He’s arguably one of the best to ever play third base in the majors, dazzling fans with his great glove work but also providing historically significant run production at the plate. Mike Schmidt also has another distinction: the last of the important vintage high number rookie cards.
Schmidt’s 1973 Topps rookie card (#615) is one he humbly shares with Ron Cey and Dave Hilton but it was the young Phillie who became a Hall of Famer. Inducted in 1995, Schmidt spent his entire 18 year career in Philadelphia.
The Schmidt Story
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Schmidt was already getting noticed by baseball scouts during his high school career. But he elected to stay close to home to play at a four-year school. Schmidt earned All-American status at Ohio University and led the Bobcats to a College World Series. That was enough to give those scouts even more of a glimpse of what was to come.
After a terrific collegiate career, Schmidt was taken in the second round of the ’71 draft. He would make his major league debut by the end of 1972 when he belted the first of his 548 career home runs. He would be in the majors to stay when the 1973 season opened but Topps was cautious, waiting until the final series to include Schmidt, who was handed the starting job after the Phils traded Don Money to Milwaukee.
Schmidt captured ten Gold Gloves and was an All Star in 12 of his 18 big league seasons.
His rookie card marked the end of Topps’ tradition of releasing its wax boxes in series. As usual, the final series was often released at a time when youngsters were heading back to school and summertime pursuits like collecting baseball cards sometimes fell by the wayside, meaning fewer sales. The last series typically arrived about the same time as Topps’ football cards, which also drew eyes away from the baseball packs.
While 1973 high numbers (5th series) aren’t as difficult to find as others from sets in the same era, they’re often the ones missing from your favorite dealer’s stock. As a star and eventual Hall of Fame rookie in the last series, Schmidt’s card has always been the most valuable. While you can still own a mid-grade example for a fairly reasonable cost, prices for high quality examples have jumped in recent years.
Supply, Demand and Prices
PSA has graded only six as Gem Mint 10 and SGC has rated only one Schmidt rookie as a 98 (with only 29 graded SGC 96). A PSA 10 sold 2014 for a record price of $30,995 but that’s since been obliterated with one recent sale at $234,000. Interestingly, the 1973 O-Pee-Chee Schmidt rookie population, while much lower than Topps, does include five 10s.
PSA has rated 250 Schmidt rookies as Mint 9–not a huge number by any measure and prices reflect that. There are fewer than four dozen OPC Schmidts graded 9 by PSA but prices lag well behind the Topps version. When they are available at auction, a mint Schmidt rookie from the Canadian issue can still be had for under $3,500. A PSA 10 sold for $18,000 in 2020.
Those Topps Schmidt rookies in the NM/MT 8 grade are more common than the those in the elite grades, of course, but prices are up quite a bit from where they’d been just a couple of years ago. NM 7 copies can still be had for $600-$700 which looks like a comparative bargain.