We often spotlight headline-making auction items that bring crazy prices. This time out, let’s focus on three budget-friendly collecting targets, starting here.
Seventy years ago, Roger Maris did the impossible when he eclipsed baseball’s most revered record: Babe Ruth’s mark of 60 homers in a season. Maris’ 61st dinger, hit at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961, capped an amazing season. Yet Maris never reached the Hall of Fame and, as we know, players in that “next level below” are usually underappreciated in the hobby.
So it is with Maris: His rookie card, a 1958 Topps issue, has long been an undervalued piece. Consider these recent eBay auctions:
• One PSA 9 specimen of Maris’ rookie got away for $2,550 on 74 bids. That price is far below what PSA lists for a 9-condition Maris rook: $18,500.
• A Maris rookie graded PSA 7.5 sold for $1,807 on 62 bids. (To be fair, that price is decidedly higher than the $1,200 PSA lists for a Maris rookie 7.5.)
• Three Maris rookies graded PSA 7 went for $1,025 (32 bids), $995 (two bids) and $877 (39 bids). Still another PSA 7 went for $640 on 50 bids.
• Multiple ungraded examples that look to be in above-average condition, judging by listing photos, sold for prices between $500 and $600.
• Drop down to a 4 or 5 grade and the price drops below $500.
Maris’ autograph is also undervalued, even though there’s a limited supply. He wasn’t an outgoing, glad-handing type who relished autograph-signing opportunities, and he died at a young age (51, in 1985), so he never had the chance to participate in autograph shows. Yet we see authenticated Maris-signed items selling for less than $1,000 on eBay. Recent examples include a signed 1968 Topps card that brought $621 on 33 bids and an oddball card produced by Union Novelty Co. that fetched $565 on two bids. Both had PSA/DNA authentication.
Even better: Two action photos of Maris in the follow-through swing of his record-breaking 61st-homer at-bat sold for prices of $530 on 29 bids (JSA-authenticated) and $470 on 31 bids (PSA/DNA).
FALL CLASSIC COLLECTIBLES
Got a World Series ticket? There are hundreds of collectible examples listed on eBay at any given time, and they’re often price-friendly.
Caveat: Full tickets or stubs tied to spectacular Fall Classic moments often go for upwards of $500, easily rising to five-figure prices in some cases. But the vast majority are under $500, and you’ll find countless enticing examples for less than $100 or $200.
More on the bargains in a moment; first, here are three recent higher-end prices paid on eBay:
• $2,499 on 1 bid for a printer’s-proof sample ticket produced for Game 4 of the 1926 World Series. A certain Yankee known as The Bambino made the game memorable by blasting three home runs at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Babe Ruth and his Bronx Bombers, however, ultimately lost that World Series in seven games.
• $1,714 on 25 bids for a ticket stub from Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, which pitted the New York Giants against the Cleveland Indians. This is the game where Willie Mays made (arguably) baseball’s most famous defensive play ever: “The Catch.” The play found Mays sprinting straight to the center-field wall in pursuit of a Vic Wertz blast hit well over his head. He made a full-speed, over-the-shoulder catch a few feet from the wall at the horseshoe-shaped Polo Grounds. In practically the same motion, he turned and heaved a throw to second base, preventing two baserunners from advancing. The ticket was ungraded (it showed lots of wear) but was slabbed and authenticated by PSA.
• $1,384 on 32 bids for a full ticket from Game 7 of the 1931 World Series, which featured the St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Philadelphia Athletics. This one was ungraded but, judging from the photos, in almost Near-Mint condition. St. Louis won the decisive final game of the ‘31 series, 4-2, behind starting pitcher Burleigh Grimes.
Now, on to the bargain-basement side. Consider these recent prices:
• $208 on 19 bids for a Game 7 ticket stub from the 1971 World Series — the clincher for the Pirates over the Orioles. Series MVP Roberto Clemente homered in that 2-1 win. Another 1971 Game 7 ticket stub sold for $130 on 23 bids. And, proving it’s good to shop around, still another lot offered two 1971 Series ticket stubs and closed at just $85 on eight bids. Meanwhile, a stub from Game 4 in 1971 — the first World Series night game, one in which Clemente accounted for three hits — sold for $75 on one bid.
• $105 on 10 bids for a 1969 World Series ticket stub from Game 4. This was a pivotal game; heading into it, the underdog Mets were up, two games to one. Tom Seaver extended his team’s lead by pitching a complete-game, 10-inning masterpiece against the Orioles.
• $89 on one bid for a 1964 Game 6 stub. (Another Game 6 stub brought $125 on two bids.) In that memorable 8-3 Yankees win, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Joe Pepitone all homered — only to have the Cardinals come back and win the deciding Game 7.
Take a look on eBay and you’ll find these sorts of historical tickets and stubs going for surprisingly low bids.
Want an off-the-beaten-path collecting theme? Football kickers. You won’t have the kind of competition quarterbacks or running backs inspire, and you’ll find the pricing to be easy on the budget. Good place to start: Justin Tucker.
Since 2012, the Baltimore Ravens’ placekicker has been booting the equivalent of tape-measure baseball jacks. He did it again on Sept. 26. In the waning seconds of a game against the Detroit Lions, he nailed a 66-yarder, breaking the old NFL mark of 64 yards, set by Matt Prater of the Broncos in 2013.
You’ll find dozens of Tucker cards in eBay listings for under $10. On the other hand, certain rarities can sell for hundreds — and even jump into four-figure prices. For example, the winning bidder in an August auction paid $1,445 for a 2012 Panini Contenders autographed Rookie Ticket card of Tucker. It was graded PSA 8.
Another Tucker rookie card worth chasing is his 2012 Panini Certified Gold autographed card. Printed in an edition of 25, the card can sell for hundreds. One ungraded example brought $570 on 10 bids.
On the other hand, we saw several signed 2020 Panini Flawless cards of Tucker sell for under $50 — not bad for the man who did something no other NFL kicker has done. Tucker is a future Hall of Famer already being called “football’s best kicker ever” by experts far and wide.
Longtime fans no doubt remember the first kicker to nail a field goal longer than 60 yards: Tom Dempsey of the Saints, whose 63-yarder in 1970 (also against the Lions) shocked the football world. Dempsey’s rookie card is a 1970 Topps, and it can be had for less than $20, ungraded.
Other kickers to pursue (all Hall of Famers):
• Morten Anderson: His rookie card, a 1984 Topps, goes for less than $5.
• George Blanda: PSA 5 and PSA 6 examples of his 1954 Bowman rookie recently sold for $129 and $158, respectively. Blanda was also a starting QB for years.
• Lou Groza: His 1950 Bowman card recently sold for $792 on 29 bids (grade: PSA 8). But ungraded examples can be had for less than $100. Groza is a Cleveland Browns legend who also excelled as an offensive tackle.
• Jerry Kramer: A 1959 Topps Kramer rookie in PSA 8 condition recently brought $226 on 37 bids, but 7-grade and under gets you below $100. Kramer was mainly a guard but handled the Packers’ placekicking chores in 1962 and 1963 and briefly in 1968.
• Jan Stenerud: In 9 condition, Stenerud’s 1970 Topps rookie goes for $200-$300. But take a look at ungraded examples; they sell for less than $10, and multiple current examples look to be in top condition.