If you’re a card collector, you’re completely forgiven if every mention of Alex Gordon’s name calls up this image…
Or this one…
Or this one…
When Topps’ 2006 Series One was beginning to roll off the presses, Gordon wasn’t officially on the Kansas City Royals’ roster and that was a big problem. Topps wasn’t supposed to print cards of those guys. Word quickly spread that his card–a potentially valuable rookie card–was being pulled from production and before long, collectors opening packs began finding cardboard border scraps of what were supposed to be Gordon cards . Topps claimed they were the result of frantic, last minute efforts to make sure it wasn’t violating its deal with Major League Baseball by punching Gordon’s face out of his own card. There was a huge buying and selling frenzy over both the relatively small number of Gordon cards that were printed and the many variations of the ‘non-card’…much of it centered in Wichita, KS.
Skeptics abounded. Gordon was a hot prospect and some thought Topps was trying to use the ‘oops’ angle to drive publicity—and sales.
David Roth worked in the editorial department at Topps back then and in a story he wrote for SB Nation Wednesday, he dispelled that myth and painted a pretty interesting picture of how seriously Topps took the issue (warning: there is some PG language in the article).
While he’s carving out a very nice career in Kansas City, Gordon won’t quite live up to the hype that existed when he was making his way to the big leagues. It’s another reminder of how player performance and real life events remain the omnipotent force behind our cards and memorabilia. Some cards slumber for years until for one reason or another, they find the spotlight. Gordon’s promise has finally been delivered as part of a team. Those crazy cutouts and rare rookie cards are generating a little more action on eBay these days, albeit likely more for the rediscovered scarcity thanks to the Royals’ World Series run than the player on the front.
Can you imagine what they’d be selling for if he had become a superstar?
Now, he’s a Hall of Famer and that rookie card will probably cost you at least $25 or $30 unless it’s a beater.
A lot of fans were skeptical when the Seattle Mariners signed a Japanese guy to play the outfield at the start of the 21st century. In a matter of months, they were either talking about Albert Pujols or Ichiro. And he’s still playing.
If someone had told you after the Giants won the 2010 World Series title that they’d win a third by 2014 and asked who you thought their ace would be, you surely would have said…Tim Lincecum.
I remember hoarding Dave Winfield cards in the late 1980s and early 90s as he quietly crept closer to 3,000 hits. No one seemed to be noticing and yet Winfield was rarely injured and so consistently good that 3,000—and a ticket to Cooperstown—seemed like a lock. He was a very nice player and the card had some value but you could scoop them up pretty easily. Then he got really close to 3,000 and suddenly everyone wanted them. The Beckett monthly price guide validated a rare occasion when I was correct.
It can work both ways, though.
For over 20 years, it was cool to say you loved O.J. Simpson football cards. He was Walter Payton before Walter Payton. Barry Sanders before Barry Sanders. Then came that bizarre 72 hours in southern California 20 years ago. Now, your only hope to sell an O.J. card is to find someone working on a set who needs one.
Adrian Peterson rookie cards looked primed for even more growth as the 2014 season got underway. Even on a non-contender, his brilliance was undeniable. More records were sure to fall and Canton would most certainly be calling when it was over. Sitting on a stack of autographed AP cards you paid $300 each for? Good luck.
A couple of weeks ago, Cardinals fans and collectors were anxiously awaiting next season to see if Oscar Taveras was ready to break out. Sadly, we’ll never know.
Sometimes the fickle nature of the market can be a rollercoaster.
Sammy Sosa was a common for several years– until he began hitting home runs for the Cubs. His 1990 Leaf rookie cards were soaring. Then came the inglorious end and the Congressional hearing and now Sammy teeters on the edge of the common box again. If you bought in at the apex of the home run explosion later in the decade and you chose Sammy, Bonds, McGwire and a 500 homer, 3,000 hit guy named Palmeiro, you have learned the lesson that cards do indeed mirror real life.