By Larry Canale
A new baseball season is upon us, and one of the key storylines will be the continuing development of Mike Trout. Now 27, he’s at the start of the three-season span often considered to be an athlete’s peak years. Yet he’s also been in the majors seven full seasons and part of another, so he’s well-seasoned. And so far, he’s given us quite a show: 240 homers, 189 steals, a .307 average and nightly highlight films both at the plate and in center field. So what’s next?
Among those tuned in closely are baseball collectors—who as a group have been all over Trout since he was a 19-year-old call-up in 2011. That’s why we’re seeing sales like the No. 3 item on our Top 10 list: a 2009 Bowman Sterling Black Refractor rookie card of Trout that sold for $40,353. Marked #22 of 25, the rarity inspired 79 bids. At No. 9 on our list: a 2009 Bowman Chrome Blue Refractor that brought $25,655, helped along by its 9.5 BGS grade. And just outside our list is another Trout 2009 Chrome Refractor (see “On the Outside,” below).
Here’s a sampling of big prices paid recently for other Trout treasures (beyond the 2009 Bowman Chrome family). Each of these items will end up being bargains if the Angels’ slugger maintains his career trajectory thus far:
• $13,226 on 54 bids: 2011 Bowman Chrome signed Orange Refractor (BGS 9.5).
• $8,326 on 41 bids: 2011 Topps Update (BGS 10): $12,000 in a Buy It Now deal. Another, also graded BGS 10.
• $7,200 on 36 bids: 2009 Bowman Sterling Prospects autographed Gold Refractor (#5/50, BGS 9.5).
• $6,700 on 49 bids: 2011 Topps Finest signed Gold Refractor (#40/75, BGS S9.5).
• $4,901 on 61 bids: 2017 Topps Definitive Autograph Relics patch card (#1/1, BGS 9.5).
MICKEY IN ’54
We see heavy bidding on Mickey Mantle 1951 and 1952 cards, and also his 1953 card. But how about his friendly looking 1954 Bowman? An amazingly clean specimen of that card recently inspired 34 bids that pushed it to $17,150. The card had been graded PSA 8, boasting sharp corners and balanced centering along with bright coloring.
The reverse of the card notes that Mantle was “the man who brought bubblegum and the tape measure to national prominence. He hit a homer out of Griffith Stadium in Washington, which was measured at 565 feet.” The card text also noted that “a picture of Mickey blowing bubbles in the outfield was printed in papers across the country.” And, as we know, Mantle was the face of bubblegum cards in the 1950s.
Lesser-condition examples of the card have sold recently for $2,850, $2,521 and $2,500—all PSA 7s. And a PSA 6 recently brought $1,750.
Never mind Tom Brady; an eBay seller put up a Baker Mayfield 2018 Panini National Treasures autographed patch card (#6/6) in mid-March and enjoyed some healthy bidding action. The sale culminated in a surprising price: $15,601 on 57 bids.
Imagine the card’s value years from now if Mayfield builds on his impressive rookie year. In 2018, his first pro season, he started 13 games for Cleveland, winning six games while throwing for 3,725 yards and 27 TDs (vs. 14 interceptions).
BACK TO SHAQ
There was a time, starting in the early 1990s and spanning into the mid-2000s, that Shaquille O’Neal was the king of the NBA world. Michael Jordan was winding down, and Shaq was bidding to fill those big shoes. Playing with the Magic and then the Lakers between the 1992-93 and 2003-04 seasons, the 7-foot-1, 325-pounder averaged 27.1 points and 12 rebounds a game. He later went on to Miami, Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston, finishing his career with the 2010-11 season and leaving with a 23.7 scoring average and 10.9 rebounding average.
All along, collectors loved the big man. Shaq’s face became a regular on hobby magazine covers, and his hoop cards and his autograph became hotly desired items.
We bring up Shaq because of the sale in March of a rare 2018-19 Impeccable Championships card issued by Panini. Marked #2 of 4, the card features an autograph next to a colorful and true illustration of Shaq while he was with the Lakers. The card drew 38 bids and sold for $2,025.
IN YER FACE!
Last time out, we showed off a vintage baseball program—from the July 16, 1914 game between the Red Sox and Tigers—that sold for $2,980 on 27 bids. Here’s another classic—a favorite among baseball historians because it proves that trash talking is nothing new: the 1912 World Series “Official Score Card.” It was issued by the NL champion New York Giants for their home games against the AL pennant-winning Boston Red Sox, and it features a wonderful illustration that reflects attitude and one-upsmanship.
The cover illustration gives us a patriot (representing the Red Sox) looking at a long scroll being held in one hand by Giants manager John J. McGraw. The top of the scroll reads “Our Record,” followed by a year-by-year tally of the Giants’ accomplishments. At a glance, you can see four 1st-place finishes, four 2nd-place finishes, one 3rd and one 4th. The illustration of McGraw has him looking confident with, perhaps, a touch of arrogance.
Alas, the Giants lost the series, four games to three (with one tie). For the Red Sox, it was the perfect way to quiet their opponent’s cockiness.
At press time, a seller was offering a vintage 1912 World Series scorecard at the Buy It Now price of $2,500. Fans frequently fold baseball scorecards and programs, and this one’s no different; it bears “game-use” by the fan who used it—part of the patina.
Another seller listed an un-creased example of the program at a lower price—$1,499. The reason: It had benefited from some professional restoration. Still, it has no missing or loose pages. Plus, it bears a meticulously scored Game 6, which was won by the Giants behind pitching star Rube Marquard. The Giants also won the next game to knot up the Series, only to have Boston win a squeaker in the deciding eighth game, 3-2 in 10 innings. Smoky Joe Wood out-dueled Christy Mathewson in that one.