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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 will most likely 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.

Record-Breaking Results in Small Traditions Inaugural Premium Holiday Auction

jeter mirror gold photo 2

January 7, 2014 — Denver-based Auction firm Small Traditions LLC recently concluded its Inaugural Premium Holiday Auction on Saturday January 4th, and the results were nothing short of breath-taking, with record-setting prices realized for any cards produced after 1969 and graded PSA 9 Mint and PSA 7 NM. In addition to dozens of other staggering sales, a PSA 9 Mint 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold #100 Derek Jeter Rookie Card, one of just thirty copies in existence, sold for a staggering $13,479, making it one of the most expensive PSA 9 Mint-graded baseball cards in the hobby, and a 1980 WBTV Charlotte O’s #16 Cal Ripken Jr. Rookie Card fetched a record $12,307.

ripken wbtv psa 7 frontAccording to vintagecardprices.com, only a handful of post-1950s baseball cards have ever realized higher prices in the grade of PSA 9 Mint than the rare Mirror Gold Derek Jeter, including the famous trio from the condition sensitive 1962 Topps set — Roger Maris at about $27,000, Sandy Koufax at about $15,000 (but once for as high as $66,000) and Mickey Mantle at $17,500 — plus a record-setting 1963 Topps Pete Rose Rookie Card at $14,044, a record-setting 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan Rookie Card at $15,986, and finally the infamous 1969 Topps Mickey White Name Variation, a Pop 4 in PSA 9 condition, which has fetched between $13,500 and $17,000 the few times it has surfaced over the last decade. That’s some pretty high-class company for baseball’s newest member of the elite 3,000-hit club.

Mantle7As for the record-breaking PSA 7 NM 1980 WBTV Cal Ripken Jr. rookie card, we have to go back to Mickey Mantle’s 1952 Topps high-number to find a more expensive card in the grade. One of the most famous baseball cards ever produced, a PSA 7 NM 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle runs anywhere between $26,000 and $42,000, with the highest prices paid for nicely centered copies. And before the The Mick’s iconic ’52 Topps card, we have to go all the back to the 1930s to a find a more expensive PSA 7 NM, with the scarce 1933 Goudey #106 Nap Lajoie card realizing about $35,000. Of course, Babe Ruth is also featured in the classic 1933 Goudey set, on four different cards in fact, but only two of those famous four Ruths command higher price tags than the 1980 WBTV Charlotte O’s Ripken RC in PSA 7 NM condition, including the 1933 Goudey #53 Babe Ruth yellow back, which runs anywhere from $14,000 to $26,000, and the 1933 Goudey #149 Babe Ruth red back, which costs about $13,000. The other two Ruths,  the #144 full body pose and #181 green back, average about $8,500 and $6,800 in PSA 7 NM condition, respectively.  And so baseball’s “Iron Man” continues to set records. 14995a_lg

In addition to these historical sales, a number of other significant hobby masterpieces also realized strong final prices in Small Traditions’ Inaugural Premium Holiday Auction. A 1979 Topps #18 Wayne Gretzky Blank Back Rookie Card graded BVG 9.5 Gem Mint led the pack at $12,983, while a BVG 9 Mint example of The Great One’s O-Pee-Chee rookie realized a near record at $5,275. The only 1968 Topps #5 NL Home Run Leaders card graded PSA 10 Gem Mint realized $3,810, while a 1983 O-Pee-Chee #83 Ryne Sandberg brought $1,290, and a pair of Bo Jackson 1987 McDag Auburn Tigers Greats cards fetched $2,931. One of the hobby’s finest 1984 Topps #63 John Elway RCs graded BGS 10 Pristine sold for $6,154, and a 1986 Fleer #57 Michael Jordan RC gretzky bgs 9.5 blank back frontshattered recent eBay sales figures for the card with a final price tag of $4,982. With its extremely detailed descriptions and high-resolution scans, that seemed to be the theme of Small Traditions’ most recent monthly auction, with strong prices and happy consignors across the board. Returning to Jeter and Ripken, a 1992 Little Sun Derek Jeter Autograph RC graded PSA 10 Gem Mint brought in $6,447, and a 1982 Fleer Test Cal Ripken Jr. RC graded PSA Authentic sold for $2,580, both records for public sales (a PSA 10 1992 Little Sun Jeter Autograph sold privately last summer for a whopping $15,000).

