Q&A: What Is The First Baseball Card?

Question: What is the first baseball card?

Answer: The answer to this question can vary depending on how a person defines “the first baseball card”.  In my opinion, this 19th century game card is what I view as the first card depicting what looks to be some form of baseball.

Based on bat and ball drawings from the 18th and 19th century, baseball historians have dated this card to around the 1830s.  During that time, children’s educational card games were popular in both England and the United States.  The picture shows three boys – one at bat, another pitching, and in the background a boy looks as if he’s standing on what would be first base.  Several other cards came in this set, but none of them deal with sports.

I wish this card was talked about more often, but it just isn’t.  If it dealt with a specific player or team I believe it would be.  Rarely do they ever show-up for sale.  When they do, its usually with an auction house.  Not many examples are floating around.

Q&A: What Is A PSA Qualifier?

Question: Could you please tell me what a PSA qualifier is?  I see a lot of PSA graded cards with strange designations on them – OC, ST, PD, etc…

Answer: In short, a PSA qualifier allows for a card to receive a higher grade while having one major defect.  PSA qualifier designations include OC (Off-center), ST (stain), PD (Print Defect), OF (Out of Focus), and MK (Marks).  According to PSA “A “qualified” card is a card that meets all the criteria for a particular grade, but fails the standard in one area.”

For example, take a look at this Mickey Mantle 1961 Topps #300 graded by PSA a Mint 9 with an OC qualifier.  Other than being off-center its in really nice condition.  Without the qualifier it would probably be graded a 5.  As far as value goes, a normal PSA Mint 9 will always be better than that same card graded by PSA with a Mint 9 qualifier.  The qualifiers just allow people to own lower-quality cards while being able to retain that higher grade.

While we’re on the subject of graded cards I think its important to remind you of some things.  Grading in it’s current form is a complete sham.  Card grading has been corrupt since it all began with the world famous 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner graded by PSA a NM-MT 8.  Certain people have been outed as receiving higher grades on their cards just because they have friends at the grading companies.  Better grades have been given due to the volume of grading individuals do as well.  Cards that are counterfeit, altered, and doctored have made it through the grading process just because they know how much publicity and/or money that high graded card will receive.  Its a total joke.  Grading companies, cosigners, card doctors, and trimmers are all in bed together.

Despite so much proof of all of this wrongdoing, very few people care.  PSA continues to have record profits.  As long as people are willing to spend large amounts of money on high-graded cards nothing is going to change.  They will all continue to look the other way because its a ride that nobody wants to get off.

Its difficult to look at a card like this and not wonder what might have been done to it in order to obtain that grade.

Q&A: Why Do Some Topps Boxes From The 80s Have Black Marks On Them?

Question: Looking on eBay I see so many 1980s Topps boxes with black marks on the covers.  What are the black marks for?

Answer: As a way to help distributors/stores clear out old inventory that had been sitting for awhile, Topps allowed for some products to be returned.  The distributors/stores would get a little money back.  Once Topps received those products back they would place black marks on the box covers.  Then Topps would ship them off to discount outlets.  In order to qualify for this the cases and/or boxes had to be complete.  Nothing tampered with.  Back then Topps did not seal their boxes in plastic like they do today.  Its very possible the people sending them back compiled packs from multiple boxes just to make a complete one.  That is the true origin of those black marks.  Complete boxes from the 1980s without the black marks will always be more desirable.  But this practice was so common you see them everywhere.

Q&A – How Can I Tell If A Topps Tiffany Baseball Set Has Been Searched?

Question: Could you please tell me which Topps Tiffany Baseball sets arrived from the factory sealed in cellophane?  Looking on eBay I see some that are and some that aren’t.  I don’t want to buy a set that’s been searched.

Answer: Between 1984 and 1991 Topps issued Tiffany sets to various dealers, hobby shops, and mail-in publications.  These cards look just like the normal flagship sets except they’re printed on high-quality stock.  For those same years Topps also issued Tiffany cards for their Traded sets.  Each set has a limited print run.

The sets issued between 1984 and 1988 did not come packaged in cellophane.  Just the seal on the lid.  Its the years 1989-1991 where things can get a little confusing.

