Tag Archives: Derek Jeter RC

Collecting The Captain

10 Important Things To Know About Collecting Derek Jeter

14462a_lgby Dave Thorn

Dave Thorn is the founder of Small Traditions LLC, an online sports and Americana auction company that conducts monthly auctions in which selling is completely free and buyers pay the fees instead of sellers. This month’s Exclusive Derek Jeter September Farewell Auction features the key highlights from one of the most admired Derek Jeter collections in the hobby. With so many significant Jeter items coming to market this month, here are 10 important things to know about collecting Derek Jeter, especially for those who want to better understand his many different types of cards produced over the last 23 yeras — rookies, proofs, parallels, oddballs, inserts, autographs, Refractors, etc. — and which are the most valuable.

14480b_lg1. Derek Jeter has accomplished all of the following (see #s 2-10) without any remote suspicion of using Performance Enhancing Drugs. Quite the opposite, the mission of Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation is to “motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and ‘TURN 2’ healthy lifestyles.” Just as his perennial postseason heroics in the late 90s helped baseball’s popularity to recover from the embarrassment of the strike-shortened 1994 season, Jeter’s consistently clean and classy style of play has helped to preserve the integrity of the National Pastime throughout its steroid era.

15395a_lg2. Some of his pinstripe predecessors might have won more World Series rings than Jeter’s 5 — Yogi has 10, DiMaggio 9, Mantle and Ruth both 7 — but Mr. November has more postseason batting records than any other player, not just in the Yankees’ books but in all of baseball history. Keeping in mind that baseball only played one round of playoffs until 1969 and that it now plays three, Jeter is the all-time postseason hitting leader in ten categories, including hits (200), runs (111), total bases (302), singles (143), doubles (32), triples (5), games played (158), at bats (650), and plate appearances (734). He ranks third in postseason home runs (20), fourth in postseason RBI (61), fifth in postseason walks (66), and sixth in postseason stolen bases (18). His postseason numbers represent an entire season’s worth of games, and a very good season at that. And for those who say hooey to postseason records, then consider that Derek is also one of just two players to ever accumulate 3,000 hits, 250 home runs, 300 stolen bases, and 1,200 RBI in the history of the game. The other player? Willie Mays.

15622a_lg3. Derek is one of just 28 players in baseball’s elite 3,000 hit club. He achieved his 3,000th hit on the biggest stage in baseball and with more pomp than any other player before him, hitting a home run off one of the best pitchers in baseball, going 5-5 on the day, and driving in the game’s winning run, a performance that will be remembered and replayed forever.

14501a_lg4. And the hits didn’t stop there. This summer, Derek passed the immortal Honus Wagner for most hits ever by a shortstop, and then he passed Adrian “Cap” Anson to earn the #6 spot on baseball’s all-time hits leaders list. Those who will remain ahead of him in the top five are Tris Speaker, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, and Pete Rose. That’s not just good company he’s in; it’s the greatest ever. What is perhaps most remarkable about Jeter’s standing among these players, however, is that Speaker and Musial both played 22 seasons, Aaron played 23, and Cobb and Rose both played 24. Jeter, just 20. His way, and on his terms.

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5. In short, Derek Jeter is one of baseball’s all-time greats, and we’ve been more than lucky to watch his career. His famous “flip” play in the bottom of the seventh inning in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS, his gutsy “dive” into the stands against the Red Sox, and his clutch hitting and never-ever-hesitating hustle will be highlights for the eternity of baseball. He stands in direct lineage to those who wore single-digit NY Yankee jerseys before him: 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 1. Like all these legends in pinstripes, Derek’s legacy will only continue to grow after he retires, bridging the generation gap as only baseball can do, as millions of fans face the existential question: will there really ever be another like him?

15758a_lg6. Drafted straight out of Kalamazoo Central High School and quickly becoming one of the most touted prospects in Yankee history, Derek can be found on 325 different baseball cards produced between his draft year of 1992 and his rookie season of 1996, and there is considerable debate about whether or not all of these cards should be considered rookie cards. His traditional rookie card year has always been 1993, but collecting has changed in recent years, and most collectors are now more inclined to pursue his many more challenging cards produced during his ROY-winning season of 1996, when we watched with wonder as the rookie helped lead the Yankees to their first World Series Championship in nearly two decades, than to collect only his cards from 1993, when he batted .295 in his first full season of Single A, still three seasons away from his official MLB rookie season.