Top Sales from Small Traditions Inaugural December Premium Holiday Auction:

  • 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold #100 Derek Jeter RC PSA 9 Mint   $13,479
  • 1980 WBTV Charlotte O’s #16 Cal Ripken Jr. RC PSA 7 NM                $12,307
  • 1979 Topps #18 Wayne Gretzky Blank Back RC BGS 9.5 Gem Mint   $12,893
  • 1992 Little Sun High School Autographs Derek Jeter RC PSA 10        $6,447
  • 1984 Topps #63 John Elway RC BGS 10 Pristine                                 $6,154
  • 1979 O-Pee-Chee #18 Wayne Gretzky RC BGS 9 Mint                        $5,275
  • 1986 Fleer #57 Michael Jordan RC BGS 9.5 Gem Mint                       $4,982
  • 1996 Topps Chrome Refractors #138 Kobe Bryant RC BGS 9.5         $4,982
  • 1968 Topps #5 NL Home Run Leaders PSA 10 Gem Mint                   $3,810
  • 1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle RC PSA 4 VG-EX                          $3,224
  • 1996 Leaf Signature Extended Century Marks Derek Jeter PSA 10    $2,814
  • 1986 Fleer Stickers #8 Michael Jordan RC PSA 10 Gem Mint             $2,697
  • 1997 Bowman’s Best Atomic Refractors Derek Jeter Auto PSA 10      $2,697
  • 2009 Bowman Sterling Gold Refs Mike Trout Auto RC BGS 10           $2,697
  • 1982 Fleer Test Issue Cal Ripken Jr. RC PSA Authentic                      $2,580
  • 1986 Topps #161 Jerry Rice RC BGS 9.5 Gem Mint                            $2,462
  • 1963 Topps #537 Pete Rose RC PSA 8 NM-MT                                   $2,228

1984 topps elway bgs 10 front   mj 9.5 rc bert front   rice bgs 9.5 front

18_8950b_lg   ripken psa front   jeter little sun deer psa 10 front

Free Grading with PSA and BGS on Items Valued Over $100

Unique within the industry, Small Traditions also offers free grading with PSA and BGS on cards valued above $100 and free authentication with PSA/DNA and JSA on autographs valued above $200. Most of the items in its Inaugural Premium Holiday Auction, in fact, were graded by Small Traditions at no cost to its consignors. The company is currently seeking consignments for its January, February and March Monthly Masterpieces Plus Auctions, and it will be returning to its exclusive 100-Lot Premium Auction format in April to mark the beginning of the 2014 MLB season. Please call 303.832.1975 or write info@smalltraditions.com for more information.

Small Traditions Delivers Big Results In Monthly Masterpieces Plus #11 Auction

August 7, 2013

6061a_lgDenver-based auction firm, Small Traditions LLC, successfully concluded its 11th consecutive Monthly Masterpieces Plus auction late Saturday night from the 38th Annual National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago, and the results were big. “Our favorite motto is ‘Small Traditions, Big Results,'” said company founder, Dave Thorn, a former teacher and research writer for catalog auction companies like Mile High and Goodwin and Co. “We say it often, usually to motivate us through the long days and nights that go into preparing each of our auctions, but it’s encouraging to see so many of our realized prices standing behind those words.”

After concluding the company’s largest-ever auction in June, consisting of nearly 1,200 lots and 10,000 bids, and then preparing6072a_lg free consignor graded card submissions for last week’s National in Chicago and also next week’s East Coast National in New York, the company faced a serious challenge in pulling off its Monthly Masterpieces Plus #11. Thorn admitted that he had reservations about conducting the auction from Chicago on the last night of The National, the country’s largest and most attended sports collectibles show. However, the gamble appears to have paid off. The hobby’s newest and fastest growing auction company realized exceptionally strong results for the popular products around which it appears to have generated a niche, including graded rookie cards, autographs, oddball items, and, most notably, Derek Jeter cards.

5928a_lgA 2002 Bowman Chrome Joe Mauer Gold Refractor Autograph BGS 9 RC Rookie Card sold for $1,367, and a 1967 Dexter Press Roberto Clemente PSA 9 card sold for $1,242. A 1990 Leaf Frank Thomas Rookie Card and a 1991 Bowman Chipper Jones Rookie Card, both graded BGS 10 Pristine for their respective consignors at no cost, each sold for $846, strong prices for items from the so-called junk era of the early 1990s. But that’s nothing new for Small Traditions, one of the hobby’s leading sellers of ultra high-grade cards from the modern period, that is, the 1980s through today. A quick search of the company’s Results for these years from its first eleven auctions displays extraordinary price tags, and yet Small Traditions continues to also realize premium prices for high-grade cards from the 50s and 60s, such as these 1951 Topps Team Cards and 1955 Topps PSA Mint 9s from its recent auction.

