The variation is a partial diamond, and it may prove to be a gem for collectors.
Fans of the 1955 Topps set and those who collect Jackie Robinson have a new variation to chase. The variation itself is not new, but its discovery is quite recent.
The 1955 Topps card of Robinson, No. 50, shows a Dodgers logo inside a red diamond in the upper left-hand corner of the card. The variation shows a piece of the diamond cut off — envision third base missing, and you’ve got the picture. Now graded as a variation by SGC, the card is called the “Partial Diamond.”
“This has been right under our noses for 63 years,” said longtime California dealer and collector Rob Rosen, who found the variation eight months ago and recently sent three of the cards to SGC to be authenticated and graded. Two came back graded 5, while the third was a 1.5.
“It slaps you in the face,” said Earl Johnson, who runs several Facebook sports memorabilia sites. “How many times have you looked at the card?
“So many people that are so particular about details didn’t see it.”
Rosen, who lives in the San Diego area, was sitting on his couch one night in January, watching television and scrolling through eBay on his iPad. He noticed one seller had a 1955 Robinson for sale but it looked odd.
“I said ‘something looked weird’ about the card,” Rosen said. “I thought there was something missing.”
Rosen contacted the seller on eBay and asked if the left side of the diamond had been scratched off. When the seller insisted that it had not been tampered with, Rosen bought the card.
“When I got it I said, ‘Holy cow,’” Rosen said. “This might be a legitimate variation.”
Rosen kept quiet about his find and began scouring shows nationwide. The cards he bought were in the $195 to $200, and the most he paid for one was $250. The low-grade card was bought for $75. The prices were still competitive because Robinson is one of the key cards of the 1955 Topps set.
“I didn’t tell anyone because as soon as I found out it wasn’t scraped, I went into collector mode,” Rosen said.
At the 39th National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland the first week of August, Rosen said he “walked the whole floor” at the International Exposition Center for a week “and didn’t see one.”
At the National, Rosen spoke with Johnson, who used to be his contact person when the Ohio-based dealer worked as a customer service manager at SGC from 2011 to 2016.
“He approached me and said, ‘I’ve got something that’s pretty cool,’” Johnson said. “(The card) wasn’t cut off because of a bad border, it was a printing defect of some sort.”
Variations exist in the 1955 Topps set, but nothing of this magnitude. There are several variations of Frank Sullivan’s rookie card (No. 106), which have to do with the size and shape of the dot over the “i” in the facsimile autograph. There are four variations in the biography of Harry Elliott’s card (No. 137), and there are complete and incomplete statistics boxes for Jim Robertson (No. 177).
But the Robinson discovery was a stunner.
“It’s a very unique find,” Johnson said. “How everyone in the world missed it, I don’t know.
“I mean, we never even knew it existed until now.”
“It’s definitely more scarce than the original. This is not like the 1957 (Gene) Baker,” Rosen said, referring to Topps card No. 176 from ’57 that has the player’s name listed as “Eugenf W. Bakep” on the back, instead of “Eugene W. Baker.”
Rosen contacted SGC at the National and submitted the 1955 Robinson cards for grading after the convention ended.
Johnson credits SGC for taking the lead on grading of the card and recognizing the variation.
“We would have never done that in the past, going out front like that,” he said. “(SGC) made the right call on this.”
So now as collectors of the 1955 Topps set, master set builders and Jackie Robinson now scramble to find the variation (I checked in my 1955 binder and discovered that I own one), the big question will be value. It’s probably too early to tell, but the Partial Diamond is certain to be a coveted card. There are currently none available on eBay, but a few have been spotted among ’55 Robinson cards sold in the last three months.
“I’m sure it’s going to spike the value a tad,” Rosen said. “Potentially one should go to a major auction and that would be the gauge.
“But a mid-grade or ex-mint could be sold too, just to see what it would go for.”
“I’m not sure what the value change would be,” Johnson said. “But the chase for the high grades? There’s going to be a flurry.”