It was 75 years ago this spring when Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier. His courage, determination and resilience were on full display, from spring training and into the pivotal 1947 regular season.
Over the course of that historic campaign, Robinson proved he belonged, batting .297 with 125 runs, 29 steals and a dozen homers while playing sterling defense for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In 1947, Robinson was already 28 years old. He went on to play nine more years, retiring after the 1956 season with a .313 average, six NL pennants and one World Series title. In 1962, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot. Some 35 years later, in 1997, MLB retired his uniform number, 42.
Today, the hobby provides constant reminders of Robinson's impact. Here’s a look at four Robinson items that always draw competitive bidding.
● His rookie card, a 1948 Leaf card, can spike well into six figures if in top condition. A grade of 8 commands around $400,000, and a 9 can double that price.
Even lower-grade Robinson rookies can draw hefty prices. On eBay in recent weeks, we saw a PSA 4 Robinson rookie bring $22,700 on 26 bids, a PSA 3.5 fetch $16,600 on 44 bids and a PSA 3 draw $15,200 on 80 bids.
● Robinson’s 1949 Bowman card can sell for more than $250,000 if in 9 condition and upwards of $50,000 if an 8. What if you drop down to a 7? We saw such an example offered on eBay in January, and it brought $14,600 on 38 bids.
● The 1950 Bowman Robinson is a particularly attractive piece, featuring a color full-body illustration of Jackie in a swinging follow-through. It can go for upwards of $80,000 if graded 9 but a fraction of that if you settle for less. Example: a 1950 Bowman Robinson graded SGC 6 sold for $6,603 on 31 bids in a recent eBay auction. A PSA 5 example of the same card brought $5,655 in another auction.
● Robinson’s first Topps card, from 1952, is tough to find in top condition. Even if you set your sights on a grade of around 3, you still may spend close to a five-figure price. Example: In late January, we spotted a Robinson Topps rookie graded PSA 2.5 that brought $9,600 on one bid and a PSA 2 that brought $8,088 on 46 bids. Another PSA 2 got away for $6,195 on 40 bids.
More recently manufactured cards featuring Robinson turn up often in eBay listings. The most desirable include cut sigs or jersey patches. Example: a Panini 1-of-1 Flawless Cuts card. In late December, it fetched $9,100 on 31 bids on eBay.
Jackie Robinson’s autograph is a tougher buy in the hobby than his cardboard, thanks to rarity, condition issues and those omnipresent authentication challenges.
As such, Robinson’s sig can sell for wildly differing prices — from a few hundred dollars (for poor-condition photographs or cut signatures) to upwards of $100,000 (for single-signed, well-preserved examples with airtight authentication).
Over the past decade, we’ve seen examples of the latter sell for impressive figures at such major auction houses as SCP Auctions. A pair of 1949 game-used bats, for instance, brought prices of $201,850 and $183,500, while a single-signed baseball graded PSA/DNA 9 reeled in $104,765.
Such high-end holy grails typically don’t land on eBay. But you will find lesser-condition examples of Robinson’s autograph. For example, two baseballs bearing his signature sold for prices of $1,400 and $1,247, but neither was single-signed and both were closer to poor condition than excellent condition.
• The former, at $1,400, included a number of 1953 National League All-Stars (including Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Ralph Kiner, Stan Musial and Warren Spahn). But some of the sigs — Jackie’s in particular — are well faded, and the ball has yellowed with the passage of time.
• The ball that brought $1,247 was a Dodgers team-signed item, and again, Robinson’s signature is fading and the ball is yellow.
Other Robinson autographs in recent eBay auctions include a black-and-white, JSA-authenticated photograph that sold for $1,611 on 11 bids. Bringing a similar price, $1,600, was a Robinson-signed program from entertainer Eddie Cantor’s 60th birthday celebration.
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