Collecting Historical Memorabilia and Documents

History is a fickle teacher: ignore it, and you are doomed to repeat it. Saving history, on the other hand, is a worthwhile — and sometimes profitable — endeavor. One way to do this is to buy historical memorabilia and documents. While some historical memorabilia belongs in museums for the public to enjoy, you can still own a piece of history that aligns with your interests.

Goldin Auctions, for example, is hosting a special live auction of Jackie Robinson’s original, signed contracts on November 16.  These are historically important documents — for America in general, for baseball fans and for the Civil Rights Movement. The auction, to take place on November 16, 2017, provides you the opportunity to buy historical memorabilia, assuming you have the extensive funding required.

Or Start with Less Expensive Items

Few collectors have the $36 million or more needed to buy Robinson’s contracts. If you’re interested, though, you can still buy historical memorabilia; you just have to start with smaller or less valuable items. You don’t have to rifle through the bargain bin at your nearby antique store; historical auctions like those held by Goldin Auctions take place throughout the year.

You can buy historical memorabilia like old-time, game-worn uniforms. You can find historical documents that pique your interest, such as letters signed by past U.S. Presidents, statesmen or celebrities. You can spend hundreds or thousands instead of millions — and still have something that may increase in value over time.

Tips for Collecting Historical Memorabilia

While collecting history isn’t as popular as collecting baseball cards, the potential of the hobby as investment is remarkable. Most historical memorabilia or documents are singularly unique. Each one is valued on its own merits, according to both the person(s) involved and the age of the relic. If you want to start a historical collection, follow these tips:

  • Be objective when buying or selling. If you’re collecting, it’s a passion, an interest. But if your money is involved, be realistic about price and value. If you’re looking at a purchase as an investment, don’t become emotionally attached to it.
  • Learn the marketplace. While supply and demand always drive price, this is a market that’s still relatively new. Discover what’s in demand and then find it. While high-end items are often auctioned, you may still find reasonably priced gems in many other places, from garage sales to eBay.
  • Deal with verifiable sources. In every market, there are cheats. Protect yourself and your investment by dealing with authenticatable sources like Goldin Auctions. Know what you’re getting before you put your money down.
  • Remember that quality always matters. A mint gem baseball card brings more than a folded, abused version of the same card. The same is true when you buy historical memorabilia. For the best return on your investment, purchase museum-quality items.
  • Decide where your interest lies. History is expansive. Are you a war buff? A baseball fan? A signature collector? Decide and then learn all you can about that particular niche. Tried-and-true markets, like baseball or rock-and-roll memorabilia, are the most stable.
  • Be ready to ride the wave. Just like the stock market, prices on historical memorabilia and documents change over time. The price of Michael Jackson’s autograph, for example, rose 1,000 percent from 2000 to 2013.

Buy what interests you and/or what you think is a good investment. If it’s valuable enough or old enough, it may increase in price. Buy historical memorabilia and documents like you buy baseball cards.

Baseball Greats: Wagner vs. Williams

Whether you buy baseball cards fanatically or you’re just a casual baseball fan, you likely know the names Ted Williams and Honus Wagner. They are, without doubt, two of the greatest players to ever don a major-league uniform. But they played in different eras and achieved different accomplishments.

Ted Williams vs Honus WagnerComparing these two giants — and they were both big men for their time — is therefore fraught with difficulties. But a few statistics are known:

  • Williams is tied for 20th on the all-time list of career home run leaders with 521. When he retired, he was third on the list behind Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx.
  • Wagner ranks 10th, even today, in career stolen bases with 723. When he retired, he was third on the list.
  • Williams finished with the most bases on balls in eight different seasons, twice reaching 162 walks in a single season. He is 4th on the all-time list.
  • Wagner was not a home run hitter, as few were in his era, but he is 9th all-time with 643 doubles.

Great Players, Great Teams

If you’re a baseball fan, you probably buy baseball cards and follow the standings every year. You may know, for instance, that the Boston Red Sox — Williams’ team — won the World Series in 2004 after 86 years of frustration. That included 1946, the only year Williams played in the Series. His team lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals. Williams hit only .200 in that Series.

