Dick Butkus epitomized the “black-and-blue” division of the NFL when he played for the Chicago Bears. He was a blue-collar guy, tough and mean, and oh, could he hit. Check out YouTube and you can find plenty of hard-hitting footage.
“He went after you like he hated you from his old neighborhood,” fellow Hall of Famer Paul Hornung said.
Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, Butkus will be one of the marquee signers on the final day of the 38th National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago, which begins Wednesday at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.
Collectors looking for some nice Butkus rookie cards can scour the dealers’ tables at the National, but that 1966 Philadelphia card (#31) in high grade mirrors its subject’s toughness. It’s a tough card to find.
Poor centering issues, printer spots and other defects, and chipping make the search for a high-grade card difficult. As far as grading goes, you won’t find a gem-mint specimen. Out of nearly 1,000 Butkus rookies graded by PSA, there are no 10s. The same holds true for SGC with 182 graded cards in its population report.
Mint cards are just as elusive. There are only seven PSA 9s and two SGC 96s. There are more near-mint cards, though, with 135 PSA 8s and 41 PSA 8.5s. There are only two SGC 92s and four that grade out at SGC 88.
That same Philadelphia set includes the rookie card of his teammate, Gale Sayers. By comparison, there are 31 Sayers rookies graded 9, 309 8s and 15 8.5s out of roughly the same number graded by the company. Not surprisingly, the Butkus card is worth significantly more, but you’d almost think the gap would be even wider than it is.
The last PSA 9 card of Butkus sold for $12,000 in 2013, and an 8.5 fetched $2,270 in 2014. After some volatility, the average price for a PSA 8 has settled at around $1,300. One of them was slated to close at auction Sunday night.
Meanwhile, one of the two SGC 96 cards sold for $8,962.50 (including buyer’s premium) by Heritage Auctions in 2013.
So maybe you can’t afford a high grade Butkus rookie but are still planning to attend the National. A contest offered by the NSCC gives the winner and a friend a meet-and-greet session with Butkus on July 30. The winners also will receive two VIP packages to meet the “Monster of the Midway” and a behind-the-scenes tour of the show.
Entries can be found on the NSCC website but the deadline was Sunday night.
Although Butkus claims he is mild-mannered off the field, a word of warning from his former teammate, Ed O’Bradovich: “He’s got a personality like a fried lobster.”