1933 DeLong: Baseball’s Ultimate One-Hit Wonder!

If ever there was a case of being in the right place at the wrong time, it existed for Harold Clark DeLong. A Treasurer at the Goudey Gum Company, DeLong left the organization in 1932 when Enos Goudey sold the business, starting his own company just blocks away from the Boston conglomerate. And while DeLong’s ill-fated foray into the baseball card market wouldn’t last longer than a single season, he produced one of the most memorable and coveted collections in baseball card history. 

Underfunded and Poorly Distributed

Harold DeLong had an advantage as a key executive in the development of the Goudey series prior to his departure, allowing him to create a clearly more aesthetic product than his former employer, but there were just too many obstacles standing in his way. Goudey, founded in 1919, was a well-established purveyor of chewing gum and had the financial might to secure the materials needed to produce the largest mainstream collection since the legendary T206 series. DeLong, on the other hand, was pioneering a poorly funded start-up that could only muster the ability to release a diminutive 24-card collection. Oh, but what a collection it was! While the brightly colored pigments, real life player depictions and ornate background artistry were a tremendous contrast from the straightforward and often monochrome format of the Goudey collection, there simply was no way that DeLong’s small series could compete with a Goudey set ten times the size that included a quartet of Babe Ruth cards. In addition, the DeLong cards didn’t have the nationwide distribution channel of the Goudey series, and if that wasn’t enough of a handicap, it was widely thought that Goudey’s bubble gum was just clearly superior. Even in the hometown Boston area, DeLong had to contend not only with Goudey but also had to compete with the regionally issued George C. Miller collection. All things considered, DeLong never really stood a chance of success.

A True Collector Classic! 

Although there is no Babe Ruth card in the DeLong set, the 24-card collection is jam-packed with star power, boasting 15 Hall of Famers and led by the issues of Yankees Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig and fellow Cooperstown resident Jimmie Foxx. In addition to their groundbreaking appearance, what makes the DeLong series so highly collectible to advanced hobbyists is the difficulty to build an elite assemblage. Nearly 3,000 cards from the entire 24-card collection have passed through the halls of PSA without a single GEM MINT specimen, only two graded MINT and just five subjects (McManus, Terry, Traynor, Gomez and Klein) making it into double-digits pops at the PSA 8 level. Ironically, some of the most difficult high-grade finds from the series are not Hall of Famers: Oscar Melillo, Riggs Stephenson and Lon Warneke. While the series is a challenge to build, there are presently 31 complete collections on the PSA Set Registry with just eight that have reached a level of 7.0 or higher.

Mile High Card Company to Offer One of the Finest Complete 1933 DeLong Sets Ever Assembled 

Featured in the Mile High Card Company September Auction is the second finest 1933 DeLong set ever assembled, boasting a set rating of approximately 8.83 with several PSA 8.5 cards that stand as the one and only examples at that grading tier with none graded higher. All but two of the cards in the collection have a grade of NM/MT or better. As MHCC has done in the past with world-ranked assemblages, this collection is being offered as a complete set as well as each card offered individually, with the final sale going to whichever total (the set versus the sum of the individual lots) is higher.

MHCC is presently in the process of lining up more breathtaking items to make our next auction even greater and you still have time to be a part of it. If you desire the maximum possible return for your prized sports cards and/or memorabilia, please call (303) 840-2784, contact us at www.milehighcardco.com. or visit the MHCC booth at #1136 and #1138 of  the 38th National Sports Card Convention in Chicago, July 26th-30th.  You might even walk away with an added bonus – a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card PSA AUTHENTIC.

For each $500 of value consigned to the September MHCC auction, you’ll earn one ticket for the drawing. The larger the consignment, the more tickets you’ll receive, but everyone who consigns to MHCC at the National will be entered. The card is valued at $10,000 and the winner does not need to be present for the drawing, which is at 3:00 PM on July 30th.

Unprecedented Wax Box Find with 1948 Bowman Baseball Near Full Box Heads to Mile High Card Company June Auction

A few weeks ago, we were getting ready to put the final touches on the upcoming June auction when the phone rang … “Hello, I have some unopened full boxes and almost full boxes from the 1950s and 1960s that I am considering for your auction.” Well that certainly sounded promising, so I asked, “that’s great, what do you have?” He started off by telling me about a complete 1959 Fleer Ted Williams box, which certainly caught my attention, and then went into material that included near full wax boxes of 1961 Topps football five cent, 1962 Topps football and 1962 Fleer football. As he went on further (1960 Fleer baseball near full box, 1961 Fleer football full box, 1961 Fleer baseball near full box, 1961 Nu-Card Scoops near full box and 1961 Nu-Card Football near full box), I was trying to put a dollar value on the whole group when he hits me with “ and there’s a 1961 Fleer basketball unopened box.” I was already impressed at this point, but when he mentioned the 1961 Fleer basketball box, I said to him, “Aha! You buried the headline on me.” Actually, we still hadn’t reached the headline!