15335a_lg7. Jeter’s rookie years of 1992 to 1996 correspond to the hobby development of insert or “chase” cards — special, limited edition cards randomly inserted into packs, many of which were super-short-printed variations, or parallel versions, of a player’s regular or base card — and his rookie season of 1996 would be the first year that saw products with significantly more than the two basic tiers of print runs that had thus far characterized the insert card development of the early to mid 1990s. Instead of products with just a regularly issued card and a single parallel insert of that regular issue — like Finest Refractors, Topps Gold, and Upper Deck Electric Diamond, for example — there were now products by Bowman, Leaf, and Select Certified that had as many as a half dozen different parallels, each one produced in smaller quantities than the last, some with print runs as small as just 30. Scarcer than even the T206 Wagner, cards like the famous 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold are also some of the most beautiful cards ever made. Their development happened during Derek’s rookie season, which makes collecting his rookie season cards that much more challenging and fun.15619a_lg

8. If 1992-1996 is the birth of modern insert cards, then 1997-1999 is their renaissance or golden age. During the late ’90s, modern card manufacturers developed several more innovations that now, two decades later, still dominate the industry. These innovations included game-used cards, serial-numbered cards, and the development of the ever coveted 1/1 or one-of-one masterpiece cards, when manufacturers produced an ultimate parallel of a particular card limited to just one single copy made. Finally, let’s also not forget the incredible die-cut cards developed during the period, which may be common encounters in packs today, but in the late 90s they were among the most special pulls imaginable, some of which have remained non-existent in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition and were so intricate and cutting-edge — ha! — that they probably always will.

15443a_lg9. Just as the development of insert cards corresponded with Derek’s rookie years of 1992 to 1996, this distinct period of later 1990s inserts directly corresponds to the New York Yankees dynasty years of 1996 to 2000. Game-used and serial-numbered autograph cards, and even 1/1 cards, are now extremely common in today’s products, but in the late 90s they were new and exciting, as was the printing technology that had made them possible, and they remain among the most collected cards in the hobby. For Yankees fans and for those who collect The Captain, the appeal of collecting cards from these years is therefore twofold, since so many of the innovative cards from these years were groundbreaking, and since they also document one of the last real dynasties in the history of the game.

14455c_lg10. Finally, let’s not forget that Derek has played his entire 20-year career with the most successful franchise in all of sports history and with all of us watching as closely as New York City watches anything, and he’s done it all with class, integrity, and grace. For this reason, wherever the Yankees have traveled during his farewell season, millions of fans have stood in ovation, and thousands more have held signs saying “Thank You.” But thank you for what? For the memories? Sure. And for the championships? Yes, of course. But the thanks we owe Derek Jeter have as much if not more to do with those three little words — class, integrity, and grace — than with anything. I’m not even sure what those things are these days, but I know that I’ve seen them whenever I’ve watched Derek play, and for that I will always be grateful.

15530b_lgDerek’s retirement announcement earlier this year took many of us by surprise, but it was in reality the ultimate classy act. Knowing that this would be his last season has helped him to pace and to preserve himself, and I’d certainly rather watch him with the knowledge of his retirement than to see him slowly decline over the next several seasons, even if those additional years could have brought him greater personal achievements, namely, the all-time hits record. But Derek doesn’t play for personal records, and he never has. He plays for wins, and that’s how he’ll be remembered. Although there were others before him and there will be many more to follow, years and years from now, he’ll be remembered best by his most common nickname: The Captain.

To consign your Derek Jeter and other New York Yankees items to Small Traditions November Holiday Auction, and to learn about the company’s popular Cost-Free Grading and Collection Management Services, please call 303.832.1975 or write info@smalltraditions.com, and be sure to follow the company on Facebook and on Twitter for more updates.

