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Graded GEM MT 10 by PSA. Hall of Famer, in his cherished Rookie Card appearance. Among more than 11,500 examples seen by PSA, this incomparable jewel is the only specimen to merit the company's laudable GEM MT 10 assessment. The significance of this one, glorious treasure – against which all of its contemporaries will, by definition, be found lacking – is impossible to overstate.

Many hobbyists of the "Baby Boomer" generation harbor closely held, personal recollections of 1968 Topps. Not the experiences of more-recent days, such as locating a final high number to complete a set, or achieving an incremental upgrade, but the earlier ones from their youth. Opening a pack, smelling the gum and starting to chew it (either that, or, in the case of the occasional stale slab, causing it to shatter on the sidewalk), and then sitting on the curb while examining the package's contents. All of these were segments of a very special, practiced ritual. For those same kids, now denizens of the modern world, the stimulus might have shifted to become the wireless device or the cup of coffee, but the pleasure realized through a comfortable procedure is lifelong in its expression. In 1968, specifically, certain player likenesses prompted different degrees of satisfaction. The batting pose of Mantle was always a welcome sight, but the card was visually underwhelming, somehow appearing unwieldy in its aesthetic (perhaps a sympathetic response to its subject's painful aging). Aaron, though certainly desirable, looked faintly distracted in his photo. Banks, Clemente, Rose? All okay, still, nothing to get too excited about. And as far as those endless Woodie Helds, Norm Sieberns and Greg Goossens? Forget about it. But, Nolan Ryan. Now, there was a card.

The portrait of Ryan almost seemed to vibrate with the intense look of determination projecting from the young Met's small image on 1968 Topps Card #177. (Then, as now, the likeness of Ryan's card- and team-mate Jerry Koosman – by all accounts a capable hurler and worthy competitor – instantly assumed a subordinate role.) This man was ready for action, already primed to attack the business of pursuing greatness. The image showed enough of the man to hint of the accomplishments the observer somehow already knew were forthcoming, and his pleasant but powerful look somehow re-cemented the viewer's enthusiasm for the game and its heroes. Ryan's presence truly was the best of '68, a fact that makes this uniquely superlative card the best of the best.

The offered card's condition defies the natural order of credibility as we know it now, and is definitely beyond the comprehension of a youthful gum-chewer, 50-odd years ago. Today, the item rests securely in its PSA holder, fresh from the pack – or, maybe, the time machine. Every physical element is deliciously preserved, every fiber is in its place. Such mundane, but necessary, considerations as corners, borders, edge cuts and colors, they're all the finest imaginable. This is a masterpiece that tacitly shames every 1968 Topps set that does not include it, thereby diminishing, by its mere presence in our hobby, all but one such assembly in existence. The card epitomizes the full glory of which the pattern-bordered classic was forever capable, but, oh, so seldom achieved. Here is a one-of-a-kind collectible, by any qualitative measure, in brilliant Gem Mint condition.

1968 Topps #177 Nolan Ryan Rookie Card – PSA GEM MT 10 "1 of 1!"
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