1961 Fleer Basketball Full Unopened Wax Box BBCE 1961 Topps Football 5 Cent Pack Full Unopened Wax Box BBCE 1961 Fleer Football Full Unopened Wax Box BBCE

“I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

This was already the greatest compilation of unopened material I’d ever heard of, and then he said, “Oh, and I have a box, it’s only 19 of the 24 packs, but it’s a Play Ball box from 1948. Wait, no, it’s 1948 Bowman.” Now I’m starting to wonder if Brian (Drent, MHCC President and CEO) is trying to punk me. I said, “I’m sorry can you repeat that?” He said, “1948 Bowman. The box and the wrappers say Play Ball on them but it’s Bowman. There was an extra pack that’s open and it’s the little black and white cards.” Now I’ve never seen or even heard of anyone who has seen a 1948 Bowman pack, but he’s claiming to have 19 unopened packs and the original box (which I also have never seen or heard of). I had to ask the obvious question, “How did you come across all of this?” He told me it was left to him by a member of his family who owned and operated a confectionary company that produced trading cards in the 1950s and 60s, though not a competitor to Topps, Fleer or Bowman in the sports card market. A quick Google search confirmed it and he still lived in the city from which the company had operated. Realizing that this would require an in-person pick-up due to our quickly approaching deadline, I asked if we could call him back in 5 minutes and sprinted down the hall with my page of notes to Brian’s office.

“You need to get off the phone NOW!”

Brian was looking out the window while talking on his cell phone when I walked in. As he turned and caught my eye, I said, “You need to get off the phone now!” Looking slightly perplexed but still, I handed him the notes, still listening to the person on the other end of the phone. After a few seconds of perusing the paper, he said, “Listen I gotta call you back.” Brian looked at me as if now I’m trying to punk him, but once I explained the lineage of the collection, he was back on the phone. Fifteen minutes later, he was booking a flight to pick up the collection.

Incredible 1948 Bowman Baseball Nearly Full Unopened Wax Box (19/24) Packs BBCE Incredible 1948 Bowman Baseball Nearly Full Unopened Wax Box (19/24) Packs BBCE

Untouched for over a half-century

The next day, Brian arrived to find the boxes laid out on a white linen across a dining room table. He was immediately drawn to the ’48 Bowman box, which seemed odd because it had “Play Ball” advertised all over the box and the packs. The thickness of the packs was also unusual but similar to a 1952 Bowman pack he has once seen. If not for the one opened pack, which contained five well-centered NM/MT to potentially GEM MINT examples and three large slabs of gum, there really wasn’t any indication that they were 1948 Bowman packs. The collection had been stored in a vintage Stroh’s beer case that was as old as the cards, the ones made of thick cardboard stock that originally had the insert to separate individual bottles. It was clear that this collection had been untouched for over a half-century. The consignor asked what he thought the collection was worth and revealed a dollar figure with his own estimate. Brian looked at the number and said, “Let’s put it this way; I’ll pay you four times that amount right now but I advise you not to take it. That’s what I think it’s worth”

“It’s Marvelous …”

We contacted Baseball Card Exchange owner Steve Hart, widely recognized as the foremost authority of unopened material, to examine and authenticate all of the material. After a few days of the material in his possession, we called Steve to ask what he thought. “It’s marvelous, all of it,” he claimed, verifying the authenticity by sealing the full boxes and adding their stamp of approval while providing a Letter of Authenticity and wrapping the near full boxes. Even Mr. Hart was not aware of any other 1948 Bowman baseball packs known to exist. The five cent packs are “NM to NM/MT and awesome” according to BBCE. The original box, though heavily damaged and taped, is also the only known example. In fact, BBCE had specific comments for each of the boxes:

  • 1959 Full Ted Williams full wax box – This one is extremely clean with NM/MT to MINT packs.
  • 1961 Fleer football full wax box – Most boxes have been salted away in collections and don’t come out anymore. Packs are NM/MT.
  • 1961 Topps football full wax box – The crown jewel of the find (other than the ’48 Bowman). I’ve seen less than 10 packs and they are usually EX … I’ve never heard of a full box. These packs are NM/MT to MINT.
  • 1961-62 Fleer basketball full wax box – Packs are NM to NM/MT and as fresh as can be.
  • 1962 Topps football near full wax box (20/24) – Packs are NM/MT overall and sweet.
  • 1960 Fleer Baseball Greats near full box (20/24) – Ten of the packs have mildew damage, the other 10 packs are NM to NM/MT.
  • 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats near full box (20/24) – Packs are sweet and NM/MT.
  • 1962 Fleer football near full box (19/24) – Packs are NM/MT and very rare.
  • 1961 Nu-Card Scoops baseball near full box (23/24) – Packs are NM to NM/MT overall.