Wagner, on the other hand, led his team to two World Series. The first, in 1903, was an eight-game loss to the Boston Red Sox, who were the dominant team of that decade. The second was a seven-game win over the Detroit Tigers, a matchup that pitted Wagner’s Pirates against Ty Cobb’s Tigers. Wagner hit .333 with two doubles, a triple, and six stolen bases.

Uneven Comparisons

While some statistics are evident when you buy baseball cards — just look on the back! — others aren’t so easy to decipher. For example, Wagner played mostly shortstop, one of the most demanding defensive positions in baseball. Williams, meanwhile, played left field and played it rather absentmindedly, according to some.

Even though Williams is considered one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game, who would you rather build a team around? Williams was a fearsome slugger, but Wagner anchored his team both in the field and with the bat. Defense matters in baseball.

Meaningful Statistics

It may be difficult to compare players across eras, even when you buy baseball cards of theirs, but comparing them in context to their competition may work. For example, Wagner led his league in hitting eight times, while Williams led his only six times. Williams, of course, was the last hitter to bat .400 for a full season (.406 in 1941). In Wagner’s best season, though, he hit .381, which isn’t too bad.

Over a five-year span, Wagner stole 50-plus bases every year, reaching 61 once. He averaged 42 steals (and 100 RBIs) per 162 games over his career. Then again, Williams recorded over 100 RBIs in nine of his first 10 seasons. He averaged 37 home runs and 130 RBIs per 162 games over his career. Both players walked more than they struck out, but Williams (2.85 walks per strikeout) did it better than Wagner (2.26).

In Comparison

This blog has compared baseball players before:

It’s a difficult balancing act, even though baseball allows for these types of debates. While Williams was a tremendous hitter, he missed all or most of five seasons to combat duty. Wagner, meanwhile, was a model of consistency, only once failing to hit .300 in the seasons before he turned 40 years old — he hit .299 in his second season.

When you buy baseball cards, the most valuable aren’t always of the greatest players. Wagner’s face graces the most sought-after card in card collecting history, the T206 that sold for more than $3 million. Williams’ rookie card has sold for more than $200,000.

Odd Cuts and Gum Stains

Baseball cards and other sports cards are always in danger of being damaged. They are naturally fragile products, since most — especially the older, more valuable cards — are made of pressed paper and ink. Everyone knows paper is fragile: it bends, absorbs liquid and is subject to any number of indignities.

For example, the square edges of cards can get nicked. You may find an odd fold or crease in the card. If the cards are old enough or haven’t been protected well enough, you may see cards with humidity stains, thumb prints, food stains or even cup ring stains!

Packaged Problems

Then there are the cards that were imperfect from the start. Card companies still sell baseball cards that are imperfect. They print cards in vast sheets. Those sheets are cut into individual cards that go into packs. While they’re better at it now, years ago, those cuts weren’t always accurate, leaving cards that are the right size, but with cuts that are past the normal borders.

Back in the days when companies sold baseball cards with tobacco or bubble gum, many cards — well, one per pack, at least — came out of the package with stains. Gum stains are the most common type of packaging stain, but you may also find cards with glue stains, smeared ink or a double image.

Intentional Manipulation

Unscrupulous dealers or individuals may try to alter a card’s appearance when they sell baseball cards to deceive buyers. Some of the ways that people purposefully manipulate sports cards include:

  • Fixing corners, to make them sharper
  • Bleaching, to hide stains or other marks
  • Restoring color, to make the card look less worn
  • Removing stains, to improve its appearance using chemicals
  • Cutting edges, to clean up the corners and edges to make the card look cleaner

Most manipulations leave trace evidence that the fix was made. Corners or edges look as if they haven’t aged with the rest of the card. Bleach leaves a funny smell. New color doesn’t match the original and bleeds. Grading experts can usually tell when a card has been doctored. Whether you buy or sell baseball cards, have the card authenticated by a professional service. Then you’ll know its true value.

