In this occasional sports card feature series, I highlight a few of my favorite single-card purchases of recent vintage. Since I haven’t written much about sports cards since the start of the new baseball season, I thought it’d be appropriate to take a look at four of my favorite baseball card acquisitions as of late.
2020 Donruss Optic Luis Robert RC (SGC graded 9.5)
Purchase date: Feb. 26, 2021
Purchase price (including shipping): $27
Current estimated value: $30 to $35
Buying heavy into young baseball players for some reason feels more risky than any other sport. I can recall many more instances of “can’t miss” prospects and even rookies who just didn’t pan out at all, or had one hot season then fell off, or got badly injured and never came back, etc. etc., in baseball than basketball, football, or even hockey.
So when I started to fall in sports love with young White Sox star outfielder Luis Robert last fall, I was cautious. Was this guy going to bomb? He supposedly had “holes in his swing,” and various other negative scout-speak on top of all the superlatives about his “six-tool” talents, so who knows, right?
I can’t help it, though: He’s just fantastic. And compared to some of his young superstar peers like Ronald Acuña Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr., he’s relatively slept-on. Luis’s rookie cards are still pretty affordable compared to theirs.
This one, so far, is the jewel of my own Luis Robert collection. Optic is like the Topps Chrome of the Donruss line, it’s the upgraded version of the base cards. This is a shiny, pretty card of one of my favorite young players in as close to perfect condition as it gets without being actually perfect.
1954 Bowman Minnie Miñoso fielding percentage error card (PSA graded 7)
Purchase date: Feb. 18, 2021
Purchase price (including shipping): $101
Current estimated value: $120 to $140
Collecting vintage cards is a totally different game from collecting modern cards. There are different levels of supply, there are different motivations for people collecting cards of players who have long since stopped playing the game (or have died) than there are for people collecting cards of players currently winning and losing championships, scoring points, stealing bases, etc. I can’t say I’m going to go heavy into vintage at any point, but I’m definitely interested in dabbling, mainly for my personal collection, as opposed to investing. I want to buy players I personally like.
So my first vintage purchase is of White Sox outfielder Minnie Miñoso, who played professionally in five different decades, and is one of the most beloved baseball players to NOT be in the Hall of Fame. Will he eventually be inducted (posthumously at this point)? I don’t know, lately the HOF can’t agree on any inductees, so it feels somewhat unlikely that they’ll spontaneously decide to revisit Minnie’s case, but he is a bona fide legend.
The 1954 isn’t quite his rookie card. I think it was his third season, one of his best seasons in the Major Leagues. It’s an attractive, simple card, a vivid color photo of Minnie posing in his uniform at the park, with his facsimile signature at the bottom (with his actual first name, Orestes). And to add to the collectibility, this is a misprint card, with the same fielding percentage printed in both the last season and his career columns on the back of the card. It’s a short print in that sense, and in a 7 grade, I think I got an excellent example of this card that’s been on the planet longer than my dad.
2008 Upper Deck Timeline Joey Votto RC
Purchase date: April 13, 2021
Purchase price (including shipping): $4.36
Current estimated value: $1 to $5
Joey Votto, by all accounts, is one of the most intelligent and interesting human beings in baseball. He’s also a hell of a player who has honed his craft and improved his game over years and years to rise to where he is now, a team leader and a perennial All-Star. I don’t really follow the Reds, but I follow Votto, and I consider him one of my favorite players.
So it felt like kismet that I found this Votto rookie, printed in 2008, that was a throwback design to one of my favorite sets growing up, 1992 Upper Deck Baseball. The simple white border, the relatively unobtrusive logos (though the Reds logo and the Rookie Card logo are both bigger than they would have been in the 1992 set … I actually don’t think the original set even had a Rookie Card logo), the vibrant color action photo … it’s a pretty solid limitation of that 1992 aesthetic that I like so much.
It’s also stupid cheap. I think Votto is likely to be underappreciated for the rest of his career, and unless he makes a World Series or gets into the Hall of Fame, he will probably just be a mostly forgotten baseball genius. That’s OK, he’s still one of my faves.
2017 Bowman Chrome ’48 Refractor Mike Trout
Purchase date: March 14, 2021
Purchase price (including shipping): $6.47
Current estimated value: $1 to $10, absolutely all over the place
Another stupid cheap card I stumbled across while I was looking for early Mike Trout cards. See, Trout is unquestionably the best player currently in the league, a guy who has set or is in the process of setting numerous records, and has already more or less cemented his claim to the Hall of Fame, and his rookie cards are pretty much all ridiculously out of reach price-wise. So how does a commoner like me collect Trout without breaking the bank? Looking back to his second and third year cards, there are a lot of really affordable options to build a little Trout personal collection, and once you’ve picked through those, there are plenty more unique options throughout his career since.
Speaking of unique, this is a 2017 card, but I love the mixture of throwback sepia-toned design and shiny holographic chrome modernity. It almost looks like a futuristic take on a daguerreotype. After I nabbed this Trout card, I sought out a few other players from this 1948 throwback set, including a Hank Aaron and a Yoan Moncada rookie (there are several young White Sox players I’m a fan of, obviously), and barely spent more than $10 for the trio. Topps is currently celebrating its 70th anniversary, so I think these Bowman 70th anniversary cards have a neat little layer of history to them as well.