Strong demands shown for Jackie Robinson baseball cards

By Larry Canale

On Sept. 11, we saw auctions end for two different 1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson rookie cards, and both closed at well more than $10,000. Oddly, the one with a higher grade, a PSA 7, sold for the lower price: $12,445. The example graded PSA 6 fetched an impressive $16,156. Both were offered by eBay seller PWCC Auctions and inspired competitive bidding; the PSA 6 card had 49 bids while the PSA 7 had 30.

The next day, two different 1952 Topps Jackie Robinson cards sold for prices of $8,700 (graded SGC 88) on 35 bids and $7,950 (PSA 7) on 28 bids. And that’s not all. Also on Sept. 12:

• A 1953 Topps Robinson (SGC 92/Near-Mint-Mint) brought $8,400 on 17 bids; it was card No. 1 in that classic set.

• A 1955 Robinson (SGC 96/Mint) reeled in $7,878 on 27 bids; that card featured Topps’ dual-image design—one a close-up of Jackie’s face, the other a full-body batting-swing follow-through.

• A 1950 Bowman Robinson (PSA 8) sold for $7,750 on 34 bids. This one, of course, is the smaller-sized 2 1/16 x 2 1/2 inch card that followed in the footsteps of Bowman’s 1948 and 1949 sets while presenting beautiful hand-painted illustrations.

Why the run on Jackie treasures? The 2017 season is the 70th anniversary of the year Robinson—already 28 years old at the time—broke baseball’s color barrier. His well-documented story remains an inspiration all these decades later and is the reason that no MLB player will ever again wear his uniform number, 42. Plus, Jackie’s impact on the diamond—a .311 average with 137 homers and 197 steals in an all-too-short 10-year career—landed him a well-deserved spot in the Hall of Fame.

A MANTLE MONTH 

A look at our Top 10 chart reveals a host of items featuring The Magnificent Yankee, Mickey Mantle. And why not? Along with Babe Ruth, he’s the kingpin of the baseball memorabilia business. And it’s a rare issue of SCD that doesn’t have at least one Mantle item on our “Online Auctioneer” Top 10 list.

This time out, you’ll see six Mantle items, with the usual suspect—his 1952 Topps card, in varying condition—taking up four spots. The strangest among those? That would be the one you see at No. 7: a ’52 Topps Mantle that had been submitted to PSA and proclaimed as “Authentic Altered”—meaning that it holds up as a true original card but that it’s been enhanced. The seller notes that it was “very lightly trimmed along the top border, but otherwise shows like a $200,000-plus card.” As is, it drew $23,523, or $4,000 below a PSA 3.5. And yes, there was competition: Some 57 bids pushed it to that price.

The cynic in us wonders, “What if—down the road—the card’s owner or a future owner pulls it out of the slab and offers it without the provenance showing it’s been altered?” The photo in the listing shows it to be a masterful trim job, so without the discerning eye of a grading service or experienced collector, it could fool people.

HALL OF FAME CREDENTIALS

Baseball’s newest Hall of Fame class features three players who put up stellar numbers and were dominant at their positions: catcher Ivan Rodriguez, first baseman Jeff Bagwell and outfielder Tim Raines.

Rodriquez played 21 seasons—at baseball’s toughest position—and hit .296 with 311 homers and 1,332 RBI. Bagwell played for 15 years, all with the Astros, and hit .297 with 449 homers and 1,529 RBI. And “Rock” Raines played for 23 years, hitting .294 with 170 homers, 980 RBI and 808 stolen bases.

Yet hobby-wise, all three were overshadowed by other names of their era—from Cal Ripken Jr. to Don Mattingly to Will Clark to Mark McGwire. So today, you can find worthy pieces related to the trio at collector-friendly prices. In fact, if you take a quick look at the highest-selling items in the weeks since their induction, you won’t find anything even close to a four-figure price.

• For Rodriguez, it’s a 1991 Topps Traded Tiffany rookie card graded PSA 10; in a Buy It Now sale, it fetched $500. Another example also graded PSA 10 brought $205 on 22 bids. We’ll also point out a 2017 Topps Tier One Signature Tools card of I-Rod that sold for $292 on 29 bids. This unique issue features a piece of a “player-used-pen” designed into the card. Baseballs signed by I-Rod are going for prices between $50 and $125 these days.

• For Bagwell, it’s a 1998 Donruss Preferred Precious Metals Platinum card graded PSA 10 that sold for $360. It’s one of only 50 of its kind. A Bagwell 2016 Topps Triple Threads autographed patch card—a 1/1 issue graded BGS 9 with a 10 for the sig—got away for $325. Bagwell-signed baseballs (authenticated) can be had for prices between $50 and $125.

• For Raines, the highest-priced post-induction item isn’t his rookie card, but a 1993 Topps Finest Refractor graded PSA 8; it sold for $495. His first card, a 1981 Topps, can be found for quite a bit less. A Gem-Mint PSA 10 specimen, for example, sold for $355 on 25 bids. (Raines’ rookie was an “Expos Future Stars” card also featuring catcher Roberto Ramos and outfielder Bobby Pate. Raines, at the time, was a rookie second baseman.) Meanwhile, baseballs signed by Raines are selling for $30 to $100.

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