Pete Rose is one of baseball’s all-time enigmas. He’s blacklisted from the Hall of Fame for his well-publicized gambling escapades, yet there are many who insist he belongs.
Baseball seems to have embraced the idea of money changing hands based on game outcomes (how many of us play MLB-licensed fantasy baseball games?). So how can Rose still be banned, supporters ask, for betting on his own team when he was managing the Cincinnati Reds?
Putting that controversy aside, Rose’s numbers as a player leave no doubt he’s Hall-worthy. Over 24 years, he rapped a record 4,256 hits while batting .303 with 160 homers and 198 steals. He holds the all-time mark not only for hits but for games, plate appearances and at-bats. His accolades include a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP award and 17 All-Star games. He played multiple seasons at multiple positions. At various points, you’d have seen 1B, 2B, 3B, LF, CF and RF inked next to his name on the scorecard. He even won two Gold Gloves, both as an outfielder.
If there’s one group in particular that seems to side with Rose, it’s the collecting universe. His rookie, a 1963 Topps, is particularly desirable.
Never mind that he shares the card with three other players, and that his photo is smaller than a postage stamp, and that Topps’s design that year was unspectacular. What matters is that this is the cardboard debut of the man who became baseball’s all-time hits leader.
When graded 9, Rose’s rookie has been selling since 2020 for anywhere from $25,000 to $150,000, with many of the auction results coming in between $70,000 and $80,000. (Note: A PSA 10 specimen, in one crazy sale at Heritage Auctions in 2016, sold for $717,000.)
Jump ahead five years beyond Rose’s rookie year and you get perhaps the best-looking card in his catalog. Rose’s colorful 1968 Topps issue captures him in a right-handed batting pose wearing that great old 1960s-era Cincinnati uniform: pinstriped vest over long fire-engine-red sleeves. That uniform’s design had the player’s name underneath the number on the back — a quirky but eye-catching approach.
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The burlap borders of Topps’ 1968 cards are distinctive and effective. The muted brown allows bright colors of well-done photographs to pop.
Typically, you can find a 1968 Rose for a few hundred dollars if it’s in 6 or 7 condition — or even 8. Recent eBay sales saw one PSA 8 example sell for $600 on 20 bids and another sell for $500 on 35 bids.
But like any vintage card, a grade of 10 sends it rocketing skyward. To wit: A PSA 10 specimen of Rose’s 1968 Topps turned up on eBay in April and sold for $26,100 on nine bids. By comparison, we spotted two PSA 8 examples of the card with Buy-It-Now prices around $1,100.
Here’s a quick look at recent eBay sales of other Rose cards:
• A 1964 Topps graded PSA 8 sold for $2,136 on 28 bids. Rose’s first solo card, it bears the added attraction of Topps’s All-Star Rookie emblem.
• Two 1965 Topps cards graded PSA 8 sold for $3,855 on 27 bids and $3,602 on 25 bids.
• A 1969 Rose graded PSA 9 went for $2,300 on 40 bids.
• A 1971 Topps Rose card sold for $2,358 on 24 bids. It was graded PSA 8 — a nice find, considering the black borders of that year’s set.
• A Gem-Mint PSA 10 example of his 1980 Topps card drew $4,302 on 30 bids.