Whether you’re a serious collector or just a curious bystander, this collection of unopened material will certainly be remember throughout the sports card hobby for generations to come. The Mile High Card Company Spring Auction will begin May 30th and conclude on June 15th. For additional information or to consign to an upcoming auction, please visit our website at www.milehighcardco.com or call our office at (303) 840-2784.

1948 Bowman Baseball: The Pioneer of the Post-War Era

From T206 to Goudey and everywhere in between, tobacco, caramel and gum companies tried to lay claim to the baseball card market, never getting past just a few seasons. While Gum Inc., manufacturer of the 1939-41 Play Ball series, appeared poised to mount a run at becoming the driving force that would lead the hobby into the next generation, their aspirations were halted by material shortages from World War II. Three years after the fighting subsided, Leaf and Bowman came forth to revive the industry, offering vastly different concepts of the future of the baseball card market. In the end, Bowman survived and went on 8-year run that dominated the industry until Topps permanently took over in 1956.

What if the roles had been reversed and Bowman was able to push Topps out of the market? One thing is for sure; the 1951 Mickey Mantle card, his true rookie card, would have no competition whatsoever as most coveted sports card ever produced. But while Bowman had the advantage of experience and an established customer base, Topps quite simply made a superior product. The simple black and white design of the inaugural 1948 Bowman series might not win any accolades for innovation, but the 48-card collection is one of the most important compilations in the hobby and the undisputed pioneer of the post-war era!

48 for ‘48

Whether it was meant to be a test set or a means to keep production costs as low as possible in a once again uncharted market, Bowman limited their introductory series to a mere 48 cards, formatting and sizing them almost identically to the football and movie star sets of the same year. While the cards were rife with centering issues characteristic of new start-ups, it was the first mainstream set produced in 7 years and thus, loaded with “rookie” cards of established players that had yet to appear on cardboard. Nine Hall of Famers are scattered within the set, and with a debut lineup that includes Musial, Berra, Kiner, Rizzuto, Spahn and Schoendienst, the 1948 Bowman series lives up to the words of William Shakespeare, “Though she be but little, she is fierce!”

The Only 1948 Bowman Baseball Packs Known to Exist Offered in June Mile High Card Company Auction

MHCC is proud to present one of the greatest finds of unopened wax boxes ever offered, headlined by a 1948 Bowman Baseball Near Full Wax Box with 19/24 packs. Until now there was not a single known pack to have survived, but this collection was consigned by the family of a rival trading card company that acquired all of the material for product research and has been stored away over half a century. Steve Hart of Baseball Card Exchange (BBCE) has examined all of the offered material and verified its authenticity, placing the BBCE wrapping and seal of approval on the full boxes and providing a Letter of Authenticity for the near full boxes. In each case, the packs are all NM to MINT and absolutely fabulous! Whether you’re a serious bidder or just an interested observer, this amazing event will be at the forefront of the hobby for a very long time.

Walter Johnson: A Legend Well Ahead of His Time

There’s no need to wonder how a power pitcher like Nolan Ryan or Bob Feller would have fared in the dead ball era of the early 1900s, because they were there. So was Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg and Aroldis Chapman. Each one of these ace hurlers dominated the early days of baseball, but they did so under the name Walter Johnson. Nicknamed “The Big Train” because a train was the fasting thing people knew of to move from one place to another at the time, Johnson’s unprecedented sidearm fastball baffled even the most iconic baseball immortals of his day.

“We couldn’t touch him …”

There weren’t many times in his 24 year career that Ty Cobb was overmatched at the plate, and far fewer that the surly “Georgia Peach’ would actually admit to. But mention the name Walter Johnson and you’d see a rare emotion from Cobb … humility. “The first time I faced him, I watched him take that easy windup. And then something went past me that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger,” said Cobb. “We couldn’t touch him … every one of us knew we’d met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park.” Johnson’s dominance can be traced back to high school. As a member of Fullerton Union High School, he struck out 27 batters during a 15-inning game. Discovered while playing in the Idaho State League, the scout that signed him said of the 19-year old pitcher, “He throws so fast you can’t see ’em, and he knows where he’s throwing because if he didn’t there would be dead bodies strewn all over Idaho.” Once he developed a curveball, “The Big Train” became a runaway train, leading the league in wins for four consecutive seasons while topping the strikeout board eight straight times and twelve in all.

