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Five Underrated Baseball Rookie Cards

There are so many criteria one could use to call a baseball card underrated. A baseball card’s merit has a lot to do with the player’s popularity. But, a teammate could have overshadowed the player on the card. Some play in small markets and don’t get national attention. The card might not be as popular because they printed too many cards that year, or the card isn’t particularly good looking. The bottom line is that under-appreciation comes from a multitude of variables.

The five examples below are of some post-war cards that I find underrated in the current market. The players all had immensely successful MLB carers, but for some reason, I feel their cards don’t get the attention they deserve.

Sometimes collectors have a bias and see value where others don’t. Maybe growing up, my dad mentioned some of these players more than others, so they stand out a bit more to me.

Another thing to note is I’m not saying these cards are inexpensive. Some are still quite expensive in high-grade or depending on what your budget is. I’m just saying these are cards that don’t get a lot of attention.

1949 Bowman Gil Hodges #100

1949 Bowman Gil Hodges #100

As I said, underrated doesn’t mean inexpensive. The 1949 Bowman Gil Hodges #100 sells for between $600-$700 in PSA 8 grade. Perhaps the controversy surrounding and not making it into the Baseball Hall of Fame has a lot to do with it. Regardless, I don’t hear much chatter about this card. For an 8-time All-star and three-time World Series champion (2x as a player, once as a manager) who put up 370 career home runs along with 650 wins as a professional manager, I would have expected more people to collect Gil Hodges cards. In December 2020, he will be eligible for a hall of fame vote again, if he makes it expect this card to skyrocket in cost and appreciation.

1969 Topps Rollie Fingers #597

1969 Topps Rollie Fingers #597

Major League pitchers don’t seem to have equal popularity as position players. Their rookie cards follow suit. Fingers was a pioneer in professional relief pitching and finished his career with 114 wins and 341 saves while being a 7x All-Star, 3x World Series Champion, and winning the AL MVP and CY Young in 1981. The 1969 Topps Rollie Fingers rookie card, in PSA 8, sells for around $100. In this case, it could be that 1969 Topps isn’t one of the more popular sets of the era, or that the card features three players on the front. Additionally, Reggie Jackson was his teammate and had a rookie card in the same set.

1975 Topps Jim Rice #616 

1975 Topps Jim Rice #616

Jim Rice is another Hall of Famer who had an excellent statistical career. Putting up 382 home runs, and winning the AL MVP in 1978. He played his entire career for the Boston Red Sox, which should help his popularity. Other Boston greats may have overshadowed Jim Rice though. The popularity of the 1975 Topps set (Robin Yount & George Brett) and the high population report numbers may also be having an impact on this card.

1981 Donruss Tim Raines #538

1981 Donruss Tim Raines #538

The 1981 Donruss set is not iconic or particularly eye appealing. But unlike his Topps rookie counterpart, at least Tim Raines has the card to himself in the Donruss set. Raines is also a Hall of Famer who put up impressive numbers for a few teams. And it could be the fact that he played for seven teams that hold Tim Raines cards back from iconic status, in addition to Donruss playing second fiddle to Topps. But this card is under $100 in PSA 10, and under $10 for a PSA 8. The Topps variant sells for over $300 in PSA 10, and it’s a three-player card.

1984 Donruss Joe Carter #41

1984 Donruss Joe Carter #41

Joe Carter helped bring the Toronto Blue Jays their first World Series title while also smacking almost 400 home runs. Additionally, he was a 5x All-Star. Joe Carter entered the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003. However, other superstars of the 1980s like Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Ryne Sandberg, Wade Boggs, Don Mattingly, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire overshadow his cards.

Wrap Up

The real value in collecting is in the eye of the beholder; what is iconic to one person may be irrelevant to another. The PSA Set Registry also drives monetary value and additional demand for specific cards. Regardless, I think these five cards deserve a bit more attention.

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