The 1993 Topps #98 Derek Jeter RC Rookie Card

jeter topps 10The 1993 Topps Derek Jeter Draft Picks Rookie Card is one of the most iconic Topps baseball cards ever produced and will one day be recognized as readily as the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. The front of the card features the lanky 19 year-old prospect in a navy blue Yankees jersey with pinstriped pants against a vibrant grass-green backdrop in a baseball diamond design that often shows small to moderate traces of print defects, while the back of the card shows Derek’s high school stats and reports that the 1992 Gatorade and 1992 USA Today High School Player of the Year graduated with a 3.82 grade point average. With a generous white border, the card is prone to centering issues, since even a slight centering shift will drastically affect the size of the complementary borders. For these and other reasons, PSA has awarded 1,082 Gem Mint 10s (that sell for about $100 each) from a sizable pool of 11,527 submissions, while BGS has recognized 695 Gem Mint 9.5s and just 3 prominent Pristine 10s from 8,661 submissions. At this rate, a BGS 10 Pristine example of the 1993 Topps Derek Jeter RC is nearly three times as difficult to realize as Jeter’s infamous 1993 SP Foil rookie card in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition, which reports 10 Gem Mint 10 examples from 10,426 submissions and sells for about $25,000. For a review of the BGS 10 Pristine grade versus the BGS 9.5 Gem Mint and PSA 10 Gem Mint grades, please click here to read our “Explain It to Me” blog post on the subject.

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Variations, or parallels, of the iconic 1993 Topps Derek Jeter RC include a Gold version, an Inaugural Rockies and an Inaugural Marlins version, a miniature “Micro” version, and a seldom encountered blank-back version. The Gold version is a standard parallel that features gold foil over the nameplate and the Topps logo, and according to www.baseballcardpedia.com they were inserted one per wax pack, three per rack pack, five per jumbo pack, ten per factory set, 36 per 400 count collection box, and 1,000 per 12,000 count vending case. As of the date of this composition, there exist 163 PSA 10s from 2,866 submissions that have steadily increased in price over the last couple of years, now fetching between $400 and $500 in auction, while at BGS there are just 57 Gem Mint 9.5s and 2 masterpiece Pristine 10s from 2,097 submissions. The 1993 Topps Gold Derek Jeter Rookie Card is neither rare nor extremely condition sensitive, yet demand for the Midas-touched parallel continues to increase at a steady rate.

jeter lotFor collectors seeking true scarcity, at least relative to the 1993 Topps standard and Gold issues, there are the inaugural Rockies and Marlins versions, both of which appear identical to the standard issue except for the addition of a simple gold embossed stamp for each respective team. They were only available in factory set form at each team’s home stadium, where each team had the option of receiving as many as 10,000 sets, but actual production was reported at just 5,000 of the Rockies and 4,000 of the Marlins. To date, only 44 and 46 PSA 10s have been realized from 380 and 241 submissions, respectively, with just 22 and 29 BGS 9.5s from 168 and 126 submissions to Beckett and just a single BGS 10 Pristine for the Marlins version and none for the Rockies.  The Micro version was also available only in factory sets, and they are also somewhat scarce, at least in comparison to the regular issue, and they are extremely difficult to find with accurate enough centering and image registration to realize top grades, with PSA awarding just 12 PSA 10s from 247 submissions and BGS awarding 6 BGS 9.5s and zero BGS 10 Pristines from 77 submissions. The Blank Back version, finally, is most likely the product of printers scrap that somehow made it into circulation, and although it is not an officially recognized issue, it is the sort of scarce variation that advanced collectors covet.

In terms of price, both of the Inaugural versions sell for an average of about $400 in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition. They are cheaper than the Gold version in top grades but anywhere from two to three times the price of the Gold version in raw condition and should therefore be considered a bargain in top grades at this point, especially since they have sold for as high as $600 to $700. The first few Micro versions that surfaced in PSA 10 condition a few years ago sold for $1,200 to $1,300 but now average between $500 and $600 in PSA 10 and BGS 9.5 Gem Mint condition, while the first BGS 10 Pristine will likely sell for anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 when (and if) one ever surfaces, which is unlikely given its condition sensitivity. There are no records for the sale of the two BGS 10 Pristine Gold versions nor for the lone BGS 10 Pristine Marlins version, but the first ever BGS 10 Pristine standard issue sold for a $1,999 Buy-It-Now price on eBay in April of 2013, and the second BGS 10 Pristine then sold for $3,750 on eBay just one month later. The third BGS 10 Pristine is currently available with no reserve in Small Traditions Monthly Masterpieces Plus #10 Auction, which ends Saturday, July 6th, and who knows what price will be realized when the final hammer drops.

