By Larry Canale
It’s not on our Top 10 list because it’s technically a lot (as opposed to a single item or set), but it’s worth mentioning: A pair of vintage cards featuring Yankees legends Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle fetched $152,000 in a late-May sale.
At that price, you likely don’t have to think too hard as to which Mantle card was in the mini-lot. Yes, it’s his 1952 Topps, considered by some to be his rookie in a major set issue. (Others among us insist it’s his 1951 Bowman.) You see his ’52 classic fairly regularly on the Top 10 chart in this space, often selling for upwards of $50,000 if in 7 or better condition. This particular example, in fact, graded out at PSA 7.
(A quick aside: Just outside our Top 10 was a low-condition—PSA 2.5—example of Mantle’s 1952 card. Despite being graded PSA 2.5, it still sold for $20,750.)
As for the DiMaggio card, it’s his popular 1941 Play Ball issue. That one—released the year in which he amassed his 56-game hitting streak—features a color illustration of DiMaggio in a swing follow-through. It was graded PSA 8.
In 1932, the U.S. Caramel Co. of East Boston issued a 32-card set of the day’s top baseball stars. Among them were Eddie Collins, Bill Dickey, Rabbit Maranville, Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig and, naturally, Babe Ruth, No. 32 in the set.
PSA lists 7-grade examples of Ruth’s 1932 card at $16,000. On eBay in May, though, a PSA 7 specimen did even better than that, selling for $21,450. The card pictures Ruth in a colorized photograph, shoulders squared and hat askew. At the time, he was 37 (the card incorrectly puts him at 39) and about to embark on a season in which he’d hit 41 homers and bat .341.
The high-water mark for this installment of Online Auctioneer approached six figures. The item: a 1993 Upper Deck SP Foil card of Derek Jeter. Graded Gem-Mint/10 by PSA, the card touched off a bidding war like we haven’t seen in a long time: It inspired 148 bids that sent its price shooting up to $99,100.
The card itself is a great one. The front captures young Jeter in action, executing an underhanded toss in what must have been a force play at second. The flip side offers two more photos—one showing us a scrawny-looking Jeter making a throw from shortstop and the other giving us a baby-faced close-up.
The stats on the back don’t hint at the legendary figure Jeter would become. In the 1992 season, when he played 47 games in the Gulf Coast League and 11 games in the South Atlantic League, Jeter’s combined batting average was just .210 with four homers and two steals in 210 at-bats.
The card did offer a glimpse of hope, however; Upper Deck was able to add the following note before the card went to press: “Jeter hit at a .324 clip for Class-A Greensboro in the first half of 1993.” Three years later, in 1996, he took over as the Yankees’ starting shortstop, batting .314 that season. And the rest is history.
Speaking of Yankees infielders, how about Gleyber Torres? He’s a natural shortstop, but the Yankees—hit by a rash of injuries at second base early this season—called on the 21-year-old to fill in. All he’s done since his call-up is hit .321 through 32 games with nine homers.
That’s not a typo: Through 109 at-bats, Gleybs has hit nine homers, including a memorable 9th-inning game-winning shot on May 5, a feat that made him the youngest Yankee ever to win a game with a walk-off homer. At 21 years and 144 days, Torres surpassed Mickey Mantle for that honor. (The Mick was 21 years and 185 days when a three-run, 9th-inning blast he hit in April 1953 beat Boston.)
As good as Torres has been in his first month in the majors, he still has some very large shadows around him—namely, those of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton. Even so, there’s no hiding Torres from collectors. Consider the sale of a 2015 Bowman Chrome Orange Refractor card of Torres in May. It attracted 70 bids and soared to $13,900. The card had been graded a perfect BGS 10, with his autograph on the card also drawing a 10.
Just two months earlier, in March, the same card of Torres—a 2015 Bowman Chrome autographed Orange Refractor—sold for “only” $5,400. The grade was slightly lower than the card that fetched $13,900: BGS 9.5 with a 10 for the sig.
Torres’ 2015 cards remind us that he came up in the Cubs’ system. Chicago traded him to the Yankees in the 2016 deal that made Aroldis Chapman a Cub for the team’s stretch run and eventual World Series title—the franchise’s first since 1908. Two years later, Chapman is a Yankee again, and Torres has, apparently, arrived.
There’s no Yankee in this item, but it’s worth a look, considering that Shohei Ohtani continues as one of baseball’s hottest 2018 stories. In May, an eBay seller got $20,000 for a lot of four Ohtani 2017 Bowman Chrome cards, three of them Refractors—an Orange, a Green and a Purple. All four cards were graded PSA 10. As each one illustrates, Bowman spelled his last name without the “h”—“Otani” instead of “Ohtani.”
While LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers were embroiled in a nail-biting battle with the Boston Celtics in the NBA Playoffs, an eBay seller listed a prized card related to the future Hall of Famer: an autographed 2003-04 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection card graded BGS 9.5. Even before the Cavs’ Game 7 win in Boston on May 27, the auction ended with 34 bids pushing the James Ultimate Collection card to $21,556. It came from a limited run of 250.