Game-Used Walter Johnson Bat Offered in MHCC March Auction

With a body of work that includes the all-time record for shutouts with 110, second all-time in wins with 417 and a career record in strikeouts that lasted for nearly 56 years, Walter Johnson is not only considered by many to be the greatest pitcher of his day but the greatest pitcher in baseball history. As incredible as his accomplishments were on the mound, he was remarkably skilled at the plate. A lifetime .235 hitter with 24 home runs, Johnson was called upon to pinch hit over 100 times in his career and, at age 37, batted .433 with two homers and 20 RBI in just 97 at-bats. Mile High Card Company is proud to offer a game-used Walter Johnson Louisville Slugger bat in the upcoming March auction, one of only three known to exist, authenticated and graded GU8 by PSA/DNA. Also available is the most significant card issue of Johnson ever produced; his absolutely stunning T204 Ramly card that rates as one of the highest ever graded at SGC 80 EX/MT+ 6.5. Both items are among the finest of a variety of high-profile items featured in the MHCC auction, which runs from February 20th through March 9th.

Is Ted Williams the greatest hitter in baseball history?

Whoa, whoa, slow down there, deputy!

Before you go running off to grab your Goudey Babe Ruth card and cradle it in the fetal position, just hear me out. You don’t have to agree with it; I’m not even sure I agree with it myself. And while there’s no doubt that Babe Ruth is, and always will be, the most dominant athlete of his day and the greatest icon in American sports history, or even just American history, a case can be made that Ted Williams was actually the greatest hitter the game has ever known. Mile High Card Company offered a Spectacular Fresh to the Hobby 1950 Ted Williams Boston Red Sox Game Worn and Autographed Jersey in our August 2016 auction, and while preparing a description for the catalog, I got an opportunity to crunch the numbers on behalf of “The Splendid Splinter” with some interesting results. Keep in mind, what I’m about to suggest is completely unscientific and totally speculative, but might just give some insight into how truly incredible a hitter Ted Williams really was.

It’s Not Just About the Numbers!

Sure, a side by side comparison of the career numbers of Williams to Ruth leaves “Teddy Ballgame” lagging far behind in every category but walks (#4 all-time, Ruth is #3) and slugging percentage (#2 all-time, Ruth #1) with a slight lead in doubles (525 to 506). But Williams missed considerable time while in the prime of his career to military service; close to 5 years. What I’m proposing is to “give back” those lost years, using seasonal statistics prior to and after military service, to estimate what his career body of work might look like. Of course, many would say, “Hey, it is what it is, players get injured but we don’t sit around ‘giving’ them extra stats for missed games.” True, but losing time to injury is part of the game; losing time to defend your country is something different altogether. While it’s possible that Williams might have gotten injured and missed time anyway, I’m not claiming the player with the best numbers is the best hitter. We’re just trying to “even the playing field” of what might have been so that we can make an “apples to apples” comparison … so here it goes!

World War II

Ted Williams was in his fourth season at 23 years old having just completed an American League Triple Crown season, batting .356 with 36 homers and 137 RBI when Uncle Sam summoned him to military duty. He wouldn’t see the field again until he was 27 years old, losing three prime years of his career. If we take the average of the two seasons prior and the four years after his service, projecting that over three years would net Williams 1,548 more at-bats, 408 runs, 555 hits, 113 doubles, 106 home runs, 390 RBI and 449 walks to his resume, with a batting average of .359 over those three seasons.

Back to the Front

In the six seasons after his return from World War II, Ted Williams won two batting titles, two home run crowns and was twice the American League MVP. But in 1952, he was recalled to active duty to serve as a combat pilot in the Korean War, playing only six games in ’52 and returning to the field for 37 games in 1953. Using the average of the prior season and the three seasons after as an estimate with Williams missing about 83% of those two years, it earns him another 677 at-bats, 146 runs, 230 hits, 41 doubles, 63 homers, 157 RBI, 195 walks and a .340 batting average.

The Fair Comparison

OK so in our alternate universe, Ted Williams never served in the military and continued to perform at or about the same rate for those “missing” years. Under those conditions, here’s the career comparison of Ruth and Williams…

AB R H 2B HR RBI BB AVG
Ruth 8399 2174 2873 506 714 2214 2062 .342
Williams 9931 2352 3439 679 690 2386 2665 .362

Not only would Williams surpass Ruth in several key categories, he would be baseball’s all-time leader in runs, RBI and bases on balls (all highlighted in red). He would have retired second to Ruth in homers, and with 29 round-trippers in his final season in 1961, might have played another year or two for the chance of taking the all-time home run crown. And let’s not forget, Ted Williams didn’t have “The Iron Horse” batting behind him … EVERY … SINGLE … GAME … for well over a decade! The defense rests, your honor. What’s your verdict?