As a final note, the 1993 Topps Derek Jeter Rookie Card is one of about 23 different Derek Jeter cards produced in 1993, and although Jeter was drafted in 1992 and has another 17 or so cards from that year, and even though his rookie season was not until 1996, when he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award, the 1993 issues have traditionally been recognized as his official rookie cards. The reason for this is because 1993 marked the first year of issue by the industry leading manufacturers, including Topps and its Bowman brand, Score and its Pinnacle brand, and of course Upper Deck and its ultra high-end SP brand. At Small Traditions, however, we recognize all Derek Jeter cards produced between his draft year of 1992 and his ROY season of 1996 as official rookie cards, and according to our latest count, there are almost 340 of them composing the Derek Jeter Master Rookie Card checklist. How many do you have?

Happy Collecting,

Dave Thorn

Setting The Record Straight: The 1994 Collector’s Choice White Letter Variation(s)

I remember several years ago when I was in graduate school, learning eBay for the first time and selling off my card collection to raise some extra money for groceries, books, and beer. I listed a group of Alex Rodriguez cards that I had thought would fetch $20, maybe $30. In the end, the group sold for more than $400 because it contained a rare variation of Alex’s 1994 Collector’s Choice Future Foundation Silver Signature rookie card. The variation had something to do with the color of the letter “A” on the back of the card, commencing Alex’s brief biographical write-up. It was supposed to be gray, but the lone letter was white instead, and as far as I remember, the rest of the card featured the standard Silver Signature design, meaning that the text on the front of the card $T2eC16dHJHYFFkRCeHm1BRq8fc(mr!~~60_57was all in gray, not white. Perhaps I am remembering incorrectly, but more than 10 years later I have yet to encounter another 1994 Collector’s Choice White Letter Variation exactly like that.

The White Letter Variation for which collectors pay such serious premiums these days is different. Like the Derek Jeter card pictured to the left, the White Letter Variation shows the same silver foil facsimile signature, but the rest of the text on front is all in white. As you can plainly see from the other examples pictured below, every player in the Future Foundations subset can be found with this variation to his Silver Signature card, which is a parallel to the standard issue that does not feature any facsimile signature whatsoever. The Silver Signature parallels were seeded one per every wax pack and three per every jumbo pack. There also exists a Gold Signature parallel that was seeded one per every wax or jumbo box or five per every factory set. The Gold Signature parallels are some of the most coveted cards from 1994, and although some websites like baseballcardpedia.com reference them, it is unknown whether the Gold Signatures can be found with a White Letter Variation. The Silver Signature White Letter Variations, however, do exist, and they are extremely rare, with ARod and Jeter examples selling for multiple thousands of dollars in top grades, and even common players who never played more than a few Major League games can fetch as much as $30 to $50 in raw condition.

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There is perhaps no other variation from the 1990s more misunderstood than the 1994 Collector’s Choice Silver Signature White Letter Variation. For several years, The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards has included the following statement in its pricing for the 1994 Collector’s Choice set: “#647 Alex Rodriguez White Letters. Some ARod Silver Signature parallels were mistakenly printed on base cards with his name and other details on front and back printed in white rather than gray.” Currently, it is the only price guide that acknowledges the variation, but because it only acknowledges the ARod variation, Professional Sports Authenticator, or PSA, the industry leader in graded sports cards, refuses to acknowledge that the variation exists for other players besides ARod, most importantly Derek Jeter.