What to Do About Defects

All sports cards are rated 1 to 10, which reflects the condition of the card. A PR-FR-1 grade means the card is poor to fair in quality, with worn edges, scratches or stains. On the other end of the scale is a GEM-MT-10 rating or gem mint, which is a card in perfect condition.

If you’re looking to sell baseball cards, defects decrease the value of your cards. Every defect, whether print-related or age-related, reduces the value of the card — and doesn’t matter if the card depicts Hank Aaron or Paul Zuvella. You’d best accept the card condition as it is, because trying to fix the problems can destroy any value your cards have.

Leave Them Alone!

Every defect drops a card’s grade two points or more, depending on the defect. An otherwise perfect card that was printed off-center (a packaged problem) will never be graded as a GEM-MT-10. You can say the same for a clean-looking card that shows evidence of cut edges.

While new technologies have emerged that purport to make undetectable card repairs, they haven’t been embraced by all card collecting hobbyists. You risk any value your card holds if you subject it to any kind of repair. Before you sell baseball cards, just keep them clean and properly stored to protect them — that’s the most you should do.

The Value of Rock and Roll Memorabilia

There’s only one Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix. Each personified rock and roll in his day. Each changed rock and roll in a different way. Each left a legacy of music, memories, and memorabilia.

That memorabilia now sells for big bucks. Fans, collectors and even other musicians want to buy rock and roll memorabilia. The music memorabilia market has expanded significantly since its early days in the 1970s. Today, auction houses like Goldin Auctions include rock memorabilia right next to game-worn baseball jerseys and autographed football helmets.

How Much Is It Worth?

Musical preference and genre do not play a role in the value of items when you buy rock and roll memorabilia. Some rock musicians are beloved across a wide spectrum of music fans. In terms of worth, it turns out that the same factors that make sports cards valuable apply to rock memorabilia, such as:

  • Desirability of the musician: Just like Mickey Mantle memorabilia are valued higher than Jacoby Ellsbury’s, items from Stevie Ray Vaughan are worth more than items from Norman Greenbaum (of “Spirit in the Sky” fame). Even diehard Norman Greenbaum fans would agree.
  • Rarity: Rare items have inherent value. Buddy Holly, for example, died tragically young. If you have his autograph, it’s a rare find that’s even more valuable than Bob Dylan’s autograph. As great an artist as Dylan is, he’s still signing things; Buddy Holly isn’t.
  • Age: When you look to buy rock and roll memorabilia, look for items from the older groups. They hold the most value. For example, a letter signed by Jim Morrison is worth a lot more than a letter signed by Michael Stipe. Nothing against Michael Stipe.
  • Condition: Just as a mint condition Roberto Clemente rookie card is worth more than a beat-up copy of the same card, a vintage poster advertising an early concert by The Rolling Stones generates more interest and value than a worn version of the same poster.
  • Original Value: A guitar costs more than a tambourine. So, it’s obvious that John Lennon’s psychedelic-painted 1965 Rolls Royce is going to be significantly more valuable than a signed poster of him and Yoko.

Buy Rock and Roll Memorabilia!

You may not be able to afford Jimi Hendrix’s guitar or John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics to a Beatles’ tune, but you can collect smaller items or newer items to build your music memorabilia collection. Start with items such as:

  • Signed items — such as letters, posters, drum skins, lyric sheets, concert tickets or even napkins. Their value can increase dramatically. Michael Jackson’s autograph increased 1000 percent from 2000 to 2013.
  • Items from iconic newer bands — such as Madonna, Nirvana and Prince — are expected to increase in value over the next 20 years. Nothing is guaranteed, however, so invest wisely.
  • Bob Dylan has seen his memorabilia sell for millions of dollars. But not all of it is that expensive. Now may be a good time to collect what you can while prices are still reasonable.
  • Punk music made a splash in the 1990s. Memorabilia from that time may bring big dividends in the future.
  • Buy rock and roll memorabilia of the rock classics like the Beatles, Stones, Elvis and others. Just like vintage baseball cards, these items won’t ever fall out of fashion.

