We’ve been raving about rookies here this season, commenting in recent issues on the collecting heat behind Yordan Alvarez, Austin Riley and new Home Run Derby champ Peter Alonso. But how about those two Blue Jays who come from baseball bloodlines?
On the field, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio haven’t been lighting it up quite as much as the others we’ve highlighted, but they’ve had some spectacular moments. And you figure with the pedigree behind these young stars (both have Hall of Famer fathers—Vlad Guerrero and Craig Biggio), there are more great moments to come.
The hot item among Guererro collectibles is his 2016 Bowman signed Chrome Refractor. An Orange version (one of 25) sold on eBay in mid-June for $14,200 on 52 bids. It had been graded BGS 9.5. Two weeks earlier, a PSA 10 Gold Refractor (one of 50) sold for $10,368 on 62 bids. “Plain” (uncolored) Vlad Jr. 2016 Chrome Refractors tend to sell for $1,000 to $2,000.
How about dad? We saw a Vlad Sr. Blue Refractor rookie from Bowman’s 1995 set sell for $1,100 in late June. If you go old-school, it’s much easier on your wallet; specifically, look for base cards of Vlad Sr. For example, we spotted a 1995 Bowman Guerrero graded PSA 9 that sold for only $32… and the man’s in the Hall! He finished his career in 2011 after batting a robust .318 with 449 homers and 1,496 RBI in 16 seasons.
Cavan Biggio was just a little behind Vlad Jr. in arriving to the majors, but in the collectibles arena, he’s a bit further behind. His 2016 Bowman Chrome Refractors have been selling for under $1,000. Examples; $898 (on 64 bids) for an ungraded Red Refractor, one of five made; $800 for a Gold Refractor graded PSA 10 (one of 50); and $615 for an Orange Refractor graded PSA 9 (one of 25).
As for Cavan’s dad, he’s a steal. You generally can find Craig Biggio’s first Fleer, Score, Topps, and Fleer cards, all from 1988 and 1989, for under $100 in around 9 condition. Even 10-graded specimens of rarities don’t go too much higher. Last month, two 1989 Topps Tiffany Biggio rookies sold for prices of $165 and $230. And again, the man’s in the Hall! He amassed 3,060 hits, 414 steals, 291 HRs and a .281 average in his 20 seasons.
We don’t see too many items that draw north of 100 bids, but we can report on one this month: a Mike Trout Blue Refractor from Bowman’s 2009 Chrome set. Graded BGS 9.5, it touched off a bidding war, finally settling at $47,200 on 101 bids to land atop our chart.
Of course, Trout’s more scarce Gold Refractor can sell for double that amount. In our most recent issue, we reported on one such example that sold for $93,127. Why the difference in price? Rarity. Trout’s 2009 Gold Refractors were limited to a run of 50, vs. 150 Blue Refractors.
As baseball fans, we tend to fawn all over the current crop of baby sluggers, but there are young hurlers opening our eyes this year, too. One of the best is Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox. Now in his second full season (he got a cup of coffee with the Nationals in 2016 and the White Sox in 2017), Giolito turned in a spectacular first half this year: an 11-3 record , a 3.15 ERA, 125 Ks in 100 innings… and an All-Star berth.
Giolito rookie cards so far have been budget-friendly, though that could change if he keeps up his stingy ways on the mound. Look for his signed 2013 Bowman Chrome card, which can be had for anywhere from $50 to $175. Other appealing issues include his 2016 signed Topps Heritage (the example here fetched $130) and his 2016 signed Topps Chrome (we saw one get away for $90 in May).
And we’d call this a bargain: A collector paid just $60 for a 2015 Bowman Chrome Dual Refractor card signed by both Giolito and, arguably, the best pitcher in the game, Max Scherzer. Two other examples of the card sold for prices of $80 and $105. There were only 25 made, so those prices are steals.
We go to the National Sports Collectors Convention, of course, for that endless inventory of sports treasures. But how about collecting The National itself? This highly anticipated event is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, so there’s a growing inventory of items related to or distributed by The National.
Browse the listings at eBay, for example, and you’ll find VIP and dealer badges from past shows selling for prices between $10 and $40, depending on the player featured on the embedded cards. We recently saw a Tom Brady VIP lanyard sell for $30 and a dealer lanyard depicting singer Willie Nelson sell for $20. You’ll find countless cards distributed exclusively at the National—cards featuring all the obvious hobby heroes (Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente) along with unexpected faces (example: the set of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump cards from 2016).
And... how about a collection of National programs? You can start a worthy stash just by keeping an eye on eBay sales. Your columnist is especially partial to the editions from 1997 (Muhammad Ali cover), 1998 (Michael Jordan cover) and 1999 (Hank Aaron cover, shot by Ozzie Sweet)— having produced those editions while serving as editor of Tuff Stuff magazine. Each can be had for $10 or less.
In fact, you can probably build a near-complete run of National programs for under $400. We say “near-complete” because early editions can be impossible to find. And some of the 1980s programs can cost $20 to $30, depending on condition. Interestingly, various publishers have produced the official National program over the years, among them Baseball Hobby News, Legends Sports Memorabilia, Tuff Stuff and, in recent years, Heritage Auctions.
CC’S CURTAIN CALL
C.C. Sabathia’s appearance at this year’s All-Star Game—both to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and to make a special visit to the mound to check on Aroldis Chapman in the 9th inning—was a nice touch. It reminded us that he has been an extremely solid hurler for a lot of years—19 seasons, to be exact. He’s been so solid that you can make a Hall of Fame case for Sabathia.
Think about it: C.C. is one of only 14 pitchers all time to have 250-plus wins and 3,000-plus strikeouts. He’s one of 17 pitchers to reach 3,000 strikeouts, and one of only three lefties to do so. His ERA is a tad high but still respectable at 3.71, and his winning percentage is a healthy .615 (plus he’s gone 10-7 in post-season play). Plus, Sabathia has won a Cy Young Award (2007) and been named to six All-Star teams.
Despite all of those accolades, Sabathia is still a bargain in the collectibles arena. The biggest prices paid for Sabathia items at eBay recently include the following:
- $573 on 44 bids for a 1999 Bowman’s Best Atomic Refractors card graded BGS 10).
- $571 on 40 bids for a signed 1999 Topps Traded Certified rookie card graded PSA 10.
- $400 in a Buy It Now deal for an autographed Buffalo Bisons jersey Sabathia wore during a 2006 rehab appearance. (The jersey and sig were authenticated by JSA.)
- $271 on 33 bids for a 1999 Bowman Chrome International Refractor—an autographed card and one of only 100 made.
The number of bids on those items show collector interest in Sabathia as he works through his final season. At the same time, there are all kinds of bargains to be had. For example, we spotted dozens of autographed and authenticated Sabathia baseballs, photos, cards and magazines that have sold at prices under $100 over the past three months. And there are more to be had.
By the way, Sabathia has a cool-looking sig—it’s not all that readable, yet you know it’s him, considering the distinctive “CC” followed by an “S” and, apparently, a crossed “T” (and sometimes his “52” uniform number).