1950 Ted Williams Boston Red Sox Game Worn and Autographed Jersey sold in our August 2016 auction
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1950’s Ted Williams Type I Original Photo Used in 1954, 55, and 56 Topps Card by George Woodruff Sold in our August 2016 auction

What’s Your Favorite Post-War Set? The MHCC Staff Picks

 

Mile High Card Co Staff Picks

When people ask what we at Mile High Card Company do for a living, we usually tell them, “Same thing we did in 6th grade, play with baseball cards!” Obviously it’s a quite a bit more complicated than that, but with all the hard work and dedication we put into consistently producing one of the finest auctions in the hobby, we still marvel at the quality of material that passes through our doors, whether it’s something we’ve seen over and over or a rare piece surfacing for the first time. Sadly, there are those in this industry that look at sports cards as merely a means to make a living, seeing just little pieces of cardboard encased in plastic to be bought and sold for profit. And while what we do won’t cure a wasting disease or solve the plight of hunger or global conflict, we do have a passion for the hobby that drives us to deliver a first-rate catalog time after time, presenting auction material the way we’d want it to be presented if we were the consignor. So as our new catalog auction gears up to begin on October 24th, we thought we’d share our “Staff Picks.” Presenting our favorite Topps sets:

 

Brian Drent – President and CEO: 1952 Topps

A traditionalist through and through! If you ever had a sit-down with Brian and just discussed baseball cards, you’d see that he sounds more like a collector than an auctioneer. I expected Brian to pick this set for two reasons: respect for its importance to the hobby and the challenge of building it in high grade. There are so many layers to the ’52 Topps set that it’s almost a separate hobby within the hobby. Of course, there’s the Mickey Mantle card, the lead issue of the enigmatic high-number series, a 97-card collection that has its own folklore. Then there’s the “why him?” card #1 Andy Pafko, the handful of commons that are inexplicably difficult to find in high-grade, and the back variations of the low series that make the 1952 Topps set seem like a dysfunctional family that somehow manages to get along perfectly when sitting around the dinner table at Thanksgiving. It’s easy to pick the ’52 set just for the Mantle, but there are so many other reasons as well!

Ben Gassaway – Auction Coordinator: 1953 Topps

I was a little surprised that Ben chose the 1953 Topps set, but I can understand why. Sure, the 1952 set gets most of the accolades as the inaugural issue and the birthplace of the iconic Mickey Mantle card, but if we’re really being honest with ourselves, there’s no better assemblage for sheer aesthetics than the ’53 series. The intricate detail of the player depictions on each card far surpasses the quality of the 1952 set, right down to the advertising on the outfield fences in the backdrop of most issues. While it doesn’t carry the financial swagger of the ’52 set with virtually all of the potential for key rookie issues gobbled up by the premier series, the ’53 set is easier to build in high-grade than its predecessor, has a tough but not crazy-hard high-number series, a smaller 274-card size, and a smattering of short-prints that make life more interesting. Plus it’s got Mantle, Mays, J. Robinson, and the addition of a Satchel Paige card that are arguably the best looking issues ever produced for each player.

Mitch Rosenberg – Senior Writer: 1957 Topps

I might have gone with the 1955 set if not for one thing that’s unfortunately a deal-breaker: no Mickey Mantle card. But to me, the 1957 Topps set is the complete package. At 407 cards, it’s large enough to present a challenge but small enough so that you won’t have to lose your mind trying to find those last six cards to complete it. It’s the first Topps set with live, on-field shots that lend an authenticity to the series, as if you’re at the ballpark taking the photo yourself. It’s also loaded with great rookie cards of Hall of Famers: Drysdale, Mazeroski, Herzog, F. Robinson, B. Robinson and Bunning, in addition to the debut of Colavito, Richardson and Kubek. It’s got a tougher mid-series that provides a touch of card-collecting drama, a Mickey Mantle card that’s one of the best, and a “Yankee Power Hitters” card that closes out the collection in style. Yeah, if we were using today’s vernacular to sell this set, the slogan might be, “1957 Topps: it just got real!”

Kyle Boetel – Generalist: 1967 Topps

Though revered as the first set he ever collected as a kid, Kyle has plenty of great points as to why the 1967 Topps series is his favorite. Like the ’53 Bowman Color collection (his second choice), the ’67 Topps series offers amazingly bright and precise color photographs that far surpassed any that came before it. The 609-card series also features key rookie cards of Tom Seaver and Rod Carew with a high-numbers series filled with difficult but attainable cards in top grade. There are even a few quirky variation cards that are fun to collect if you can find them, and a classic portrait shot of Mickey Mantle against a baby-blue backdrop that many collectors think is his most attractive card of the decade. Unfortunately, his dog took a piece out of the Mantle card he owned as a kid, but these things happen.