  • 1989 Topps Tiffany – Clear cellophane & seal
  • 1989 Topps Traded Tiffany – No cellophane, just seal
  • 1990 Topps Tiffany – Just seal
  • 1990 Topps Traded Tiffany – Clear cellophane & seal
  • 1991 Topps Tiffany – Topps branded cellophane & seal
  • 1991 Topps Traded Tiffany – Topps branded cellophane & seal

If purchasing a set, there are some factors to consider.  Does the box show any signs of prior opening?  You want everything to be flat and flush.  Bent-up flaps are not a good signal.  The top part of the box where the lid tucks in should be completely straight and tight against the cards.  Cracking can easily take place on the lid’s hinge after it has been opened.  Inspect the hinge looking for any cracking, bending, and/or change in color.

How does the box feel from the outside?  If its truly never been opened before the box should feel full.  The cards are packed tightly inside.  You shouldn’t feel any movement.  Movement could indicate that cards might be missing.

Finally, inspect the label.  Resealed boxes can have double labeling.  Upon breaking the set’s original seal to remove the good cards, people have been known to print-up fake labels to place over the older broken ones.  Stay far away from them if you see any signs of two labels.  Others have figured out ways to remove the original label without damaging it.  Once they’ve searched the set they simply reapply the label.

Just because a set may have been shipped sealed in cellophane from the factory doesn’t mean it hasn’t been searched over the years.  Resealed Topps Tiffany sets have been making the rounds for a long time.  Its a major problem you have to watch out for.

This 1985 Topps Tiffany set did not originally come shipped in cellophane from Topps.  It was added later by a scammer once the Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, and Kirby Puckett cards were removed.

Q&A – How Do I Attend The Topps Q&A During The National Sports Collectors Convention?

Question:  How do I attend the Topps Q&A during the National Sports Collectors Convention?

Answer:  The Topps Q&A meeting is one of the best events that you can take part in while attending the National Sports Collectors Convention.  The NSCC usually starts on a Wednesday, and Topps typically holds their Q&A meeting that following Friday.  The Q&A takes place after the NSCC has closed for the day, and is held either at the convention center or a hotel near by.  It depends on where the NSCC is taking place, and what’s available.

In order to attend the Topps Q&A you must sign-up for it at the Topps booth.  The event is limited to about (150) spots.  Its a wise idea to get to the Topps booth ASAP, because those spots fill up very quickly.  Badges for the NSCC usually can start to be picked up at 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. that first day.  The VIP Party starts at 2:30 p.m.  At 3:30 p.m. the show opens for VIPs.  General Admission gets in at 4:00 p.m.  If you’re a VIP, as soon as the show opens at 3:30 p.m. I’d run to the Topps booth and get my name on that list.

During the Topps Q&A you are encouraged to ask Topps employees anything you want pertaining to the hobby.  In between questions they tend to giveaway lots of prizes.  Everyone who attends usually receives a special gift on the way out when its over.  This gift is specially made for the Topps Q&A, and can only be obtained there.  In 2018, everyone left with a Francisco Lindor autograph #’ed/50.

The 2019 National Sports Collectors Convention takes place 7/31-8/4 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Chicago.  I think its safe to say Q&A attendees will leave with a special Chicago-related card.

Q&A: Did Topps Issue Boxes Of 1992 Stadium of Stars Cards?

Question: Hi!  I came across this odd card of Larry King.  It appears to be from 1992 Topps Stadium of Stars.  Did Topps issue boxes for this set?  What can you tell me about it?

Answer: No.  Topps did not issue these in the traditional box format.  The year was 1992, and the 13th National Sports Collectors Convention was being held in Atlanta, GA.  For the first time in it’s thirteen year existence, Topps decided to setup a booth.  Used as a promotional giveaway, Topps created a 13-card set entitled Stadium of Stars.

  • Bruce Jenner
  • John Wooden
  • Joan Lunden
  • Lou Holtz
  • Chris McCarron
  • Nick Charles
  • Larry King
  • Ann Meyers
  • LeRoy Neiman
  • Wilma Rudolph
  • Bob Costas
  • Nancy Lopez
  • Jim Beckett III

The exact number of cards handed out during the show is unknown.  Every celebrity on the checklist received (500) copies to hand out at their discretion.  Two jumbo-size cards were also printed for each individual.  One was given to the celebrity, and the other was autographed.  The signed version was auctioned off, and the money went to a specific charity chosen by that celebrity.