Game-Worn Jerseys: 5 Things to Look For

When you buy sports memorabilia, you should know what you’re purchasing. The sports memorabilia market is different from the sports card market. In many ways, it’s easier to buy baseball cards or basketball cards because you know what you’re getting and can examine the card. When it comes to sports memorabilia and autographed items, though, you have to do a little digging to authenticate the item.

Don’t buy sports memorabilia before you know that what you’re buying is the real deal. If you buy from an established auction house like Goldin Auctions,  you can be sure the item — whether it’s a jersey, a ball or whatever — has been authenticated. Even if it’s not signed, a game-worn jersey still adds value to any collection. Here are some tips to help you separate the bargains from the scams:

Tips for How to Buy Sports Memorabilia

  1. Game-worn vs. game-issued, team-issued or game-prepped. Only a game-worn jersey has been worn by a player in an actual big-league game. Other jerseys may be back-ups, used in preseason games or prepared for a player who never wore it. Teams have many reasons for having extra jerseys. Some players are traded. Some are sent back to the minor leagues. Teams may dump unused jerseys on the market at the end of a season. When you buy sports memorabilia, make sure you can authenticate that it’s game-worn.
  2. Read the fine print. Dealers who sell game-worn jerseys want you to know the items are genuine. Authentication markedly enhances a jersey’s value. Look in the jersey’s description for the proof, called provenance, of the game-worn claim. If it merely suggests that the player wore it, beware, regardless how it looks. Unscrupulous dealers have stained or rubbed dirt on a jersey to fool you. Since making a false claim is a federal offense, dishonest dealers would rather trick you. If you don’t see the proof, it’s not there.
  3. Authenticating game-worn jerseys. On the other hand, just because a dealer can’t produce a letter of authenticity, especially for older jerseys, that doesn’t mean the jersey is a fake. A written guarantee of authentication is just as good. Examine the tagging — for customized alterations and the size — of the jersey for further proof. If you want to have a jersey authenticated when you buy sports memorabilia, take it to MEARS or MeiGray (hockey jerseys only).
  4. Examine the jersey for use and wear. Use shows itself in the way a jersey was tucked in. A game-worn jersey hasn’t been tampered with, so the numbers shouldn’t look like they’ve been changed. The use throughout the jersey should be the same, so you can compare the number on the back to the team name on the front. It should look the same. Wear of a jersey describes how it’s been handled and laundered. Don’t look for wear; look for use. For old jerseys, see if you can detect the scent of mothballs, instead of detergent.
  5. Buy from a reputable dealer. All honest dealers of game-worn jerseys offer a money-back guarantee if you can prove the jersey is a fake. Think about it: if a large sports auction house didn’t stand behind its memorabilia, who would buy from them?

Don’t buy from a pushy dealer on Craigslist. Instead, take your time and do your homework. That’s the way to buy sports memorabilia that’s both authentic and valuable.

Baseball Greats: Gehrig vs. Pujols

Lou Gehrig vs Albert PujolsBaseball has seen its share of dominant first basemen, and you can buy baseball cards for almost every one. First base has evolved into the position many sluggers play because it’s the least demanding defensive position. Think of David Ortiz, Cecil (or Prince) Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. These players aren’t sleek athletes; they’re powerfully built men who can hit a baseball a long way.

It’s no wonder that there are 19 Hall of Fame first basemen. From Cap Anson (first game, 1876) to Eddie Murray (last game, 1997), first basemen have dominated the game for more than a century. There are more than these 19 greats, of course, including:

  • Dick Allen
  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Todd Helton (not yet eligible)
  • Keith Hernandez
  • Mark McGwire
  • John Olerud
  • Rafael Palmeiro
  • Jim Thome (not yet eligible)

Who’s the Greatest?

