Jackie Robinson: A Man For All Time

Jackie Robinson Signed Ball

William Shakespeare once said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” It can be said that Brooklyn Dodgers infielder Jackie Robinson experienced all three. While Robinson’s career numbers don’t place him in the company of a Ruth, Gehrig or Cobb, his contribution to the history of baseball, as well as that of American society, makes him one of the most important figures of the 20th century. Baseball has always been considered an American institution, one that holds sacred its storied traditions and doesn’t take kindly to change. And with racial segregation dominating the climate of the time, it was a bold and daring move for Dodgers owner Branch Rickey to choose that moment to sign two black players, Robinson and pitcher Johnny Wright, and assign them to the class AAA Montreal Royals. Robinson quickly displayed the kind of superior talent that was major league material, but was that enough?

Why Jackie Robinson?

1947 I'm Rooting For Jackie Robinson Pin White Background PSA 7 NM

The answer, quite definitively, was no. There were black players in the Negro League with more talent and far more extensive accomplishments, but Rickey knew that performance alone wouldn’t break a color barrier that had been in place for over 60 years. If there was going to be any chance of success, the man chosen to integrate baseball would have to have impeccable credentials off the field as well as on the diamond with the temperament to absorb the wrangling of racist hatred and abuse while armed with nothing more than a smile and his ability to play the game. Jackie was that man. A multi-sport star athlete at UCLA who served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army, Robinson was educated, well-spoken, and an honorably discharged Army officer. He was a man of integrity and, most importantly, was willing stand up for a cause he believed in. His message was clear – “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

 

The Post-Robinson Era of Baseball 

Jackie Robinson Signed Dodgers Photograph PSA/DNA AuthenticStarting his major league career at the advanced age of 28, Robinson played only ten seasons from 1947 – 1956, all of them for the Brooklyn Dodgers. During that time, the Dodgers played in six World Series and Robinson was selected to play in six All-Star games. His career marked the beginning of the “post long-ball” era that saw the strategy of raw power give way to a more balanced attack that included speed and superior base running. Robinson was one of only two players during his career to accumulate at least 125

Leaf Jackie Robinson SGC 84

steals while registering a slugging percentage over  .425. More importantly, Robinson’s career made possible the rise of fellow teammates Don Newcombe, Jim Gilliam, Joe Black and Roy Campanella as well as baseball legends Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and those who would follow.

The Finest Known Jackie Robinson Single-Signed Baseball Comes to MHCC December Auction

It has to be seen to be believed! When this ball arrived in the MHCC office, we were amazed at how incredibly clean and bold the signature projects, virtually perfect and easily the best known to exist. Sporting the customary “Best Wishes” greeting and side panel placement, a trademark of the Hall of Famer, the ball has been giving a triple authentication from JSA, SGC and PSA/DNA, the latter two grading the ball at MINT 9. Simply put, it is virtual perfection! The ball will be featured in the Mile High Card Company catalog auction, beginning on Monday, Nov 20th and concluding on Thursday, Dec 7th.

1946 Jackie Robinson Type I Original News PhotoJackie Robinson Signed Check

1967 Leaf Star Trek – To boldly go … well, you know

When the Soviet Union beat the United States by launching the first man into orbit in 1961, President John F. Kennedy declared, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” The “Space Race” was on, and suddenly the TV airwaves were flooded with science fiction programs that featured various futuristic and paranormal plotlines. The Outer Limits, My Favorite Martian, The Twilight Zone, Lost In Space and even animated shows like The Jetsons all catered to the growing frenzy of space travel and its impact on the future. But no other science fiction show has captivated American society more than Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek.”

The Future is Now

While NASA was working to put a man on the moon, Star Trek dared dream of moving beyond the stars into the far reaches of the galaxy. Though set in the 23rd Century and offering an optimistic outlook for humanity where war, famine and disease were virtually extinct, Star Trek was actually a commentary about the present, each adventure containing allegories of contemporary societal realities; authoritarianism, prejudice, human rights, religion, morality, class warfare and the uses and abuses of technology. With its ethnically diverse cast, it served as a reminder that although our sensibilities can evolve and advance with time, there are always those failings that can rise to prominence if we let them. After all, we’re only human.

The Cult Following Begins

The U. S. S. Enterprise only completed three seasons of its “five-year mission,” ending its run in 1967. But when Apollo 11 landed on the moon two years later and Neil Armstrong declared Space Race victory with the planting of the Stars and Stripes on the lunar surface, the idea of exploring the galaxy no longer seemed like only a fantasy. A national letter-writing campaign brought Star Trek back in syndication and provided inspiration for many other space-travel themes, including Battlestar Galactica, Space 1999 and Andromeda. With four spin-offs, 13 movies, billions of dollars in merchandising and a new television series set to debut in the fall of 2017, the Star Trek franchise has become one of the most lucrative “enterprises” in entertainment history.

1967 Leaf Star Trek – Here … and Gone

After Star Trek’s first season, the Leaf Company hoped to capitalize on the growing sci-fi phenomenon by producing a 72-card compilation that featured action shots of Kirk, Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew. But the cards mysteriously disappeared from store shelves as fast as they arrived, the most likely explanation being that either Leaf did not acquire the proper licensing or that the cast objected to their likenesses being used without compensation, forcing Leaf to stop production and recall the boxes that had already been distributed. Another theory is that the collection was a test issue that was marketed in a few select cities but didn’t perform well and was discontinued. Though the TV show was futuristic, Leaf’s black and white images on poor card stock were clearly rooted in the past while the heavily-glossed coating made every surface scuff and scratch visible. Each card has a paragraph on the reverse that is intended to describe the shot, though most of them don’t seem to match and many are just hilariously absurd, not actual Star Trek plotlines.

MHCC Offering the One and Only Unopened Pack Ever Graded by PSA in September Auction

1967 Star Trek #1 No Time For Escape PSA 8 NM/MT

Cards from the 1967 Leaf Star Trek series surface from time to time, but Mile High Card Company is proud to present the one and only unopened five-cent wax pack ever graded by PSA. Recently evaluated and graded PSA 7, it bears the unique distinction of receiving the blessing of Steve Hart and Baseball Card Exchange (BBCE). Mr. Hart explained that he’s seen several Star Trek packs in the past, but all were previously opened packs that had been re-sealed at some point in time. The featured item is the only example he’s ever examined that he can state is undeniably authentic. MHCC is also offering the incredibly rare card #1 “No Time For Escape” in the elite grade of PSA 8, one of just 9 to earn such an assessment with just one graded higher.

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
williamsphoto082
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!

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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