Whatever drives your passion, we at Mile High Card Company will continue to do our best in helping you achieve you card-collecting goals with the same enthusiasm for presenting material as you have for collecting it. When that catalog hits our hands for the first time, as it will again very soon, we still feel that adrenaline rush, and we already know what’s in it! As long as we still approach our trade with the same excitement for each catalog as we did for our first, we’re gonna continue to offer the best material with the respect it deserves. Good luck and good bidding!

53paige 52mantle 1967seaver 1957yankees

One Week Left in Mile High Card Company May Auction: 1952 Topps Mantle PSA 6.5 Reaches $165,000

Mile High Card Company’s May auction has just one week to go and the event’s headliner; a 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle PSA 6.5, has already shattered the previous record price. “Oh, there’s still a long way to go for that ’52 Mantle” said MHCC President and CEO Brian Drent, “It’s the most spectacular example you’ll ever see at this grade and we anticipate a real battle in extended bidding. The card looks like a PSA 8!” The auction opened on April 18th and the ’52 Mantle quickly shot past the $100,000 mark within 2 hours, inclusive of the buyer’s premium.

Along with the Mantle, the 1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente rookie card remains the hottest commodity in the baseball card world with MHCC offering a pair of PSA 8’s that are currently $63,979 each. Other key items include a 1902-11 Sporting Life W600 Honus Wagner SGC 50 VG/EX 4 that is presently bid to $33,061, 1914 Cracker Jack #30 Ty Cobb PSA 8 NM/MT at $60,979, 1952 Topps #261 Willie Mays PSA 8 NM/MT at $32,922, 1965 Topps #350 Mickey Mantle PSA 9 MINT at $24,031 and 1984-85 Star #101 Michael Jordan BGS 9 MINT at $36,034.

Other lots expected to see strong bidding are near complete T-206 and 1933 Goudey sets, a 1934 New York Yankees Team-Signed Baseball with (24) Signatures featuring Ruth and Gehrig, and several unopened wax and rack pack football and hockey cases from the 1970s and 1980s. Several PSA Set Registry rated sets are receiving significant interest, with a link to each provided on our website to give bidders an opportunity to seethe grades and population of each individual card in the set.

Bidding continues through Thursday, May 5th. Initial bids must be placed by 9PM EST on Thursday to qualify for extended bidding on that lot. All registered bidders can place bids by telephone or online. If you are not registered to bid with MHCC and want to participate in the auction, you can visit our website at www.milehighcardco.com to register or call our office at (303) 840-2784.

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Seller’s Market – The State of Card Collecting Has Never Been Better!

Less than 18 months ago, Mile High Card Company offered a 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle PSA 5 in our 2014 Summer auction. The card brought in just short of $16,000, a respectable price at the time. A few weeks ago, MHCC offered another 1952 Topps Mantle that changed hands for the sum of $21,549.00. While any collector would consider that a tidy windfall, it becomes even more impressive when you consider that the latest offering was not a PSA 5; it was graded PSA 2.5 GOOD+. The last two PSA5s have sold for over $57,000. As incredible as that sounds, it’s become a common event in an industry that is not only experiencing bull market, it’s reaching a level never before imagined!

Is it time to sell?

It would be really easy for us to just say, “YES!” We’re in the auction business, it’s what we do, so we’re definitely biased. But that doesn’t mean we’re wrong, because the results speak for themselves. When a 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente RC graded PSA 8 sells for $12,000 in an April 2014 MHCC auction and over $58,000 just a few weeks ago, or a 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan RC graded PSA 9 jumps from $15,000 a year ago to over $40,000 in the last public auction, you might conclude that there’s a few collectors out there that got a little caught up in the bidding frenzy. But it’s much more than that. When you deal with so many praiseworthy cards on a regular basis as we do, the trend becomes impossible to ignore. Look at the price changes that have taken place in just the course of a year: 1954 Topps Hank Aaron PSA 8 from $11,000 (Mar 2015) to over $28,000 (Jan 2016), 1955 Koufax PSA 8 from $3,400 (Feb 2015) to $8,600 (Feb 2016), even lower priced cards like a 1964 Topps Pete Rose PSA 8, which was selling for under $900 as recently as March and now boasts four sales of $2,200 or more since December. This incredible spike in prices has been across the board from the mid grades on up, doubling, tripling, and in the case of the Clemente RC, more than quadrupling in value, all while the stock market has fallen over the same time span.

Are we still on the way up?