Of the 19 Hall of Famers, the Iron Horse Lou Gehrig leads in on-base percentage (.447), slugging percentage (.632) and RBIs (1,995). He’s only two points behind batting average leader Dan Brouthers (.342 to .340). He’s fifth in home runs, too. His team, the New York Yankees, won more pennants and World Series than any other, thanks in part to his efforts.

These are impressive numbers for anyone to have put up over 17 seasons. They are Hall of Fame numbers, no matter what position Gehrig played, and he played against stiff competition, such as Jimmie Foxx, Joe Judge, Johnny Mize and Bill Terry, many in the Hall of Fame too. Regardless, one sports publication named Lou Gehrig the greatest first baseman in Major League history.

Imagine what more he could have accomplished if his career hadn’t been cut tragically short. He was just 36 when his career ended as a result of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a nervous system disorder now more commonly referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Many players today are still in their primes at age 36. You already know this if you buy baseball cards of current players.

Modern Competition

Compared to the accomplishments of the 19 Hall of Fame first basemen, Albert Pujols has shown he belongs. If he stopped playing today, at the end of July 2017, Pujols would join this elite group with the most home runs — 605. He’s already surpassed the former high: Harmon Killebrew’s 573. Only eight other players in the history of the sport have hit more. Period.

Pujols is still playing at age 37 and is signed through the 2021 season, when he’ll be 41 years old. So, he’s sure to add to his home run total. Buy baseball cards of his present and future seasons to check his up-to-date numbers. He’s not just a one-trick pony, either. He compares favorably to other Hall of Fame first basemen:

  • His .306 batting average is like Jake Beckley’s .308.
  • His .565 slugging percentage resembles Johnny Mize’s .562.
  • His .388 on-base percentage is nearly as good as Frank Chance’s .394.
  • His 108 stolen bases compare to Eddie Murray’s 110.
  • His 1,876 RBIs, already 12th on the all-time list, looks like Cap Anson’s 1,879.

In fact, Albert Pujols seems to be a shoe-in for Hall of Fame voting after he retires. With luck, he’ll pass Ken Griffey, Jr. and even Willie Mays in career home runs.

In Comparison

Like other baseball player comparisons appearing in this blog, it’s difficult to name one player over another:

When you buy baseball cards, the most valuable aren’t always of the greatest players. The oldest and rarest cards win that competition. Looking at pure statistics and history, however, it may always seem that no one will ever match Lou Gehrig and his impact on the game. Albert Pujols has had a Hall of Fame career so far, no doubt, but Gehrig redefined excellence and reliability.

Highest Priced Championship Rings of 2016

With the sports card industry flooding the market every year with its products, you can turn to vintage cards for solid investments. It also makes sense to diversify your collection. One viable option is to buy sports memorabilia, which adds depth to your collection.

It’s a burgeoning market. When you buy sports memorabilia, you’ll find the same joy as in sports card collecting. Memorabilia is also better for displaying — whether you collect game jerseys, autographed balls or championship rings. To get you started, here is a comparison of the four championship rings from the 2016 champs of each the four major American sports:

Basketball: Cleveland Cavaliers

These 6.5-carat championship rings are bigger than any other NBA championship ring. Using white and yellow gold, the ring features more than 400 diamonds, including a one-carat gem on the ring’s face. Each side contains 23 small diamonds, symbolizing the 46 years of the Cavalier franchise.

The top of the ring uses 216 diamonds, which is the Cleveland area code. Yellow gold surrounds the diamond-studded words “World Champions.” Each player’s name and uniform number are embossed on the side of the ring. These rings cost about $13,500 to create, so if you buy sports memorabilia, you can expect to pay much more to acquire an authentic one.

Hockey: Pittsburgh Penguins

The centerpiece of this ring is the black onyx Penguin logo with a 0.5 carat diamond in his navel. Yellow gold frames 18 yellow diamonds that make up the rest of the logo. 15 normal diamonds fill in the ring’s face. More diamonds cascade toward the sides, where yellow gold letters proclaim: “Stanley Cup Champions.”

