A lot of collectors may already know that the 1969 Topps #653 Aurelio Rodriguez baseball card doesn’t actually show a picture of Aurelio Rodriguez; it’s a picture of California Angels batboy Leonard Garcia from 1968. There have been some great articles written about the card, which I’ll summarize, but I want to highlight a recent $13800 sale of the lone PSA 10-graded example of the 1969 “error” card.
But first, if you don’t know the history of the card, Keith Olbermann’s blog from February 2011 summarizes the situation really well. Essentially, the MLBPA prevented players from posing for Topps, so Topps had to use old photographs for their 1969 Topps set. In some cases, they used old, hatless photos; in others, they used their minor-league inventory. But for a few players, including Rodriguez, Topps purchased images from Chicago photographer George Brace who seems to have made the Garcia blunder.
Now, why did an uncorrected error card sell for $13800? Rodriguez played 17 seasons of Major League Baseball, finishing his career with a .237 batting average, 124 home runs, and 648 RBIs. The original A-Rod was a great defensive player who only won a single Gold Glove award because of this other fellow named Brooks Robinson. So while Rodriguez was a solid pro, those numbers probably don’t scream “5-figure” baseball card to most people.
At the time of the sale, some hobbyists implied that the card sold for so much because of the photo mix-up, which increased interest in the card, driving up the price. While the uniqueness of this card may drive some interest at lower grades, what made this sale so big is a lot simpler. While PSA has graded 274 examples of the 1969 Topps #653 Aurelio Rodriguez baseball card, the one sold by Heritage is the only Gem Mint 10 example. And 24 sets on the PSA Set Registry are 100% complete with a weighted GPA over 8.0, along with a few other nearly complete high-end sets.
The hobby lesson is to never underestimate the power of the Set Registry in driving up the price of rare high-grade commons.
Don’t forget to check out The Post War Cards Newsletter for more hobby history like this. Happy collecting!”