An eBay seller is currently listing a 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite card of LeBron James at the Buy-It-Now price of $60,000. It’s a nice-looking card bearing a patch of a James game-worn jersey and a bold autograph, but still… 60 grand?
Working against that asking price is the recent sale of several James 2003-04 Exquisite cards in high grade for far lower prices. The card’s value, as these transactions show, has been all over the map, although it’s been trending upwards as the NBA playoffs carry on. Nice specimens sold in separate January auctions for $4,900 (BGS 8.5) and $8,850 (BGS 9) and in February for $7,000 (ungraded) and $10,000 (BGS 10). In mid-April, a BGS 9 topped all of them by selling for $13,600 on 43 bids. Even so, that’s a long way from $60,000.
DREAM ON II
With all due respect to every NBA playoff team, there are those who are hoping for a return match featuring LeBron James’ Cavaliers and Stephen Curry’s Warriors.
Collectors who pay five-figure prices for memorabilia related to those two stars and their teams no doubt are among them. In “Dream On” above, we highlighted a popular James card, so let’s give Curry some ink.
In early April, a colorful 2009-10 Natural Treasures card of Curry sold for $8,888 on 85 bids. Graded BGS 9, it features a patch from a game-worn Curry jersey plus the versatile guard’s signature. And here’s the “Dream On” part of this bit: Another seller is currently offering the same card… with an opening bid of $100,000. (At press time, no bids had been tendered.)
The 1933 set issued by Goudey has long been a favorite target of collectors, and why not? The odd-sized cards (2 3/8 by 2 7/8 inches) served as a sort of bridge from the vintage tobacco card era of the 1910s and ’20s to the classic bubblegum card era of the 1950s and beyond. Among the attractions is a card that might better be classified as 1933½: a Napoleon Lajoie issue that can sell for obscene figures if in top condition. PSA 9 specimens have brought prices as high as $228,000 in 2016 and $204,000 in 2017, according to PSA’s population report.
Much of the appeal of the Lajoie card is that it was an afterthought and is relatively rare. Goudey originally included 239 cards in its 240-card 1933 set, omitting No. 106 for reasons unknown. In 1934, by popular demand, the company added the “missing” card, choosing Lajoie as the card’s subject (again, for reasons unknown — he had retired 16 seasons earlier). The card, made available by mail, had a 1933 design on the reverse and was given No. 106, but it also sported a new 1934 design on the front.
A Goudey Lajoie showed up on eBay and sold for $16,766. It carries an SGC 1/Poor grade, but with an important caveat: The SGC 1 grade owed largely to the reverse of the card; a small patch of the surface has been torn off. Otherwise, the front of the card displays beautifully: The image is bright and clean and the centering is perfect.
Lajoie’s remarkable career spanned 1896 through 1916. The smooth-fielding second baseman compiled 3,243 hits, batting .338 with 380 steals and 82 homers in baseball’s notorious Deadball Era.
Speaking of 1933 Goudey, a PSA-5 specimen of a Babe Ruth card from that set turned up on eBay in April and sold for $13,856. Goudey produced four different Ruth cards for that ’33 set. This one — numbered 53 and featuring a yellow background and a head-and-shoulders illustration of Ruth just after a swing — is considered the toughest to find.
When Goudey put out that memorable quartet of Bambino cards, Ruth was 38 years old but still a major star (although hindsight shows us his high-impact career was winding down). As the card’s reverse tells us, Ruth hit 41 homers in 1932 — an impressive total, even though it was down from the 46 and 49 he hit the two prior seasons — and amassed 137 RBI. He would play two more seasons with the Yankees, hitting 34 and 22 HRs, respectively, before leaving to play a partial season (1940) with Brooklyn, for whom he hit the final six of his 714 career homers.
A TD BY ANY OTHER NAME
The Dallas Cowboys have trotted out a steady stream of game-breaking running backs over the decades. Today, of course, it’s Ezekiel Elliott, the phenom who gained 1,631 yards and scored 16 total touchdowns last year, his rookie campaign. Before Elliott, there was DeMarco Murray. Before Murray, there was Marion “The Barbarian” Barber.
Before Barber, there was Julius Jones. Before Jones, of course, there was all-world Emmitt Smith. And before Smith, there was Tony Dorsett, who combined lightning speed with interior-line toughness, making him a threat whether he was carrying the ball (12,739 yards and a 4.3 average in 11 years) or catching it (398 receptions and an 8.9 average). His nickname — TD — was apropos; he scored 77 touchdowns on the ground and another 13 through the air, not to mention 10 more TDs in the playoffs.
Yet doesn’t it seem Dorsett was slightly underrated in the collectibles hobby? Perhaps it was because of the era during which he played (1977-1988). During that span, collectors were chasing Earl Campbell, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, John Elway, and Steve Young, among others.
Even so, the hobby hasn’t forgotten Dorsett by any stretch. In fact, we’re seeing lots of respect being shown to his rookie card, a 1978 Topps featuring a close-up candid of the then-baby-faced running back. In mid-April, a gem-mint specimen of that card graded PSA 10 sold for $14,555. It took 40 bids to settle on that price.