1982 Topps Cal Ripken, Jr. Rookie card (and a couple of other guys)
With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past. The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.
The other day, a collection of writers, editors, and a select group of outsiders (sadly, I was not invited) over at The Athletic got together and put together a list of the 25 Most Iconic Sports Cards in history. Their panel got together with a list of cards, rated every card on a scale of 1-100, tallied the results and kicked out a list.
To save you some time (although I recommend you read the whole thing if you are able) and for those that aren't subscribers (though you should be, with the decimation of newspaper sports departments it is now the best place to find constant quality sports writing) I will spoil their list and give you the top five:
5. 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle
4. 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan
3. 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth
2. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle
1. 1909-11 T206 White Border Honus Wagner
I'm pretty sure anybody putting together a similar list would have some combination of those five cards sitting at the top. In all, the list was pretty good. There were some cards I didn't agree with, but isn't that half of the fun of putting a list like that out there - hearing people bitch about what was left off?
The word "iconic" that is by its very nature a subjective word. This isn't a list of the most valuable cards or the rarest cards. The writers were looking for cards that, "through the decades, from generation to generation, there have been certain cards that help define the industry."
The 25 that they put together pretty much do that, but there is a heavy influence on pre-war and 1950's-60's era cards. Everybody loves vintage! In fact, the 1986 Jordan, the 1986 Upper Deck Griffey (7th), the 1979 OPC Gretzkey (10th), and the 1980 Topps Bird/Johnson/Erving (20th) cards are the only ones that have been released during my lifetime, and I'm rapidly moving towards old on the age spectrum.
As another new generation moves into collecting I'm wondering how lists like this are going to evolve. Generation X is overtaking the Boomers when it comes to "nostalgic" collecting. While we appreciate a good Willie Mays rookie (14th) or a 1954 Hank Aaron (9th) these aren't the cards we grew up collecting. They weren't the ones our mom's threw out when we left home.
Don't get me wrong, no one is ever going to hold a 1986 Jose Canseco Donruss in higher regards than the 1952 Mantle, but at some point hearing our fathers or grandfathers talk about putting those Mantle cards in their bike spokes doesn't mean as much to us as it did to them.
If I had veto power over the list, there are probably two modern cards I would add as icons of the next generation of collecting. Sadly, I have never, nor do I plan on ever owning either of these cards, but to me they represent the post-Junk Wax era of collecting (which I guess would be the "Big Hit Era").
1. The 2001 Bowman Chrome Albert Pujols Autograph /500
|lifted this image from beckett.com|
In my post-college, finally have disposable income return to the hobby, this was the Big Kahuna of cards. Time and injury may have dimmed the impact that Pujols had on the hobby during his prime, but when he exploded onto the scene this was the card to have. It also transformed the Bowman brand, especially Chrome, from being a nice place to do some prospecting into the big hit, must-have rookie cards of the latest superstar.
In the February copy of Beckett 16 of the 20 cards on their Hot List are some version of Bowman Chrome Autograph products (either Draft or Prospect). I don't have a copy of a 2001 Beckett laying around, but I'm going to guess that wasn't the case in 2001. Yes, part of that is due to Topps/Bowman having a monopoly on the baseball market, but even if Upper Deck or Fleer were churning out cards, I doubt they would be able to compete with the demand for Bowman Chrome product.
In the era of chasing the big hit (the Pujols card was a redemption, so sorry if you pull one now) this was the card everyone was chasing in the early 2000's. With my veto power I replace the 1911 T3 Turkey Red Cabinets Ty Cobb card with this Pujols card. Sorry, love the Turkey Red design, but this card should be on the list.
2. 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout RC
|Yeah, I got this photo from beckett.com as well. Please don't sue me.|
The beauty of this card, besides being the rookie card of the best player in baseball, is that it didn't take thousands of dollars or the best luck in the world to own it. In 2011 you could have wandered into a Target, your local card shop, some Wal-Greens, or Wal-Marts, picked up a couple of packs of a basic product and pulled a pretty pristine copy of this card for a few bucks. Unlike the Pujols card which is limited to only 500 copies, there are most likely tens of thousands of Trout rookie cards floating around and god knows how many still in their packs.
Will you be able to get your hands on any of those unopened packs? Well, there's always a chance that a rummage through a Goodwill or a yard sale may produce a box or two (the equivalent of finding a Honus Wagner in the attic) chances are you'd have to pay a pretty penny for the chance. A quick check of eBay shows that an unopened hanger pack of 2011 Update sold for $1,205. That's right, just the chance to pull one is going for four figures. Granted, there is a chance to get your money back if you happen to pull one of the Cognac or Diamond Anniversary parallels, but I think that $1,200 would be better spent on buying a couple of ungraded but clean looking copies of the regular card.
With my veto power I'm removing the 1915 Sporting New Babe Ruth (16th) and inserting the Trout card at number 12, bumping all those behind him down a few notches.
Like I said, I think overall the list is pretty good and it will be interesting to see what it would look like in ten years or so. I have a feeling that the 1986 Jordan will move up into the top two or three and interest in Babe Ruth cards may fade a little. Maybe Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin find their rookie cards sneak onto the list.
Sadly, as iconic as it is to me and other Oriole fans, I don't think the Ripken rookie makes the list at any point.
I always like seeing different lists of iconic cards. I even bought a books that listed out the top 100 sports cards of all-time. I don't have a subscription to the Athletic... but I appreciate you sharing part of it with your readers. And I definitely feel like the Trout Update would make my list of Top 25 if I ever created it. I don't own a copy... but it's definitely played a huge role in shaping our hobby over the past decade.
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