One side of the ring shows four diamond-encrusted Stanley Cups, while the other side shows the player’s name with his diamond-filled uniform number. All told, the ring uses 309 diamonds and weighs 8.85 carats (104 grams), or more than 10 times the size of a normal class ring. The rings, as presented to players, are estimated to cost about $25,000.

Football: Denver Broncos

This ring carries 212 diamonds, including three large, marquise-cut gems on the face, one for each Super Bowl victory for the franchise. The design uses yellow and white gold to effect, with diamond-cut orange sapphires to complete the team logo. The ring weighs in at more than five carats. Yellow gold letters at the top and bottom announce that they’re World Champions.

Each side of the ring has 28 stones, which symbolize the team’s 56-year existence. One side shows the player’s embossed name with a diamond-filled uniform number, while the other side shows a yellow gold banner that says, “This one’s for Pat,” for team owner Pat Bowlen. The team didn’t release the rings’ cost, but the 2015 NFL championship rings cost about $36,500 apiece.

Baseball: Chicago Cubs

If you buy sports memorabilia, you can be sure this championship ring will remain in high demand. Composed of 14-karat white gold, this ring uses 214 diamonds, 33 red rubies, and 46 blue sapphires for a total weight of 11 carats. 108 of the diamonds are arranged around the team logo and the gold “World Champions,” symbolizing the years since the team’s last championship.

The ring shows a lot of embossed white gold detail. On the sides, for example, Wrigley Field and its ivy are highlighted, along with the World Series trophy between two princess-cut diamonds for the team’s two previous championships. Of course, these rings feature a player’s name and uniform number. These rings cost approximately $70,000 apiece, making them the most valuable championship rings yet.

How to Cash In Your Collection

The fun part of the sports card collecting hobby is normally when you buy baseball cards or the cards of other sports. The hobby wouldn’t work, however, if everybody bought cards and nobody sold them. In addition, selling parts, or all, of your collection can really pay off and, here, we’re offering some tips on the best way to cash in on your precious collectibles.

When you’re ready to sell baseball cards, football cards, basketball cards or hockey cards, you need to do some preparation so you know you’re getting the best deal. It’s worth putting in a little time — not only to understand the value of the cards you’re selling, but to learn more about your hobby. With the internet, you can take advantage of the many available options when you go to sell baseball cards.

Sort Your Cards

When you sell baseball cards, you have to know what you have. You want to hold on to some cards, and you’ve likely accumulated a bunch of common cards that aren’t worth much, if anything. So, before you contact a buyer, sort your cards to determine which cards you want to sell and which have some value.

Of course, if you want to cash in your collection, you can skip this step because you’ve decided to sell all your cards. Then again, reviewing and sorting what you have helps you get an idea how much your collection is worth. Additionally, having your collection organized helps the seller review your cards, which may lead to a better offer.

Assess the Value

Invest the time to determine if you have any valuable cards. Value appraisals, or value assessments, not only set your expectations for how much money you may reap from selling your baseball cards, but it also lets you further sort your cards into those that have value and … the others. Note the condition of the cards you think will bring the highest return.

While you can have the high-value cards professionally graded before selling your card collection, it’s usually unnecessary for lower-to-medium value cards. As long as you’ve stored your cards properly and treated them with care, they’re in as good a shape as you can manage. Don’t try to correct card defects, as this can render the cards worthless.

Sell Baseball Cards

This may be the most difficult step, since you need to find a scrupulous buyer as well as one who’ll give you the best price. Dealers are easier to find than individual buyers, so the possibility of a sale with a broker or auction house is higher, especially if you have cards of value. Of course we’d recommend reaching out to us and consign with Goldin Auctions, but see below for additional options.

