Back in 2011, at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago, IL, Topps held an auction exclusively for VIP ticket holders on Wednesday, August 3, at 2:30 PM. It featured “10 magnificent TOPPS items direct from the Vault!” In this article, I’ll share the paragraphs describing the lots exactly as Topps advertised them on the National’s website leading into the show.
1957-58 Topps Basketball Card Bill Russell Cancelled Check
Direct from Topps legendary vault, comes Hall of Famer Bill Russell’s very first Topps basketball card cancelled paycheck. Mr. Russell was the key card in the celebrated 1957-1958 Topps basketball card set. The 1957-58 Topps basketball card set was the first basketball card set issued by Topps and is the most important of the three major basketball sets issued prior to 1969 (the other two are Bowman’s 1948 set and Fleer’s 1961 set). The reverse is endorsed by Mr. Russell, in bold black ink. Overall condition is very-good-plus. PSA/DNA Certified Authentic. A Topps Vault certificate of authenticity accompanies this one-of-a-kind piece of Topps hoops history.
1968 Topps Final Baseball Card Color Transparency – 1968 Nolan Ryan Rookie Card
For each baseball card created by Topps, there exists one color transparency used as the original artwork from which the proof sheets were made. Offered here is a unique opportunity to own the only artwork used to create the 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan Rookie Card. This original color transparency was trimmed down in the production process in order to fit into the duel-player Topps Rookie Card design. Nolan Ryan has long been regarded as one of the most popular and sought after names in the hobby which makes this transparency one of the most unique items a card collector could possess. Transparency measures approx. 1 1/4″ X 1 1/2″ in size and is in its original state. The original hand-inscribed Topps file envelope is included. Lot is accompanied by a Topps Vault certificate of authenticity.
The bidding on this item was reported as fierce and ended at $3500. The Ryan Transparency has been listed for sale on eBay for a long time, apparently by the original buyer, for $89995. Here are a few more items they have shared for the item.
1977 Topps Uncut Proof Sheet with Rare Reggie Jackson Orioles Error Card
Every once in a while, a rather significant Topps error card will find its way to auction. This is one of those times. This incredible uncut proof sheet contains several error cards, most noteworthy, the 1977 Topps Reggie Jackson Orioles card. Printed early in the production process, this proof sheet contains Mr. October donning his 1976 Baltimore Orioles uniform. In subsequent proof printings, Mr. Jackson was outfitted in Yankees pinstripes. Barely a handful of these Reggie error cards has ever surfaced making it one of the most important Topps boo-boos in history. Other slips include Don Baylor in an A’s uniform, Dave Duncan (Orioles), Steve Stone (Cubs), Wayne Garland (Orioles), Gene Tenace (A’s), Pat Kelly (White Sox), Gary Matthews (Giants) and Rollie Fingers (A’s). Proof sheets are made by the engraver, usually from the final set of separations. Proofs show what the product will look like when it is printed. Topps staffers use them to check color and registration. Proofreaders will also check them for content. This extraordinary find is professionally matted and framed and is accompanied by a Topps Vault certificate of authenticity.
These days, just the Oriole’s Jackson cards have sold for almost $60k, so while the $10k price for this sheet was considered a lot at the time, in retrospect, it was a steal! I highlighted the card in an article titled, Good Luck Finding These 3 Vintage Sports Cards.
1987 Topps/Nestles Baseball Card Set – Mickey Mantle Signed Agreement
The 33-card 1987 Nestle set features players from the golden era as well as the games modern era. The biggest of these baseball greats were the late Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth. The 1987 Nestle set was produced in conjunction with Topps and was offered inside specially marked six-packs of select Nestle candy bars. In order to include retired players in the set, Topps entered into an agreement with each individual athlete or the estate. Offered here is the original hand-signed agreement between Topps and Mickey Mantle himself. Original 8 1/2″ X 11″ archival document comes professionally matted and framed and features a bold blue ink signature. Lot is accompanied by a Topps Vault certificate of authenticity.
Here’s an example of a hand-cut Mantle 1987 Nestle set.
1979-80 Topps Hockey Uncut Proof Sheet – Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card
Wayne Gretzky is regarded as the greatest hockey player ever and his 1979-1980 Topps Rookie Card is one of the pre-eminent trading cards ever printed. Featured here is a blank back production sheet containing the “Great One’s” very first bubble gum card. Original proof sheet is professionally matted and framed (26″ X 32-1/2″) and overall is in near-mint condition. Proof sheets are made by the engraver, usually from the final set of separations. Proofs show what the product will look like when it is printed. Topps staffers use them to check color and registration. Proofreaders will also check them for content. Lot is accompanied by a Topps Vault certificate of authenticity.
While not a proof sheet, there is a 1979 Topps Hockey sheet with the Gretzky rookie card listed on eBay right now for $5k.
