Cards became popular for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes it involved local demand such as any and all 1984 Donruss Detroit Tigers which were not only being sought after by collectors working on finishing their 1984 Donruss sets (which were a little harder to find at the time) but also by Tiger fans wanting tangible reminders of a season which began 35-5 and continued with a World Series title. Since the Detroit area was such a collecting hotbed with tons of stores, good local shows and a long history of collecting, this area was at the hobby nexus in 1984.
Other times the cards with multiple branches of popularity had nothing to do with a winning team. When the vintage market really took off in the ‘80’s, it didn’t take long to determine the popularity of some older cards that didn’t feature Hall of Fame players. Dealers couldn’t keep them in stock.
Harry Agganis’ only Topps card had been produced in 1955. He was a two-sports star in college before working his way up to the Red Sox. Agganis had been nicknamed the Golden Greek as a result of his college exploits at nearby Boston University, and was a huge local favorite.
Agganis was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1952 but opted to stick with baseball. In 1954, he made the big league roster.
Agganis, however, ended up contracting an illness which kept him in the hospital for the last few months of his life before he died at the age of 26. He had been in the majors for just over a year.
Agganis was a two-sport star in those days of many two-sport stars. Think of the O’Brien twins, Tom Yewcic, Tommy Gastall (who also died very young, in his case of a plane crash), Dick Groat and many other players of that era.
The 1955 Topps Agganis was in the semi-hi number series which is more difficult than the first 150 cards, which made it more valuable. Add to the fact that Red Sox collectors wanted that card and by the 1980′s, it was scorching hot. Remember, in the 1980’s many avid collectors were still young enough to remember seeing Agganis play. His expression on the card belies the cruel fate that became him while many kids were still pulling it from packs.
Currently, even though by baseball standards, Agganis is a ‘common’ player, near mint examples of his one and only card are a tough get at around $100. NM/MT graded examples sometimes push past $500. See them for sale on eBay here.
He also appears in 1954 Red Sox team ‘picture pack’.
The other important aspect we need to mention about Agganis is that this card is known to have authentic autographs. Obviously there cannot be very many but they do exist. Since there were only a couple of months for Agganis to sign this card before he died, I would doubt that no more than 100 copies have survived in signed form—probably fewer than that. The only other Agganis card even issued close to his lifetime was a 1956 Adventure card which memorialized him.
Agganis memorabilia is popular too. The Johnny Pesky collection being sold next month by Hunt Auctions includes an Agganis bat.