The most impressive sales, however, came from the Derek Jeter market. Despite the Yankee Captain’s inactivity this season, demand for Derek’s collectibles has remained strong, a good indicator that demand will be even stronger when the 39 year old returns to play. According to Thorn, “Jeter has entered that rarefied air of sport nobility, with other world famous players like Michael Jordan and Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth, in which demand for his collectibles will always be strong, always rising. Even if Jeter never played another game,” continued Thorn, “he’ll be remembered as one of the most accomplished and beloved players, ever, and those heavily invested in his collectibles should expect serious spikes in demand when Jeter retires and then again when he enters the Hall of Fame. But for now, I think most fans are hoping Jete can teach himself to stop playing like a 20-year old and tough out another 3 or 4 years of play, taking aim at becoming baseball’s third-ever player to join the 4,000 hit club, behind Ty Cobb and Pete Rose.”

5728a_lgWhile a 1996 Select Certified Blue Parallel Pop 2 PSA 10 RC brought in $1,655 in Thorn’s most recent auction, and a handful of other rookie cards topped $1,000 in bids, what was most surprising about many of the Jeter sales from Small Traditions Monthly Masterpieces Plus #11 auction was that some of the strongest prices came from non-rookie card material. Among many other record prices, a 1997 Topps Gallery Peter Max Autograph Insert Pop 1 PSA 10 sold for $3,554, a 1997 Pinnacle Certified Mirror Gold PSA 9 sold for $1,504, a 1999 Skybox Molten Metal Titanium Fusion Pop 2 PSA 10 earned $1,242, and a 1999 Fleer Brilliants Gold Pop 1 PSA 10 brought $1,129. Thorn attributes much of his company’s success in the Jeter market to the strong core of Jeter collectors in his rapidly growing customer base and to the work he puts into JeterCards.com, but the math behind the big sales is pretty basic as well. The latter three cards listed above, for example, were produced in extremely limited print runs of just 40, 30, 50, and 99 total copies made, respectively, and Michael Jordan cards from some of the same brands and low-numbered insert sets from the late 1990s have been consistently selling for $5,000 to even $10,000 for years.

5710a_lg“I’ve been encouraging my Jeter customers to learn more about the late 1990s insert market because, just like the Jordan market, I think that’s where we’ll see the strongest numbers in the future.” According to Thorn, there are only so many Jeter rookie cards—about 330 different ones, to be more specific—and late 90s insert cards number in the 1,000s and encompass the Yankees so-called dynasty years of 1996 to 2000, and they’re also some of the rarest and prettiest cards ever made. “It’s the perfect storm,” says Thorn. “Younger collectors might not think anything special of cards numbered to 50 or 100, since you can pull one from just about every single wax pack these days, but it was a different story in the 1990s, when the manufacturers first developed the concept.

5881a_lgThe problem is,” continued Thorn, “this is also the period when baseball cards, a very simple collectible until that time, became incredibly confusing, with multiple parallels and various tiers of print runs, some as low as 20, 10, 5, even 1.” Thorn insists that for all the quality cards from the late 1990s in the market, there are 1,000 times more junk cards that scrupulous dealers will try to push on uninformed customers. “It happens every day on eBay,” he says. “Just because a card is a Pop 3 PSA 10, for now, doesn’t mean it is necessarily rare. More likely, the card is just so common and insignificant that no one has graded very many. So some sellers will try to charge $300 for a card like this, when any Joe could easily buy 30 raw copies and grade 20 of them Gem Mint, all for the same price.”

5884a_lgAs such, Thorn stresses caution and knowledge when shopping for late 1990s Jeter cards, and he encourages collectors to learn as much as possible before clicking the Buy-It-Now button on eBay. “I hate to see collectors I know paying absurd prices for common cards when they can purchase a PSA 10 card numbered to 100 in our no reserve auctions for the same price. In his final remarks, Thorn concluded that “the Jeter market is a true community. Most of the bigger Jeter collectors and dealers know each other, and most are very friendly and happy to share the information they’ve collected over the years. For most collectors, in fact, figuring out that information has been just as fun and challenging as collecting the actual cards. Got a question? All you have to do is ask. Start by contacting advanced collectors on the PSA Set Registry, try the Collectors Universe and Freedom Cardboard forums, or call or write Small Traditions. You’ll be glad you did.”

An alternative to eBay and to other high-priced auction services, Small Traditions conducts monthly internet auctions with $1 starting bids, no reserves, and free shipping on single graded card lots, whether you win one or 101 of them. Small Traditions also offers a 0% sellers fee for consignors plus free grading with PSA and BGS for cards valued over $100, and it is the only auction company in the hobby to offer both free selling and free grading services. Call 303.832.1975 or write info@smalltraditions.com to learn more and to see if your cards qualify. Currently, the company is aggressively seeking rare vintage and modern single graded card consignments for its August 31, September 28, and October (Nov. 2) auctions.