Ha! If I knew the answer to that, I’d be on my own island sipping margaritas. But I do know this … nothing lasts forever. In the last MHCC auction, an incredible 1954 Topps Aaron RC PSA 9 brought in over $190,000, beating the previous high of $62,000 from a public auction in August 2014. Who can really know for sure whether that same card sells for $300,000 two months from now, stays even for the next 5 years or drops in price? Sure, most of you aren’t in the market for MINT Hank Aaron rookie cards, but everyone has an investment in their collection. The best advice we can offer is to take a good, long look at what you have. Is it something you enjoy, regardless of its monetary value? Is it something you can part with, maybe to help complete a different project or invest elsewhere? While we can’t predict the future, we do know that in the present, there’s never been a better time to sell. Whether it’s months from now, years, or even a decade away, eventually the music stops, prices recede, and balance is restored. Whatever you decide, we at Mile High Card Company are dedicated to being at your service.

1968 Topps #177 Nolan Ryan

1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle

1955 Topps #123 Sandy Koufax

1954 Topps #128 Hank Aaron PSA 8

1968 Topps #177 Nolan Ryan PSA 9

Just Like Willie Mays – But Not in a Good Way

willie-mays-Copy1Growing up on Long Island, my first recollection of baseball was in 1973, when my 3rd grade principal allowed the radio broadcast of the National League championship series to be played over the intercom for the last 20 minutes of the school day. I became a Mets fan. And it was exciting, because the Mets were really good, and they had Willie Mays! Except … he really wasn’t Willie Mays; he was a 42-year old part-time player who batted .221 and used to be Willie Mays. While guys like Mays, the real immortals of their sport, have earned the right to leave the game on their own terms, it’s always a little sad when they seem to hold on just a little too long and become a mere shell of what once was. Even the great Babe Ruth, still one of the best in the game at age 38, was relegated to a being a sideshow for the last place Boston Braves just two years later. When it comes to sports, or all aspects of life for that matter, Father Time remains undefeated. While many know when to hang it up, here are some of the greatest athletes from each sport that are in danger of “Willie Mays-ing” themselves:

Kobe Bryant

kobe“The Black Mamba” had done it all! He’s won titles with Shaq, he’s won titles without Shaq, captured scoring titles and MVP awards, and appeared in 16 consecutive all-star games. But over the last 3 years, Kobe has learned the names of the people in the training room better than the ones on the court. Finally “healthy” at age 37, the once great Lakers are a joke and Kobe is the punch line. It’s understandable that Kobe didn’t want to go quietly into the night from the assortment of injuries that would afflict anyone who has spent more than half of his life on an NBA court. And Kobe certainly deserves the pomp and circumstance of the “farewell season” afforded the true greats of the game. But simply put, Kobe can’t find the basket anymore. Sure, he still averages 16 points per game, but his 32% shooting percentage (23% on three pointers) couldn’t get him a roster spot in the D-League these days. Yeah, you could say that Kobe was the Willie Mays of professional basketball … and still is.

Ichiro Suzuki

After 9 seasons as one of the greatest hitters in Japanese baseball history, Ichiro came to the U.S. as a 27 year old rookie and did the same thing here. In his first 10 seasons with Seattle, “The Wizard” averaged 105 runs scored, 224 hits and a .331 batting average, all while winning the Gold Glove award every season. But it’s been five years since Ichiro has seen the .300 mark, and at 41 years old, he’s a pinch hitter and 4th outfielder for the Miami Marlins, playing behind such baseball notables as Christian Yelich and Marcel Ozuna. OK, he’s only 65 hits away from the legendary 3000 hit club and no one can blame him for sticking around to get that. But if he matches last year’s .229 mark, he’s gonna need some major at-bats. Hopefully he makes it to 3000, gets one more (because Roberto Clemente should forever stand alone to guard the gate) and hangs it up the next day.

Jaromir Jagr

jagrHe’s 43 years old and in his 23th NHL season, took a three year hiatus to play in Europe and ranks 4th all-time in goals and points scored. This season, he anchors the Florida Panthers’ top line and has 9 goals and 21 points in 28 games while positioning the Panthers to make a playoff run for only the 2nd time in the last 15 years. Never mind Jaromir, you keep playing!

Peyton Manning (?)

As residents of the Mile High City, we reserve the right to delay passing judgment on “The Sheriff.” True, he’s 39 years old and has been pretty disappointing this season, but he’s got injuries to his foot, shoulder and ribs. And let’s not forget those four surgeries on his neck; who knows how much of a factor that plays into an aging quarterback’s performance. But Manning threw for 39 touchdowns last season and found the end zone 131 times over the last three. Can it really be over that quickly? It was for Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath too, but they stuck around (in name only) for several more seasons. A “healthy” Peyton deserves one more shot to find out if the tank had a hole that’s been patched or if it’s just empty, though it might not happen in Denver. John Elway, a Hall of Famer who walked away from the game on the heels of two consecutive Super Bowl championships, isn’t sentimental. Like Elway says, “Plan B? There is no Plan B. We’re going with Plan A!” One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, a sure Hall of Famer, may be just like Willie Mays … but not in a good way!

