Red Hot & Rare: Short-printed 2001 Topps Archives autos light up auction block

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By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary & Opinion

Before the arrival of Rickey Henderson many years ago, Lou Brock was the king of stolen bases in MLB. He’s a relatively accessible signer and an autograph that’s not tough to find — and not very expensive — with some looking.

But his autograph on a short-printed 2001 Topps Archives reprint of his Rookie Card?

That’s a different story — a story that apparently should offer us all a brief respite from the notion that there isn’t life after cardboard turns a certain age even in today’s seemingly over-saturated, it’s-been-done-before-I-already-have-it environment.

How much for the Brock? You wouldn’t believe it if I typed it.

For those who didn’t click, that’s about $3,000 more — if not even more — than it should be for a typical Brock autograph, the only difference here that it’s a card that’s limited to just 50 copies — one of 14 short-printed Group A autographs in that first two series of Archives, a reprint-based brand (click here for a checklist and OPG) that lasted a few years before it was revived with a slightly different concept last year.

While one may think that some online auction shenanigans were in play here, there were 20 other cards from that set sold in the last month or so on eBay that have topped $500. Nearly all were A-list Hall of Famers and nearly all are short-prints limited to 50 copies. A few different buyers emerged victorious on this one, which, according to the auction listing, was purchased as a set by a group and broken up to be sold. Feedback has been left on several of the big-dollar auctions by the buyers.

The others?

Player eBay auction end
Reggie Jackson $2.650
Hank Aaron $2,550
Lou Brock (second copy) $2,250
Willie Mays $2,030
Carl Yastrzemski $1,602.77
Reggie Jackson (BGS 9/10) $1,600
Stan Musial $1,532.07
Yogi Berra $1,504.99
Ernie Banks $1,259.56
Yogi Berra (BGS 8/10) $1,250
Bob Gibson $1,237.12
George Brett $1,107.07
Johnny Bench $948
Tom Seaver $898.88
Nolan Ryan $898.88
Tom Seaver (second copy) $865
Mike Schmidt $738
Brooks Robinson $513.44
Don Larsen $513.44

The autographs in that year’s set were found one in every 20 packs — at hobby or retail — but Group A cards were found at a rate of one in every 3,049 packs some 117-times harder to find than the easiest signature group.

That, combined with the obvious drawing power of most of those players, along with an apparent run of interest between a few bidding parties has led to what we have today, little over a decade after one could find them in packs at, say, a neighborhood Kmart or a hobby shop.

It’s not been uncommon for the biggest names — except for Mays — to sell between $300 and $600. Mays has sold for more. Meanwhile, wax boxes from the two series are still available in online auctions for about $200 at the most with the realistic odds that a Group A auto is not inside as they fall one in every 153rd or so wax box.

So, what should one make of this? Do you chalk it up to the break-up value of a tough set emerging on the market for some hungry bidders for the first time in years? Do you just think it’s the auction block reaction of a couple of interested parties? Is it a realization that once that first month or two’s supply of a product’s eBay floods is dissipated — and over time — even seemingly obtainable but rare cards can be much, much more in-demand than we might think?

Or, could it be the star power of the players involved and some deep-pocketed, old-fashioned collecting interest?

I’d say it’s perhaps all of the above — and more — and while I’d want to go dig through my autograph stashes from all my 2001 Kmart runs where I cleared shelves of packs and blasters in search of some nice ink I know that Group A was one that eluded me quite a bit that year.

Apparently, those cards escaped the grasp of a few of you, too.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

Let us know what you think with our poll and in the comments below. 

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  1. thomas
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Umm yeah I purchased the Seaver about a half a year ago at a steal price and was stunned and voted stunned because I did not believe the recent price that it went for.

  2. Posted April 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    $3,000 for a card manufactured in 2001? Who is collecting these cards? How can people afford them? I’d like to see an analysis of the total value of cards being produced each year, and how much money do collectors spend annually on cards. I’d have to estimate that I spend $200 annually on cards. If someone collects $3,000 cards, then what is that person’s budget? $100,000 annually? Are these cards just bought and sold by the same small niche group of dealers?

  3. Posted April 29, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    57 Hits … what difference does it make if they spent $3,000 on a card made in 2001 or a few boxes of wax from 2012/2013. Collectors will pay when they see something they want/need. I’d rather see someone spend $3k on something like that legendary 2001 insert auto set than spend thousands on a newly released 1/1 of a fringe prospect …

  4. Kevin
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I have a copy of the Aaron auto from that set, pretty cool.

