After the debacle of the 80’s & 90’s, when baseball card companies overproduced their products and turned off many collectors, the industry had to re-invent itself with new and innovative products. Starting around 2000, the manufacturers began inserting different types of limited-edition products into standard packs of cards.
The simplest example is short-printed subset cards, where the regular issue card had parallel versions…the “blue” version might have only 150 available, while the “gold” version might be limited to 50. This created an entire new market, as some collectors wanted the scarce cards of their favorite player or even desired the entire set of short-prints for a particular year.
Even more unique (and expensive) are the relic and autograph cards you can now find in many baseball card products. Relic cards are also described as “patch” or memorabilia cards and include an actual piece of authentic jersey…or bat, or shoe, or batting glove – you get the idea. Many of these are also limited in their production and the lower the serial number, the higher the demand.
Autograph cards are what most collectors are after in today’s market. Card companies contract with MLB players to sign a certain amount of cards (or stickers that are applied to cards) each year and they are randomly inserted into packs you can buy at your local hobby store. In some cases, a card could even include multiple autographs and the signatures are not limited to current players because retired greats also make themselves available for signings. If you’ve been following the news, you might be aware of a Mike Trout card that was recently sold for a record $3.93 Million in an on-line auction.
Numerous friends have asked how a modern card could be so valuable. There are multiple answers to the question. First, we are talking about the best player in the game who is a lock for the Hall of Fame even though he’s still in his 20’s. Second, this is an autograph card from 2009, which is two years before he appeared in the major leagues, making it his first-ever baseball card. Third is that this is the “Superfractor” version of the card and only one was manufactured (called a 1/1 in the hobby). And finally, the card has been graded and authenticated by a 3rd party company that verifies the card and autograph are in “Mint” condition. Put it all together and you have the perfect storm that creates a truly unique collectible.
Of course, these upscale products aren’t inexpensive and the chances of pulling the “key” card from a pack are slim, but do you feel lucky…well, do ‘ya? Let’s take a look at some of the beautiful cards that have come across the Old Duck’s desk in the last decade.
A 1954 Topps set is part of my personal collection and the key collectible is Hank Aaron’s Rookie Card. In 2013, Topps produced some reprint cards and included the ’54 Aaron with his autograph. Only 25 were produced and thanks to a good friend, one of them now sits proudly next to the original in my bookcase.
Another future Hall of Famer is Ichiro Suzuki and in 2019, Topps manufactured a beautiful 1/1 Autograph card of this legendary
Even future stars sign cards…this is one of Adley Rutschman, the #1 pick in the 2019 Amateur Draft.
Donruss was one the earliest to offer these “hits” and here’s a Willie McCovey signature from 1998.
Jose Abreu of the White Sox is having a great 2020 season, here’s his Rookie Card Autograph from 2014.
Chipper Jones is a recent Hall of Famer and here’s a beautiful card from 2011.
How about a Ken Griffey Jr. Autograph from 2004 signed on baseball leather?
Featuring the dual format, it doesn’t get much better than Brooks Robinson & George Brett on the same card.
Are you drooling yet? Stop in to your local baseball card shop and check out the products.