We sometimes talk about cards which have reached “mythical” status for how difficult they are to find online or at shows. Some of our favorite examples are some of the 1966 and 1967 Topps single print high numbers. However, there is a card for which one person is apparently driving the market upwards for reasons no one has yet been able to figure out. Unlike these two earlier examples; this card is a low numbered card in the first series. The only other card I can think of which is as popular as a first series card is the 1970 Topps Checklist #9 which shows up on a ton of want lists yet does not really have a back story. So what’s the deal with the 1964 Topps Curt Flood?
The card does have a neat back story in that the Cardinals won their first World Series in 18 years that season and he was a starter. Flood, in fact, played on three pennant winners in St. Louis. He would remain with that team for another five years before being traded and beginning a journey for which every player who signs a contract or even turns down a $14 million qualifying offer should be thankful. He challenged baseball’s reserve clause, a move which led to the free agency came to enjoy. Yet is that enough for this card to carry such a premium?
A quick search of COMC shows none available while a search of eBay shows none at what a right thinking person would consider reasonable price level. You’ll pay $10-15 for very low grade examples; $45-65 for NM and better ungraded copies and as much as $140-175 for a graded NM/MT Flood. There were 60 of them available on Wednesday, which would seem to indicate it’s not really all that rare. PSA’s Population Report shows 85 ’64 Flood cards graded NM/MT (8). Not a large amount, but nowhere near the rarest card in the set.
Flood does have several cards which should be more popular including the 1958 rookie card, a tougher series 1961 card, a high number in 1963 and very challenging1965 and 1969 cards. All of them, theoretically, should be more popular than the 1964 Flood card.
But from what we know in talking to dealers, there is one man who buys up all the reasonably priced Flood cards and is relentless in his efforts. Since he has never come forward to explain himself we are all left to wonder why that card.
Was he of the age where the 1964 Cardinals left an impression on him with Flood being his favorite player or did this card cause him lots of difficulties and he decided he wanted to hoard them? Does he own the original artwork from Topps and want to have as many copies as he can? Or even does he just want to own every copy of this card in the way some collector Is trying to buy all the Tim Wallach cards ever issued?
Flood was a terrific defensive player, winning seven Gold Gloves and playing the entire 1966 season without making an error. He didn’t hit well enough to garner much Hall of Fame support for what he did on the field.
He was also a noted painter and never wanted to leave the city that had become his home and it’s his fight against the powers of baseball that kept his name in the headlines long after he retired. Today, a player with Flood’s experience could not be traded without his permission to another team using the 10 years of experience with five years with the same team rule. He could become a free agent if he wanted.
There’s no doubting his role in baseball history but his role in this set is quite the enigma. You can see the 1964 Topps Curt Flood cards being offered on eBay here.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]