4958a_lgAccording to PSA, in order to register a variation of an issue, PSA’s research department requires the submission of said variation to be accompanied by printed materials that directly reference the variation, and since The Standard Catalog only acknowledges the ARod, PSA has refused to hear the overwhelming collector demand that other 1994 Collector’s Choice Future Foundation Silver Signature White Letter Variation cards be distinguished from their standard Silver Signature cards. Casual readers and even many long-time hobbyists may not understand the significance of this. No big deal, right? Wrong! To designate a separate line item for the White Letter Variations in PSA’s population report would essentially create a new Derek Jeter rookie card for Set Registry collectors to pursue. Moreover, creating a separate category for the variation would also highlight its scarcity. Since so few are known to exist in any condition, in another ten or twenty years it will most likely stand as one of the single rarest Derek Jeter rookie cards to encounter in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition, commanding prices as high as $10,000, or more.

4060a_lgAlthough it is not a print resource, Baseballcardpedia offers a somewhat better statement on the White Letter Variation. “A legitimate variation on the Alex Rodriguez card (#647) was verified several years after release. The standard card features the “A” from Alex on the card back text in grey/silver whereas the variation features his name in white. It’s believed that the A-Rod “White A” variation is a significantly tougher card, but exact estimates of its scarcity are not known. In subsequent years, other cards (such as Johnny Damon) were also verified to have this white letter variation – thus it’s generally believed that the entire Future Foundations subset was produced with white (and standard grey) letter variations.” This acknowledgement, however, sounds more like the variation I described in my introductory anecdote than the variations clearly pictured in this post. Although they supply no visual proof, further down in their listing for the 1994 Collector’s Choice set, Baseballcardpedia also states: “Like in the base set, “White Letter” variations also exist for the Gold and Silver Signature parallels of the Future Foundations subset.” Gold Signature White Letter variations! What?

Here is the BGS population report for the 1994 Collector’s Choice Derek Jeter variations, including an erroneous category for a standard, non-facsimile signature White Letter Variation:

Set Player # 7.0 7.5 8.0 8.5 9.0 9.5 10 Total
1994 Collector’s Choice Derek Jeter 644 2 6 11 28 14 6 0 67
1994 Collector’s Choice Gold Signature Derek Jeter 644 0 0 2 9 12 1 0 24
1994 Collector’s Choice Silver Signature Derek Jeter 644 1 2 8 15 19 2 0 50
1994 Collector’s Choice Silver Signature White Letter Variation Derek Jeter 644 0 0 2 3 1 1 0 7
1994 Collector’s Choice White Letter Variation Derek Jeter 644 1 4 8 34 60 13 0 124

To make things even more confusing, Beckett Grading Services, or BGS, the industry leader in modern graded sports cards, mistakenly created a separate grading category for the Derek Jeter White Letter Variation of the standard, non-Silver Signature issue in addition to a separate grading category for the Silver Signature White Letter Variation. While we certainly appreciate Beckett’s effort to distinguish the Silver Signature White Letter Variation, to set the record straight, every regular non-Silver Signature issue shows a white letter on back, so don’t be fooled into buying one of these under the impression that it is the Silver Signature White Letter Variation.

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4060c_lgVariations, parallels, printer’s proofs, errors, and misprints comprise the core of advanced collecting. Most of the 514 cards comprising the legendary T206 Tobacco set, for example, can be found with 16 different advertisement backs, the rarest of which command small fortunes Gold Dat market. The 1949 and 1954 Bowman sets and the landmark 1952 Topps set are also rife with variations. So, too, is the 1994 Collector’s Choice set. Exactly how many, however, remains a mystery. Clearly, there is the Silver Signature White Letter Variation, pictured multiple times in this post, and this variation should absolutely be recognized by all grading companies. Perhaps a better name for this variation, however, should be the Silver Signature “White Lettering” Variation,4215c_lg because who knows if The Standard Catalog and my graduate school memories aren’t both correct. Maybe there is a Silver Signature variation that looks exactly like the Silver Signature parallel except for the lone letter on back appearing in white instead of gray. An accurate name for this variation would then indeed be the Silver Signature “White white DLetter” Variation, as opposed to the “White Lettering” Variation. Do these two different variations also exist for the Gold Signature parallel, that is, a Gold Signature White Letter Variation as well as a Gold Signature White Lettering Variation? I’ve never seen either, but if they do, they’d be worth a boatload, and I sure hope to find one someday.

Happy Collecting,

Dave Thorn at Small Traditions