Card of the Day: 1990 Leaf Gary Sheffield

It’s been 41 years since Major League Baseball celebrated an offensive triple crown. The pitching version has been done a few times since Carl Yastrzemski last tallied the offensive version in 1967, a feat which consists of leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs. But it’s not like there’s been a shortage of contenders. in 1992, Gary Sheffield was a serious threat and this 1990 Leaf card was his best at the time.

As a member of the Padres, Sheffield gave a serious run at the feat, finishing first in batting average (.330), third in homers (33), and fifth in RBI (100). And while the end result did not become stuff of legend, it was the run at the accolade that fueled the interest in Sheffield and transformed this card from a common semi-star to one with a price tag near $20.

Whenever I see the market these days react to incredible acts on the field — most recently the love affair with Josh Hamilton — I remember this card as an example of what can happen, and most likely what will happen to most cards, particularly those that are not real rookies. In the 16 years since his magnificent season, this card has returned to Earth so to say and now rests comfortably in the $1.50 range, pretty much where it started.

I actually went back through my archive of Beckett Baseball Magazines to confirm my notions and found a copy of the October 1992 issue, which actually has Sheffield on the cover. In the magazine, a story about Sheffield’s chase for history briefly mentions why collectors were turning to this card: “While hobbyists again are showing interest in Sheffield’s 1989s RCs, his shorter-printed 1990 Leaf issue is proving just as desirable as he makes a run at the Triple Crown.” (Pg. 7, issue 91.)

The new Beckett.com has an interesting feature, a set of charts that shows the different price points the card has had during its lifetime. One problem, the charts are only available back to 2006. Seeing this card analyzed on a chart would have been classic.

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