Rod Carew, His Rookie Card, and Identical 1982 Fleer and Topps Cards

Rod Carew is one of those players who doesn’t seem as popular as perhaps they should be in the hobby, given his outstanding career accomplishments. Maybe it’s because he started his career playing for a smaller market team (Minnesota Twins) from 1967-1978 before wrapping up his Hall of Fame career with the California Angles from 1979-1985, or because he wasn’t a power hitter. But over that time, he made 19 straight All-Star games, was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1967, and won the AL MVP award in 1977 while being a 7x AL batting champion. He finished his career was a .328 batting average, 3053 hits, 1424 runs scored, and 353 stolen bases. In giving Rod Carew some extra exposure, I’ll discuss his 1967 Topps rookie card and the entertaining identical photos that popped up on his Fleer and Topps cards in 1982.

The 1967 Topps #569 AL Rookie Stars card of Rod Carew and Hank Allen is an important card in a notoriously popular post-war set. It’s a simple design but rarely found in high grades because of poor centering, print defects, and visible wear on the green border backs. There is also only a single PSA 10 example amongst the over 3000 examples submitted to PSA for grading. Most commonly, the card comes back as a PSA 6 or 7. Most recently, the PSA 10 example sold for $186k in February 2021 at Heritage Auctions. 

1967 Topps #569 Carew/Allen – Young Collection PSA 10

Young had the card re-slabbed when it came into his collection, as PSA shares the following image on their site for the card. 

1967 Topps #569 Carew/Allen – PSA 10

The print dots next to Rod Carew’s name on the front are identical, and there is only a single PSA 10 in the population report, so these are the same card. Unfortunately, the dots take away from the card a bit to me; we should all have high expectations for a Gem Mint 10 vintage card. Nevertheless, it still presents very well.

While Carew’s rookie card is extremely popular, iconic, and important in the hobby, I learned a more surprising factoid about Carew’s cards while flipping through an old copy of Baseball Cards Magazine from the Spring of 1982.

Baseball Cards Magazine – Spring 1982

The Hobby News section shared a short write-up about how a photo showing Carew fielding a ground ball appears on both Carew’s 1982 Fleer #455 card and his 1982 Topps #501 In Action card. 

Baseball Card Magazine – Hobby News – Spring 1982

The article explains that officials at both companies “admit they bought duplicate photos from the same freelance photographer.” They explain that this was a first in the modern era. However, in examining the cards and validating the last few sentences in the article, the Topps card had superior production quality with nearly perfect color compared to the Fleer card with a greenish/dark tint.

1982 Topps #501 Rod Carew In Action
1982 Fleer #455 Rod Carew

if you’re interested in getting your hands on either of the cards, they’re available and relatively inexpensive. eBay has a nice PSA 9 listed for $25 and a pair of PSA 10s for $75 and $50. There are a pair of PSA 10 1982 Topps In Action Carew cards on eBay, too, for $129 and $63; you can snag an 8 for just $21 as a Buy It Now.

Whether you try to get your hands on a high-grade Carew rookie card, his identical 1982 cards, or something in between, adding a card of the player with the second most AL batting titles (next to Ty Cobb) seems like a good bet in developing a well-rounded vintage baseball collection; happy collecting!

PS: as a fun fact, Carew won the 1972 American League batting title without hitting a single home run. 

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