Walter Johnson’s game-used memorabilia presence expands in National Treasures


By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

“The Big Train” was one of the first five players inducted into Cooperstown after winning 417 games over 21 seasons — an average of 19 wins a year — striking out 3,509 batters and throwing 110 shutouts, which is still an MLB record.

But there was one thing that Walter Johnson had never done until recently — appear on a game-used memorabilia card.

Before the arrival of 2012 Panini National Treasures on Wednesday, Johnson appeared on a total of just four total game-used memorabilia cards — all 1/1s — found in 2011 Prime Cuts from Panini America.

RELATED: See more from National Treasures by clicking here and clicking here.

Now, he has nine more for collectors to find — a total of just 20 game-used memorabilia cards — in National Treasures, the first high-end release in the Panini America line that has been around in other sports since 2006.

The item embedded into the 24 total cards is a game-used ball — one reason there are so few — which is from a shutout Johnson threw against the Detroit Tigers on July 30, 1923. Another reason there are so few Johnson cards, of course, is the rarity and price for game-used items from his career, which was from 1907-27.

The most-plentiful card in the new product are his All-Decade and Greatness cards, which are each limited to just five copies. The bidding on the first to land on eBay has been brisk in only a few hours. His standard card is limited to four, while the remaining six cards are all 1/1s.

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.

(Click here to see how other cards from this one selling on eBay.)


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  1. Matthew 28 February, 2013 at 12:08

    Yay! Destruction of a severely limited number of historical artifacts (assuming, of course, they are genuine) just to placate a slowly but steadily shrinking number of well-healed collectors who couldn’t afford to buy the actual item when it was intact.

    Forgive me for not showing more enthusiasm for this otherwise great news.

  2. Matthew 28 February, 2013 at 12:20

    Regardless of whether it’s a new debate or not, it’s still an issue. I think the rather cavalier attitude taken in general by the hobby over this particular issue is troubling — especially in the cases of players who played pre-WW II. Debates over issues such as this shouldn’t be ignored just because they’re “old.” It would be nice, every once in a while, to see Beckett acknowledge the downside to memorabilia cards for players such as Johnson instead of cheerleading every single release of such cards.

  3. chrisolds 28 February, 2013 at 12:29

    I’m not going to beat a dead horse with coverage. It’s been discussed in the past.

    And in the case of Johnson, the items are too expensive to buy — at least because they alone wouldn’t help sell a ton of product to justify it. In the case of a single ball, an item like this likely only cost a few grand. That’s compared to five or six figures for scarce bats or uniform pieces.

  4. Kevin 28 February, 2013 at 14:05

    The value of an artifact is its story more so than its actual physical self. This is a way to share that story with a larger number of people. How can that be a bad thing?

    That aside, The Big Train was a beast. Hopefully this card will help bring his name to younger collectors that may not know his story and how great of a ball player he truly was. The guy averaged almost 20 wins a season, CRAZY!

  5. Coimbre21 28 February, 2013 at 21:34

    Great news for HOF relic collectors and I hope to at least just see a Big Train relic some day.

    The issue has been beaten to death but here’s my two cents . . . Part of me hated and still winces at the dismembering artifacts but Babe Ruth’s daughter changed my opinion by participating in her father’s jersey cutting and stating that he would have loved the whole idea. I can’t argue with that.

    Holding a Gehrig relic card and touching his pinstripes with my own hand is an experience I would have otherwise never had too.

  6. Rob Braxton 28 February, 2013 at 23:36

    If you’ve owned clothes for over 2-4 decades (or in this case much more), you have a better understanding of things have a tendency to deteriorate over enough time, no matter what you do to them.
    At the point where you can hardly recognize the item, you may wish you had turned them into cards when you had the chance.
    The items were once amazing to view, but that’s why photography was invented. Instead of building a hoarded room of items (and that’s essentially what it is), why not share some of the excitement of these items with the masses, while the masses still remember who these ‘greats’ were!

    Just my 2¢.

  7. Todd Nelkin 1 March, 2013 at 14:42

    wow, a baseball- that may have been thrown by the other team that day- could we get some grass from Griffith Stadium was? or grass from where it is today?- id rather wait and get something of value to kill then reach

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