Topps sold 5,000 uncut sheets to dealers at the show.  From time to time one of those will popup.  I believe Jim Beckett III was a late addition and/or had to be obtained differently compared to the others.  You can find his single card on the secondary market, but its not pictured on any of the promotional material like the uncut sheet.  An oversize souvenir sheet featuring these cards is suppose to be floating around too.

A complete set is worth about $30-$50.

Q&A – Does Donald Trump Have A Rookie Card?

Question: Hi!  I’m looking for a gag gift for my friend.  Could you tell me if Donald Trump has a rookie card?  Thanks.

Answer: Love him or hate him.  Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States.  One thing is for certain.  His presidency will be studied, investigated, and talked about long after he’s out of the White House.  Will that talk be good or bad?  That’s totally up to you and your political views.

Yes.  Donald Trump does have a rookie card.  During the late 80s and early 90s, Eclipse Comics issued a handful of non-fiction, non-sports related card sets.  These sets cover all kinds of subjects like the Savings and Loan crisis, Iran-Contra scandal, AIDS, and the Kennedy Assassination.

In 1989, Eclipse Comics released a set titled Rotten to the Core.  This 36-card set covers the best and worst of New York City’s politics.  Card #26 is of Donald Trump.  Its widely accepted as his rookie card.  The card’s back goes into lots of details about his dealings at the time.  Quite the entertaining read.

Raw copies sell for $20.  Gem Mint 10s have reached $100.

Q&A – What Can You Tell Me About This Danny DeVito Autograph?

Question:  I know this isn’t a sports card, but what can you tell me about this Danny DeVito autograph?

Answer:  Cool card!  In 1992, Danny DeVito portrayed the Penguin in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns.  As a child, this was one of the movies I watched all the time.  For a film that was marketed towards kids, its quite dark.  That scene near the end where Penguin slowly walks out of the water bleeding to death sparked the attention of many parents.  I thought it was awesome.  Things like that are one of the reasons why the studio decided to go in a different direction for the next two films.  Batman Forever and Batman & Robin were fun to watch as a kid, but I can’t watch them today.  In my opinion, Batman and Batman Returns still hold up for me now.

Topps created a few different sets to go along with Batman Returns.  One of them being a Stadium Club set.  The unsigned version of this card originated from the Stadium Club set, but not the card containing Danny DeVito’s signature.

In 1993, Topps issued two sets based on Batman: The Animated Series.  They were split up between Series 1 and Series 2.  Despite not having anything to do with the cartoon, Topps randomly inserted these Danny DeVito autographs into Series 2 packs.  2,000 copies of his Batman Returns base card were signed.

I wish this card had some type of notation, foil stamp, or serial number printed on it.  Even though Danny DeVito has a complex signature, an unsigned base card and silver pen are all a scammer would need to attempt at making a counterfeit.  I think they’re a hard sell because of that fact.  An asking price for an example deemed authentic can be up to $250.  Its a great example of an early buyback autograph.

Oswald Cobblepot!

Q&A – Fleer Tradition vs. Fleer Tradition

Question:  Hi Sports Card Info!  Great site!  I need some help.  Could you please tell me where this Ken Griffey, Jr. 1999 Fleer Tradition card is from?  It looks just like the base, but the card numbering is different?  It doesn’t match up with anything on the checklist.  Have I stumbled across a rare find?  Is there only six copies of this card?  Thanks.

Answer:  Good question.  That specific card and five others did not come out of the typical 1999 Fleer Tradition baseball set.  Spectra Star, a division of Toy Biz which was owned by Marvel at the time, made a series of six baseball card themed kid’s toy kites.  The kites resemble base cards from 1999 Fleer Tradition.  Each kite came packaged with an accompanying card.  You’re correct.  The only difference between the regular cards and the ones included with the kites is the card numbering.  Kites of Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey, Jr., Greg Maddux, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, and Mark McGwire were made.  Many of these kites were sold.  The “3 OF 6” refers to Ken Griffey, Jr. being #3 in the set of six.  It has nothing to do with the amount of copies printed.