Rookie Card Showcase: 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente

This is the part 15 of an ongoing series. To see other parts in this series, click here.

I’ve written about this Clemente card before (link), but the purpose of this particular post is to discuss condition. As you can see, this Clemente card is graded a 1 (Poor) by Beckett Grading. Upon learning the grade, one collector foolishly said the card was now worthless. Yeah, hardly.

It may be worth less, but hardly worthless. When it comes to vintage, condition means a lot, but it is not the end-all, be-all. We’d all like to be Mr. Mint and have collections of crisp cards that are five decades old. But fact of the matter is 90 percent of us are basic collector and can’t chase the high-end cards. Sometimes just owning an authentic copy of a legendary card — like this Clemente rookie — is enough.

Having said that, not all poor condition cards are equal, if you know what I mean. Cards that have creases, rips, stains, tears or ink are typically graded poor. This Clemente may be one of the nicest “poor” condition cards I’ve ever seen. It’s not mint, but the card is gorgeous. There is a crease that runs through the back, but can’t be seen from the front. The corners are rounded, but still visible, and there is no paper loss, which is common among vintage cards because of the way collectors used to store them.

Clemente is one of the most popular players in the history of the game, and his rookie cards do not come cheap. You could probably get a really bad shape one (with writing, rips, etc.) for about $150, but one that looks like this will cost you no less than $250, maybe more. That’s hardly worthless.

One Response to “Rookie Card Showcase: 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente”

  1. I love the great finds! I partially agree with your point about “just owning an authentic card of the legend” is great. However, I have an interesting proposal.
    Now I don’t claim this works or would produce similar results. Recently “Gold” has crossed the headlines as much as Tiger Woods (not that I am looking to change the topic, I’m building to something here) but there are some excellent investments out there besides commodities like Gold, hence baseball cards, player autographs and sports memorabilia. While as a collector I appreciate the basic value of owning an original 1934 Lou Gehrig Card with the condition not being as meaning full to me as the fact that I hold a card that is nearly 80 years old (photo grabbed from internet as I am at work and I don’t have a scanner so bear with me) but owning a card of excellent grading or quality can be an amazing way to diversify your exposure to the weakening value of the dollar. Hear me out, there is only so much gold out there, and it seems like we are basically closer to the limit of gold as a natural resource than we are to the limits of oil. Why not make a smaller investment risk in an item such as a card, autograph, piece of history that is equally as valuable if not more so?(granted to the right people).
    The tools available to track the intraday value of cards is not available like it is for gold but there are plenty of investors out there right now who are looking to avoid a double dip recession and protect their wealth by getting out of dollars and into a tangible limited good that are in just as much demand as diamonds or gold. Just check out the going rate of some recent sales at Christies or Sotheby’s where coins have been selling considerably higher than before (coins aren’t the only example).
    What does this really mean? My guess is that not only are the big wig corporate execs buying up these coins, wines, scotches, pieces of art are doing so because they are rich but rather they looking for ways to diversify their portfolio’s. These guys love to brag about their most recent score, and they are kids at heart who now have the cash in hand to purchase that Mickey Mantle card they always wanted and not the one that is a PSA 1 but the one that is PSA 8.5 or better. So you tell me which is the better place to put your money? Do you buy and hold the highly graded card or do you spend your money on a ton of cards that cannot be liquidated? Certainly the thought of liquidation of such a special/meaningful purchase can come with regrets/reluctance to let go of a rare card. Trust me I fully understand the joy of owning cards but I find myself constantly torn between the two extremes I mention here.
    In conclusion, I find happiness on both sides of the argument. It depends on what your long term vs short term collecting goals are. I agree there is purpose to having those low level graded cards but there is obviously a major upside to the middle range cards and even potential higher upside to those rare finds. Just like the market you still need to know when to sell those rare finds otherwise your just another chump who got stuck holding a card beyond its peek value, ie: Alex Rodriguez, Manny, Bonds, etc…

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