By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary
When the debut edition of National Treasures baseball arrived yesterday from Panini America with a heavy game-used presence of legends such as Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb and Joe Jackson in tow, I couldn’t help but have a few questions.
How much money in memorabilia just left the Panini vault in this one?
How much money could I save elsewhere if I did the unthinkable (for me) and tried to get a box?
How would this one not have been a contender for Product of the Year and other Beckett Baseball awards had it come out during 2012?
After that wave of thoughts washed over me — and after a couple hours of compulsively window-shopping on eBay — I remembered one time years ago when I found my own little national treasure in a pack from Donruss.
My find is the 2003 Leaf Limited Lumberjacks Combos card you see here, a Gehrig-Don Mattingly card that probably impressed much more back then. How? Well, today there are more than 750 different Gehrig memorabilia cards to be found. Back then there were fewer than 150 different cards. It was a really impressive pull then — and I still think it is now, after all, it’s card No. 4, which matches Gehrig’s uniform number.
Yes, it was good to see that there was a photo of the jerseys and bats used in those cards — note two items shown per player though there’s only one or the other per card. (A move to save time during production — even then, when staffs were larger and company calendars not quite as jam-packed.) These days, of course, things like that are often obsolete because of that whole time thing and because printing plate changes add up fast — and that matters now more than ever with a rougher economy and fewer people buying cards. But that’s fodder for a recent past Beckett Sports Card Monthly and, of course, future issues. (Another aside … do those logos really add that much to the card’s design?)
What also made this a memorable treasure for me was the fact that it was among the first cards I ever submitted to Beckett Grading Services — my second batch if I remember correctly — and it made the grade on June 3, 2004 … a Thursday, according to the database records, and several years before I ended up working here for a different division of Beckett Media. All these years later, on a Thursday no less, this card came to mind with its piece of Gehrig jersey — likely a big brother of some other swatches just entering collections now. (After all, the last two Gehrig gamers to sell via Heritage Auctions topped $700,000 — a price that indicates the swatches had better last long and that they’re probably not coming back to a baseball card set any time soon when they’re gone.)
Grading of mem cards is tough as the thicker stock just isn’t as durable and I consider that grade to be a miracle considering I didn’t own any magnetic cases at the time. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for me. It’s a memorable card.
Another bit of firsts and the Beckett experience for me will come with this card in a few days when it’s among the first I post as part of the new Beckett Graded Registry, a project that’s been in the works for years and finally rounding into final form. I’ll confess as to have never really done much registry dabbling, but it’s an interesting component to the overall grading experience — and a huge influence on collecting markets as people compete for bragging rights and have yet another way to personally assess and expand upon their own collecting experiences.
For me, this card might be part of a custom registry … one accentuating how I often seem to pull Yankees cards from packs — and have done pretty well over the years — without even being a Yankees fan at all. In fact, I’d probably lean toward quite the contrary, but it’s hard to hate the players seen on these cards … just the team. Or something.
The real work, though, comes next — finding a creative name for this ol’ part of the collection.
Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.