1980 Topps/Pepsi Unissued Two-sided Final Uncut Sheet
The unique 1980 Topps-produced Pepsi baseball card set features many of the era”s greatest diamond stars. In fact, half of the ballplayers incorporated into this 22-card set are enshrined in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. This prized Topps relic comes professionally matted and framed (12 3/4″ X 33″) and is in tip-top condition. The reverse side of the sheet is also viewable. Some of the more notable subjects include; Rod Carew, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Reggie Jackson, George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Jim Palmer, Dave Winfield and Steve Carlton. This is the first and only time this seldom-seen and un-catalogued Topps baseball product will be offered in uncut sheet form. Lot is accompanied by a Topps Vault certificate of authenticity.
I wrote a feature about the 1980 Topps Pepsi cards here on the blog the other day.
1968 Topps Uncut Proof Sheet Nolan Ryan Rookie Card
Rare 1968 Topps uncut 44-card uncut blank-back proof sheet. Direct from the Topps Vault archives, this blank back proof sheet measures 21″ X 28″ and overall, is in excellent-plus condition. What makes this cherished Topps production item so special is that it is not crafted from the usual cardboard stock but rather a vinyl-like material. Proof sheets are made by the engraver, usually from the final set of separations. Proofs show what the product will look like when it is printed. Topps staffers use them to check color and registration. Proofreaders will also check them for content. The principal card featured on this highly sought-after piece is the Nolan Ryan Rookie Card. Also included are the 1968 Topps cards of Hank Aaron, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan and the late Elston Howard among others. For instant viewing pleasure, this lot is professionally matted and framed. A Topps Vault certificate of authenticity is included. *This lot will be framed.”
Memory Lane Inc sold a sheet matching this description in their Spring 2013 auction for $1583. REA has also sold blank-backed vinyl-like sheets, but unframed in a few past auctions; one sold for $1778 in the fall of 2013, and another sold for $2160 in the spring of 2017.
1957 Topps Basketball Card Set – Bill Russell Signed Agreement
Direct from Topps’ legendary vault, this auction lot features Bill Russell’s Rookie basketball card contract. The 1957-1958 Topps basketball card set was the very first basketball card set issued by Topps and remains today the greatest of all Topps basketball card sets. Original hand-signed document measures 8 1/2″ X 11″ in size and overall, is in near-excellent condition. Contract is signed and dated by Mr. Russell as well as Topps’ Sy Berger. This extraordinary slice of Topps history is professionally matted and framed for your immediate viewing pleasure. A Topps Vault certificate of authenticity accompanies this Topps archival relic.
1974 Topps Test Issue The Six Million Dollar Man Unopened Box
1974 Topps “The Six Million Dollar Man” Full 36-Count Wax Pack Box. This seldom-seen Test Issue wax pack full box originates directly from the Topps Vault archives. The plain white Test box contains 36 firmly sealed packs. Each pack contains seven cards and a slab of bubble gum. The original plain white box is in top-flight condition. Topps failed to get the U.S. rights to this 1970’s pop culture television series. After its limited test run, a small quantity of the remaining Test boxes was sent to the UK for distribution. This rare pack box was unearthed during a recent visit to the Topps warehouse and now becomes one of only a handful of Topps Six Million Dollar Man full wax pack boxes ever offered for sale. A rare find indeed! A certificate of authenticity accompanies this spectacular auction lot.
I’ve seen a few GAI-graded packs sell for a little over $200 recently, and a few PSA-graded packs are listed for sale on eBay right now. One of them has the words “Topps Vault Collection” written on the flip and is listed for $1429.
1985 Topps Garbage Pail Kids Series One Uncut Sheet
With its madcap gross-out humor, Topps Garbage Pail Kids stickers took the country by storm in 1985. Kids were plastering the hip gross stickers everywhere. Seldom offered, this stunning 132-sticker full sheet measures a stout 28 1/2″ X 43″ and overall, is in excellent-plus-plus condition. Sheet shows only the usual wear associated with uncut sticker-stock sheets of this size including very-very-very mild surface and edge wear. This colossal collectible is suitable for framing and much, much more! Each of the 132 finished stickers is scored. Sheet contains two complete “B” Series’ and one complete “A” series sticker sets, plus a few doubles. Sheet code is 4-494-05-01-5. A Topps Vault certificate of authenticity accompanies this fabulous pop-culture collectible.
The only item I don’t have an original photo of is this Garbage Pail Kids sheet. But a sheet with the same serial number is listed on eBay today for $5400.
Also, the Six Million Dollar Man box and the Garage Pail Kids Uncut Sheet were announced as the final two auction items a few weeks after the first eight items were.
While this auction didn’t have the breadth of the Topps Vault Guernsey’s auction from 1989 (much more about this in future blog articles), the depth of the auction was incredible. Happy collecting!
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