If you were born in the 40’s or 50’s and grew up as a baseball fan, collecting trading cards was a rite of passage. We chewed the bubble gum, read the backs of the cards, put them in our bicycle wheel spokes and sorted them by number or team. Those childhood memories are stuck in our brain and just like the characters around the campfire in “City Slickers”, we know that Don Hoak was the 3B of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960.
Every time I purchase a vintage (pre-1976) baseball card collection, all of those experiences come flooding back as the first chore is sorting through the cards. Recently, one such collection came my way and included Topps baseball cards from the early 60’s. Even though it was a substantial investment, my approach to being an eBay dealer in these types of items is that it is more of a hobby than a business. As long as the cost isn’t prohibitive and the long-term outcome is at least a break-even proposition, I’m just happy to have a new project. In addition, it always feels good to be the conduit between a seller who has lost interest in cards to a buyer who is adding to their personal collection.
Of course, it isn’t quite as easy as buying a card for $5 and selling it for $7. When it comes to 50 year old pieces of cardboard, the key element of the value is condition. With most sales taking place on the Internet, buyers want to know exactly what they’re getting and the only way to guarantee their satisfaction is to have cards graded by a third-party independent company. The grading is done on a scale of 1-to-10 and the outcome can impact the value dramatically. For example, a 1960 Roger Maris All-Star card in “Excellent” (EX 5) condition books for $40, while the same card in “Near-Mint” (NM 7) condition is worth $90. And, honestly, most cards from private collections grade out much lower due to all the decades of wear and tear.
So, for dealers like me, the first priority is culling through hundreds of cards to figure out which ones are worth grading (at a cost of $8-$10 per card) based on the player and the estimated condition. In this particular case, over 120 cards were sent to the grading company, which essentially doubled the overall cost of the original purchase. In the next few weeks, we’ll find out the results and then those cards will go up for sale on eBay under the ID of “rotisserieduck”. The cards sent in included the aforementioned Maris along with 1962 cards of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays & Hank Aaron. From ’64, there are five examples of the beautiful 2nd-year Pete Rose card as well as Sandy Koufax & Roberto Clemente.
Now that those cards are in process, phase two of the project is underway. This requires sorting the remaining cards to see if any of the “semi-star” players might meet the criteria for grading or putting together groups of cards in decent raw condition to sell as lots. Some buyers, for example, might like to have a group of players from their favorite team. While most of you might not know the name Don Buddin, he was the Red Sox Shortstop when I was growing up in New England and, yes, I played SS in Little League. Nostalgia is a powerful incentive when it comes to collectibles.
As this box with hundreds of 1962 Topps baseball cards sits on the table, it occurred to me that each of us has ties to obscure players. So, maybe a few names and pieces of information about the players on these baseball cards might stir a few memories for some of you.
> #65 Bobby Richardson, Yankees 2B – The history of his catch of that line drive off Willie McCovey’s bat in the 7th game of the World Series wouldn’t be written for a few more months.
> #203 Jack Fisher, Orioles P – In September of 1960, he gave up Home Run #521 to Ted Williams in the last at-bat of “Teddy Ballgame’s” career.
> #167 Tim McCarver, Cardinals C – This is the rookie card of a player who would go on to a memorable broadcasting career.
> #97 Tito Francona, Indians OF – A solid major-leaguer for over a decade, his son Terry won two World Series as the Manager of the Red Sox.
> #183 Roger Craig, Mets P – The expansion Mets might have been the worst team ever and his record as their “ace” in ’62 was 10-24…went on to be a very successful pitching coach and managed the Giants from 1986-1992.
> #63 Tony Cloninger, Braves P – In 1966 during a 17-3 drubbing of the Giants, he hit two Grand Slam Home Runs and had 9 RBI’s.
> #160 Dick Stuart, Pirates 1B – Part of the Bucs championship team in 1960…a few years later, Stuart had two outstanding seasons with the Red Sox but his lack of defensive skills and a 1964 hit movie got him the nickname “Dr. Strangeglove.”
> #375 Ron Fairly, Dodgers OF – Followed up his playing career by becoming a color man in the Mariners broadcast booth. During one game, he famously said, “Last night I failed to mention something that bears repeating”.
> #116 Herb Score, White Sox P – Was the AL Rookie of the Year with the Indians in 1955 and struck out over 500 batters in his first two seasons…he was never the same after being hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of Gil McDougald in ’57.
> #407 Hank Aguirre, Tigers P – For fans of the DH, he may have been one of the worst hitting Pitchers in the history of the game…in 16 seasons, he was 33-for-388 (.085 BA) with 236 strikeouts.
> #87 Gene Conley, Red Sox P – A 6′ 8″ right-hander who won 91 major league games, he was also part of three NBA championship teams with the Boston Celtics.
> #153 Pumpsie Green, Red Sox SS – The BoSox were the last major league team to integrate and he was the player in 1959.
> #171 Dave Sisler, Reds P – Most fans know about the Boones and the Bells, but this player was eight years old when his Dad George was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939.
> #209 Jim Fregosi, Angels – The rookie card of this baseball “lifer”, he made six All-Star teams as a member of the Halos but is unfairly most remembered as the player traded for Nolan Ryan.
> #298 Bill Tuttle, Twins OF – During the later years of his life, he traveled extensively warning major league players about the dangers of chewing tobacco and his disfigured face (due to surgeries for oral cancer) told the tale…ironically, his ’62 card shows him in the batting cage with a cheek full of chaw.
Hope your favorite didn’t get left out…he’s probably in the box somewhere.