What do you think?  Anyone else you would add to this list?  Comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

The 1953 Topps baseball set: A New and Improved Collection

Not long after the New York Yankees secured another seven game World Series championship over the Brooklyn Dodgers in the summer of ’52, Topps architect Sy Berger was hard at work, utilizing feedback gathered from the release of the inaugural Topps set to create an even better product for 1953. The “super-sized” pasteboards were praised by collectors, though the subpar colorization of the black and white images and limited success of the troubled high-number series left plenty of room for improvement. An even bigger problem was brewing in Philadelphia as Topps had the attention of rival Bowman, who would not only increase their card size for the 1953 collection but also file a lawsuit against Topps, alleging player contract violations. It was clear that in 1953, Topps was either going to make their mark or become the next victim to fall by the wayside.

Topps 2.0 – Making a classic even better

In order to improve the appearance of the players, Topps commissioned artist Gerry Dvorak to sketch and paint the likeness of each player. The result was a collection of memorable portraits and action shots, finely detailed with dominating images and warm flesh tones that, to this day, stands among the most admired in the industry. Even the background of each card was carefully crafted, capturing the feel of the stadium crowd and appropriate advertising that lined the fences. Jackie Robinson was moved to the pole position as card #1, with Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Mickey Mantle and Eddie Mathews also moving from the previous year’s high-number series to the ’53 set’s first series. This gave collectors an opportunity to quickly acquire many of the popular stars that they were unable to find the previous year.

As the court battle with Bowman over player contracts raged on, Topps was forced to continually make changes to their print plans, replacing players that they couldn’t get under contract by either “moving up” a player from the next series to the present one or double-printing a player in the existing series. There were also five cards from both the 1st and 2nd series that were moved back, creating “chase cards” that couldn’t be obtained until the next series was released. By the time Topps reached the late-season high number series, there weren’t enough contracted players for a complete run, so many more cards were double-printed, with six (#253, 261, 267, 268, 271 and 275) left out of the series entirely. Seemingly a mix of superstars and “no-name” players, the cards slated for double-printing were likely chosen randomly or left in the hands of the printer to decide. If left up to Topps, they surely would have gone exclusively with big name stars. After all, who’s going to complain about getting too many Mickey Mantle cards? As for the six missing subjects, one can only speculate who they may have been. But it should be noted that Richie Ashburn, Leo Durocher, Gil Hodges, Bob Lemon, Robin Roberts and Duke Snider all appear in the ’52 series and are absent in the ’53 collection.

With the dreadful centering issues plaguing the 1952 Topps high-number series largely corrected, a new wrinkle was introduced that would soon be added to the card collector’s vernacular; chipping. Though the attractive red and black nameplates that ran along two of the edges were met with overwhelming favorability, collectors soon realized that the colors easily flaked, making it a much more difficult task to keep their cards in pristine condition. As a result, only 30 cards from the entire set have graded PSA 10, and less than 1% of all submissions have reached the level of PSA 9. Ironically, Bowman countered with a “color” series revered by many as their best ever, but they fell to Topps once again in terms of sales, and a new king of the baseball card market was crowned!

#4 Ranked PSA Set Registry Collection – 8.41 Set Rating – offered in MHCC October 2015 Auction

Over the last 25 years, several small “finds” of high-grade 1953 Topps cards from Canada produced a modest cache of perfectly centered, chip-free pasteboards that received the blessing of PSA in the form of PSA 8 and higher grades. There’s little doubt that some of those premier examples made it into this complete assemblage. Presented in the October 2015 Mile High Card Company auction is a crowning achievement in card collecting, one of the finest 1953 Topps collections in existence. Nearly impossible to assemble today if started from scratch, this set ranks #4 on the PSA Set Registry with an overall 8.41 set rating. Every card in this collection carries a minimum grade of PSA 8, with #41 Slaughter, 77 Mize, 114 Rizzuto and 63 others graded PSA 8.5, and 54 cards graded PSA 9, including amazing MINT specimens of #27 Campanella, 37 Mathews, 61 Wynn, 66 Minoso, 76 Reese and 86 B. Martin. Included is a stunning PSA 8 example of Mickey Mantle, a card that has been riding the coattails of the 1952 Topps card to record-breaking prices each time one is offered. The most astonishing member of this collection is a breathtaking PSA 9 card of #224 Satchel Paige, one of the single finest specimens known to exist. Offered as a complete set as well as each card individually, with the higher total between the set price versus the sum of the prices of the individual cards determining the method of sale, this set is but one of many collections rating at or near the top of the PSA Set Registry that will be available in the MHCC October 2105 auction.

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