Five Undervalued, Vintage Baseball Cards Picked By A Pro – Forbes

Photo by Topps, Inc.

1968 Topps Johnny Bench

These days a 1909 Honus Wagner tobacco card in good condition will set you back about $690,000. A near mint 1952 Topps can be yours for about $145,000. Of course, very few collectors or investors are players at these prices.

So I asked Jonathan Celona, co-owner of the Boston-based Champions Sports Cards and Collectibles, to recommend five fun and affordable cards that are sometimes overlooked but have plenty of upside potential.  All cost well below $700 in near mint condition (PSA and SGC 7 on a scale of one to ten), with the exception of the 1950 Jackie Robinson.

I first featured Celona in a 2014 post with his tips for buying ungraded baseball cards. Since then I’ve watched him in action at dozens of shows, buying, selling and, trading.

His specialty is high-end, well-centered post-war Hall of Famers cards graded by SGC. But by no means should you pass up opportunities to buy PSA cards in holders or raw cards if you feel confident about your own grading skills.

Celona is buying as many of these cards as he can for the right price. “I believe that they can appreciate by as much as 30-50 percent over the next three years,” he told me. “Look what happened in the boom. The big names sky rocketed, and then the second-tier type of Hall of Famers jumped, too. Plus set builders need them!”

As always, avoid spending your grocery money when it comes to alternative investments like baseball cards.

For this post I am highlighting the PSA CardFacts player profiles, the average price charted by Vintage Card Prices (averaging PSA and SGC), and Celona’s thoughts about scarcity and condition.

*1968 Johnny Bench Topps Rookie. ($231)

PSA: “This is the rookie card of whom many consider to be the greatest catcher in baseball history. Captain of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, Johnny Bench, who possessed a rocket arm and a lethal bat, offered a rare combination of stellar offense and defense from the catcher position.”

Celona: “Tough to find centered front and back. Chipping on the borders is hard to see, too.” 

Photo by Topps, Inc.

1963 Topps Willie Stargell

*1963 Willie Stargell Topps Rookie. ($330)

PSA: “Willie became the Pirates leader after the untimely death of teammate and Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente. Willie was one of the premier home runs hitters of his era, blasting 475 tape-measure shots that reached heights and distances and remain legendary.”

Celona: “Another tough one to find centered. The card has snow [a flurry of white print] and bold color is uncommon.”

Photo by Topps, Inc.

1960 Topps Willie McCovey

*1960 Willie McCovey Topps Rookie. ($274)

PSA: “He and fellow Hall of Famer Willie Mays made up one of the most lethal offensive one-two punches the NL had during the 1950s and ‘60s, blasting 1,181 home runs, collectively, in their illustrious careers. The six-time All-Star selection retired after posting a career .270 batting average with 2,211 hits, 1,229 runs scored, 521 home runs and 1,555 RBI.”

Celona: “This card usually has a lot of snow and print dots.”

Photo by Topps, Inc

1959 Topps Bob Gibson

*1959 Bob Gibson Topps Rookie. $670

PSA: “It was simple …a batter should not disrespect Mr. Gibson. If the batter chose to show up the nasty right-hander, the next pitch would be near his ear. For right-handed batters, Bob Gibson was a nightmare. With a devastating slider, Gibson won 20 or more games in seven different seasons (twice winning 19 games) with two Cy Young Awards (1968 and 1970) and one NL MVP (1968) to his credit.”

Celona: “Typical centering problems and the light pink background often has print marks.”

Photo courtesy of Vintage Card Prices

1950 Bowman Jackie Robinson

*1950 Jackie Robinson Bowman Third-Year Card. ($1,790)

PSA: “[He] will forever be remembered for breaking the color barrier as the first black player in the modern era to play in Major League Baseball since the 1880s. Robinson endured unthinkable abuse from fans and occasionally players, but carried himself with dignity and poise as he helped the Dodgers to six National League pennants and the 1955 World Series championship.”

Celona: “This card is one my favorites. It’s the only one of his mainstream cards where he’s batting. And I like the size and illustration. How many do you see? You can never find it centered. It’s so small and fragile, and it suffers from print lines.”

Photo by David Seideman

Former football star and current sports card dealer Evan Mathis is flanked by Celona and his partner Steve Gadziala at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago.


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