  5. Card Opionator
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Makes that Stan Musial Player Sample look like a steal at $100-$150!

  6. Richard Gobis
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    Great points Ben.

  7. Robert Braxton
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I think the recent release of another Topps Archives set (with autos) has rekindled and fortified an interest in Archive cards in general. Also, I think auto cards are experiencing a spike (that I personally think we’ll stretch over the next 3-5 years at least).

    As for the SP’s that went off at high prices, I participated in the a lot of the bidding on those, and that is how I came to learn the extra value on SP’s.
    Overall, I think the winning bidders simply wanted a superb (design) card, that is rare (SP), of their favorite (HOF) player.
    The opportunity to get one of these cards on eBay has simply not been seen for years, and maybe the economy is on an uptick that’s loosened up a few pockets for that ‘once-in-a-decade’ card.

  8. William
    Posted May 4, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink


    I have the complete set from 2001 .. and Topps never issued a Keith Hernandez Autograph. So you may want to remove it from the checklist … I did see Beckett finally removed Marichal, Uecker, Sutton, Jack Morris, Ozzie Smith and Reggie Smith after about 5 emails to your checklist people. If you get the never made Keith Hernandez off the checklist then it is correct … I remember many an evening (before ESNIPE, et.) bidding on those SP/50 Autograph’s … may be time to sell the set!

  9. frank johnson
    Posted May 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I recently got back into collecting, but only 1 player and 1 separate type of collecting. I only buy Johnny Bench autographed insert cards. First I was amazed to see how many different cards he signed. Well over 1000 different ones. Secondly, I was shocked at how high his seem to go on ebay compared to say Mike Schmidt or even hall of famers with way better stats. am I missing something?? Why do people pay so much for his cards. I know for a fact his signature is everywhere. Other than Pete Rose he has to be second or third in signing his name. Any info is appreciated. Thanks

  10. Greg
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Simply put, this is an amazing modern set (albeit insert set). You get so many HOF, stars, and minor stars in one checklist. I believe there are still collectors out there who want complete sets from one company in this fashion and this is one of the best. Right now the popular way to collect is “player sets”, but that is nearly impossible due to ever-changing checklists, and then the collector is limited to only one subject. Sweet Spot is another incredible autograph set. Other more affordable alternatives would be Diamond King game-used/autos; Topps T206 inserts. Just do a search for Auto Set and see how attainable sets there are. Ebay is the biggest factor for the popularity though, because it makes building and otherwise impossible “INSERT SET” very much possible. Just takes patience.

  11. Chip
    Posted October 22, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    The bottom line is this is an iconic set. The value of a complete set is only going to increase as time passes. Buyers recognize that the only way to complete their sets is to “shell out” big money. Hence I am not at all surprised by the prices paid at this auction fro these key cards.

  12. Charlie
    Posted June 9, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Here is my take on why this set remains highly priced. First, the set is beautifully done, glossy finish of Iconic recognizable Topps Rookies in the original designs. Not just HoFers either, but also the minor stars who are still beloved; usually only by their home fan-bases. Finally, a small group of collectors were energetic on ebay as soon as the cards came out, they also encased the cards by grading services which preserved and set them apart from other autograph sets. Now card companies encase some products before they hit the market.

  13. Seth
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Was digging through my cards after this article, found the Lou Brock I forgot I had! Wish I still had the Brett and Seaver I sold years ago.

  14. Di Fuchs
    Posted September 4, 2017 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I have thousands of baseball cards in extremely good condition. Eight binders full, lots of small to medium sized boxes. I have a slew of them from 1973, 1987, 88, 89, 96, 97, 98, 99, 2000 and 2001. Derek Jeter, Mark McGwire, Ichiro Suzuki, Barry Bonds, Sheffield, Biggio, Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Piazza, etc. Way way too many to list. I have some rookies and commons. Upper Deck, Topps, Donruss, Fleer, plus many more. All different ones….archives, Golden moments, Black Diamond, Sweet Spot, again….way to many to list. Does anyone know where I could sell them? The bin that the binders are in, is too heavy too lift. There are lots of separate boxes as well. I have no clue as to how to start this process. Figured that I would ask in this forum?

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