto PSA/DNA 10)
• $22,801: 2005-06 Upper Deck The Cup Alexander Ovechkin, #47/99, auto patch (BGS 9.5)
• $22,656: 1996-97 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant (BGS 10)
• $22,100: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (PSA 8)
• $21,100: 2017 Panini National Treasures Black Patrick Mahomes, #1/5, auto patch (BGS 9)
• $21,000: 2005-06 Upper Deck The Cup Sidney Crosby, #35/99, auto patch (BGS 9)
• $20,800: 1961 Fleer Wilt Chamberlain (PSA 8)
WILT THE STILT
As an add-on to that previous item, let’s take a closer look at a vintage hoop card that always attracts attention: Wilt Chamberlain’s 1961 Fleer rookie. The remarkably clean specimen cited above at $20,800 carried a grade of PSA 8. It was held back only by the manufacturer’s original cutting—it’s decidedly off-center. Otherwise, it’s a beautifully clean card with perfect printing and sharp corners.
Wilt’s rookie card rarely shows up in such remarkable condition but we saw two examples in the past month. Besides the one noted above, there was another PSA 8 Chamberlain rookie offered in early April, and it attracted 41 bids. It wound up selling for the lesser (but still respectable) total of $17,302.
In March, three PSA 7 examples of Chamberlain’s rookie were listed on eBay, and they sold for prices of $5,000, $4,750 and $3,500. Also in March, two PSA 6 Wilt rooks sold for prices of $2,620 and $2,425.
Want a Chamberlain rookie at a sub-$1,000 price? You’d have to settle for one with a grade of 3 or less. But they’re out there in fairly plentiful supply.
While you’re at it, you might consider picking up Chamberlain’s final player card: his 1974-75 Topps card. It depicts the big man in a mug shot as “Center/Coach” of the ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors. His last NBA team, the L.A. Lakers, objected to Chamberlain’s signing with the Conquistadors and won a legal battle to keep him off the hardwood, although he was allowed to coach San Diego. As such, Wilt’s last card gives us his final career playing stats: a 30.1 scoring average to go with 22.9 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per game. The card omitted his coaching record. In the previous season, his only one as a coach (1973-74), Wilt didn’t have near the success that he had as a player. His record: 37-47.
Anyway, you can find Wilt’s last card for budget-friendly deals. Recently, three PSA 9 specimens sold for prices of $170, $135 and $125. Drop to a grade of 8 and you’ll spend only $40 to $80.
MAHOMES IS THE MAN
If there’s a “next generation” in the NFL, Patrick Mahomes is leading the charge, whether you go by his on-field heroics or his place in the hobby. Besides the 2017 Panini 1-of-5 National Treasures card noted above, there are Mahomes highlights all over eBay.
Earlier this year, as noted in earlier editions of this column, we saw:
• A 2017 National Treasures “Green” rookie auto patch card sell for $22,211 in a Buy It Now deal.
• A 1-of-1 2017 National Treasures auto patch card sell for $20,612 on 74 bids
• A 2017 Panini Contenders signed Playoff Ticket card sell for $18,000.
The prices of those items will make you think this next lot, sold in late March, could be a bargain—at $80,000. The lot, which drew 70 bids, included some 23 Mahomes cards from 2017. It’s truly an amazing collection: All were 1-of-1 Panini cards, and six included the QB’s autograph. Thirteen of them had a uniform patch. Most were ungraded but, judging by photos, are in top condition. The five that were graded had either a 9, 9.5 or 10. Given the frenzy surrounding Mahomes during the 2018 season, most of the 23 cards in this lot would draw four-figure prices, with the signed patch cards possibly worth five-figure prices.
If you need a reminder as to why collectors are hot on Mahomes’ trail, take another look at his 2018 stats: 5,097 passing yards, 50 touchdown passes and only 12 interceptions, with another 272 yards and two TDs rushing. And he’s only 23.
OR… IS MAYFIELD THE MAN?
Last time out, we noted the sale of a Baker Mayfield 2018 Panini National Treasures autographed patch card (#6/6) for $15,601 on 57 bids. Will Mayfield progress to Mahomes’s level this season? At least a couple of collectors are banking on it.
In March, two different cards of Mayfield brought unbelievable prices: $35,988 and $35,000. Both were 2018 Panini National Treasures 1-of-1s rookie cards of the Cleveland quarterback. Both were autographed and included a uniform patch. u