Brokers and auction houses have the resources to authenticate your most expensive cards, so they’re best able to know what to ask in a sale or auction. You have many options when it comes to finding a buyer to sell baseball cards to:

  • Pawn shop. Yes, you can sell your cards at a pawn shop, but pawn brokers may not have any idea of the value of your collection, so go with a price and be prepared to negotiate down.
  • Card shop or broker. One of the easiest ways to sell your collection is to take it (or a list of your cards and their condition) to a local card shop or send the list to a broker. They’ll be able to give you an estimate, dependent on actually examining the cards. This is also a good option when you don’t want to do a lot of work, but still want a good price. You can also choose to sell your whole collection or just some of your cards.
  • eBay. This option may be the most hit-and-miss, as well as the most time-intensive. You have to know the price to ask (the starting point) and the price to accept. You can set both online, but you have to gauge the interest and the timing. Everything about the sale, in other words, is up to you. eBay takes its cut, too. Good luck when you sell baseball cards to online strangers.
  • Auction house. This option is best suited for those who have valuable collections. You get the most people — and the most qualified buyers — lining up to bid on your collection. With an auction house, even with the commission, you’re more likely to get top dollar for your valuable cards. And you can still sell the whole collection or just the most valuable cards in your set. Click here to consign with us today.

Baseball Greats: Griffey vs Robinson

Ken Griffey vs Frank RobinsonThe great thing about baseball, unlike other sports, is that you can compare players across eras. Just buy baseball cards and review the statistics. While the sport has evolved, the game itself has changed very little. A ball hit over the fence is still a homerun, and a great catch still makes fans stand up and applaud.

Once you start to buy baseball cards, it’s easy to make the comparisons. Baseball’s detailed history provides fans with fodder for debating which players were better:

For these comparisons, you can’t measure value by cost when you buy baseball cards. The older cards are almost always going to win that argument. Instead, to rate Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr., let’s turn to their baseball accomplishments.

Ken Griffey Jr – Frank Robinson Overview

Griffey Jr. played in 22 seasons, from 1989 to 2010, smack dab in the Long Ball Era. Balls flew out of ballparks at a record pace, and Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’ single-season homerun record. Even in this era, Griffey stood out, hitting for average and power while playing the best center field anyone could remember.

Robinson played for 21 seasons, from 1956 to 1976. It was the Expansion Era, although Robinson first appeared just nine years after Jackie Robinson (no relation) integrated baseball. Yet, in his sixth season with the Cincinnati Reds, he won his first MVP. Five years later, in Baltimore, he won his second, the only player in baseball history ever to win the award in both leagues.

Starting Their Careers

If you buy baseball cards, you’ll find Robinson’s are more in demand. He made the bigger initial splash, too. He set the rookie record for homeruns with 38 — later broken by Mark McGwire. For much of his career, he was a consistent 30-homer threat, averaging more than 34 homeruns over his first seven seasons. Except for his third year, he consistently hit .290 or better, reaching .342 in his seventh year.

Griffey started slower. Although he hit 45 homeruns in his fifth season, he averaged only 27 over his first seven seasons. Except for his rookie year and his seventh season, though, he was a consistent .300 hitter. Then, in his eighth season, while just 26 years old, he became the Ken Griffey, Jr. you think of today.

Their Best Years

From 1996 to 2000, Griffey was arguably the best in baseball. He hit .290 with 249 homers and 593 RBIs in those five years. He also stole 81 bases. Griffey won his MVP in 1997, when he hit .304 with 56 homers and 147 RBIs. As good as Robinson was, his best five-year span occurred between 1958 and 1962. He hit .309 with 174 homers and 533 RBIs. He also stole 81 bases. Robinson won his first MVP in 1961, when he hit .323 with 37 homers and 124 RBIs.

Robinson’s last great year came in 1973, when he was 37. He hit 30 homers and drove in 97 runs while hitting a decent .266. He walked 82 times, leading to a .372 on-base percentage. As it happens, Griffey’s last great year came in 2007, when he was 37. He hit 30 homers and drove in 93 runs, while hitting a decent .277. His 85 walks contributed to that on-base percentage of .372, the same as Robinson’s.

