His career was tragically cut short but you can find his baseball cards from the era of Topps vs. Bowman to “all 660 cards in one series.” Roberto Clemente remains among the most popular players in history and cards from his playing days are big sellers, especially those that look as sharp as the day they came out of the pack or vending box. But which Clemente cards are the most challenging to find in high-grade?
Just as we’ve done with Mickey Mantle and a few other icons, we decided to take a deep dive into the population of NM/MT, MT and GEM MINT graded examples compared to the overall graded population as a whole. To keep it simple, we focused only on PSA graded base cards and eliminate qualifiers.
The complete chart listing the percentage of cards grading 8, 8.5, 9 or 10 is below (only a small number of 10s exist). First, though, a few notes:
- There’s no doubt Clemente’s 1955 Topps rookie card is the toughest of any of his cards at the top level. PSA has graded only 138 of the 4, 368 unqualified submissions between 8 and 10 (3.2%). Only 11 have been rated 9 and just one has reached 10. Little wonder why it’s a bidding war on the rare occasion when one of those dozen hits the market.
- Clemente’s second year card is a beauty and the gray back version is a true rarity in high-grade. Only 163 have been graded by PSA with only 64 reaching the highest levels (5.5%). Overall, ’56 is the second toughest Clemente in high grade (7.4%).
- Collectors have submitted a lot of 1959 and 1960 Clemente cards. In fact, those two years rank 1-2 overall with over 9,000 on the books.
- Submission levels of Clemente cards are somewhat surprisingly low during parts of the 1960s. Only 2,210 1964 Topps cards have been sent in for grading and only 2,241 of his 1966 Topps card. Five of the ten years in the decade show total submission levels below 3,000. Based on overall graded population and percentage (16.2) the ’66 seems like possibly his most underrated top end card.
- Like most vintage stars, Clemente’s 1962 Topps card is a pretty tough one to land at 8-10. The wood grain borders are pesky little devils. Just 9.3% of the 3,474 submissions have resulted in a NM/MT or better example. However, that’s still a significantly larger percentage than the ’62 Mantle where only 4.4% rate high.
- High grade 1972 Topps card Clementes are fairly plentiful, with 1,743 rating 8-10 (41.4% of all graded). That’s slightly better than his final card in the first series of 1973, issued a couple of months after his death.
Percentage of Roberto Clemente cards graded PSA 8-10 by year
|1956 Topps (gray, white)||5.5%/8.0%|
|1958 Topps (regular/yellow team variation)||6.0%/12.0%|