The Final Analysis

Based on batting statistics alone, the tip of the cap has to go to Robinson. While Griffey hit more career homers (630 to 586), Robinson accomplished his feat when 39 homers in a season could still win a homerun title. During Griffey’s career, 50 sometimes wasn’t enough. Still, even in the homer-happy 1990s, Griffey won four homerun titles. Robinson only won one. Robinson won one Gold Glove Award, while Griffey earned 10.

When you buy baseball cards, Frank Robinson’s rookie card, 1957 Topps #35, sells for as much as $42,500. Because Ken Griffey Jr.’s rookie card, 1989 Upper Deck #1, appeared during the baseball card production glut, it’s less valuable, but it still sold for $425. Whenever you buy baseball cards today, remember that the era of the cards matter more than the era of baseball. Go for cards made before 1980, even if Griffey Jr. is your favorite player.

3 Highest Priced Cards of Each Sport: Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Hockey

Sports card collecting is dominated by the four major American sports. Buy baseball cards, and you’ll collect the most popular sports cards. Buy football cards, and you’ll find they’ve gained in popularity along with the sport itself. Buy basketball cards because its players are so widely known today, or buy hockey cards because it’s not as popular as the other sports.

Highest Priced Baseball Cards Basketball Cards Football Cards Hockey CardsIf you’ve just hit the lottery or inherited a fortune, here are the top three cards, based on value, for each sport:

The Top 3 Baseball Cards

You can buy baseball cards every year and not find gems like these:

  1. 1909–1911 American Tobacco Company T206 Honus Wagner. This card sold for $3.12 million in 2017, by far the highest price ever for a sports card. Only three in good condition exist.
  2. 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle. Mantle’s rookie card increases in value every time a mint version of the card comes up for auction. The last one sold for $1.13 million in 2016.
  3. 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth. Not technically a rookie card, since it depicts Ruth as pitcher for the International League Baltimore Orioles, it sold for $517,000 in 2008.

 

The Top 3 Football Cards

Often, when you buy football cards, you hope that one day they’ll be as valuable as these:

  1. 1958 Topps #62 Jim Brown. What makes Brown’s rookie cards so valuable is that so many of them had defects. A card in perfect condition sold for $358,500 in 2016.
  2. 1935 National Chicle #34 Bronko Nagurski. Surprisingly, this isn’t Nagurski’s rookie card, but since so few exist, it’s become the most valuable football card, selling for $350,000 in 2011.
  3. 1957 Topps #110 Bart Starr. Vince Lomdardi redefined football, and Bart Starr was his aptly named quarterback. His rookie card was sold for $288,000 in 2017.

 

The Top 3 Basketball Cards

When you buy basketball cards, the older cards are more valuable:

  1. 1948 Bowman #69 George Mikan. This Hall of Famer was a dominant player in the early years of the NBA. Cards were scarce then. His rookie card, in mint condition, sold for $403,664 in 2015.
  2. 1970 Topps #123 Pete Maravich. “Pistol Pete” was a prolific scorer. His rookie card, valued as low as $18,000 in 2007, sold for more than $130,000 in 2015.
  3. 1961 Fleer #8 Wilt Chamberlain. His rookie card shows him with the Philadelphia Warriors, but he was perhaps the sport’s greatest player with the Lakers. This card sold for $45,000 in 2017.

 

The Top 3 Hockey Cards

If you buy hockey cards, you may have been lucky to acquire one of these:

  1. 1958 Topps #66 Bobby Hull. Nicknamed The Golden Jet, Hull had one of the most fearsome slapshots in the game. His rookie card sold for $102,000 in 2017, a record for hockey cards.
  2. 1979 O-Pee-Chee #18 Wayne Gretsky. The most expensive modern hockey card ever sold — for $94,163 in 2011 — is no surprise. The Great One ruled the sport, and now his card does too.
  3. 1966 Topps #35 Bobby Orr. Before The Great One, there was Bobby Orr, part of the 1970s’ Big Bad Bruins teams. His near mint rookie card sold for $35,850 in 2015.