Joe Posnanski is a “write of sports and other nonsense.” His book, The Baseball 100, is a New York Times Bestseller, and his newsletter “JoeBlogs” on Substack has a huge following. Well, back in the beginning of the year, he published his list of “Baseball’s Most Underrated Players Ever,” so I thought I would look at the ten players he wrote about to see if their rookie cards are underrated too.
Now, the problem is, I don’t really know what an underrated or overrated card is. We don’t have metrics like WAR or MVP awards for comparison in the hobby. I guess the best “metric” we have are our price guides. So, I’ll use PSA’s online Price Guide for PSA 8 graded cards as a starting point in discussing these collectibles for some context.
1961 Topps #506 Willie Davis
PSA lists Willie Davis’ rookie card, in Nm-Mt 8 condition, at $60, which is dwarfed by the list prices of HoF rookies from the same set. Ron Santo’s card is $350, Billy Williams’s rookie card is priced at $575, and Juan Marshal’s short-printed rookie is $775. However, a common PSA 8 for cards in series 447-522 is $25, so Willie Davis’ rookie is 2.4x a base card, which is something.
1970 Topps #621 Braves Rookies (Darrell Evans)
PSA prices 1970 Topps PSA 8 commons at $15, and the Evans rookie is only one dollar above that, which seems pretty silly for a player with 414 career homers and a World Series ring. Now, I also should mention that the 1970 Topps set isn’t one of the more popular post-war baseball sets, someone may need to check me, but I don’t think there is a single Hall of Fame rookie in the set.
1978 Topps #704 Rookie 2nd Basemen (Lou Whitaker)
PSA lists Whitaker’s rookie card for $30, which is way more than the $2 it prices commons. Though, I’m not sure you could actually pick up an Nm-Mt slab of any common for just two bucks. You can’t compare the Whitaker card to the monster rookie with both Molitor and Trammel on it (PSA lists that one at $233) or Eddie Murrays ($215). But 15x above a common is significant.
1995 Bowman #4 Bobby Abreu
I can barely discuss a vintage card being overrated or underrated, that’s even tougher for modern cards, and PSA doesn’t list Abreu’s card online in its 1995 Bowman price guide, just those of Andruw Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Derek Jeter, and Scott Rolen. In October 2022, a PSA 8 Abreu sold for $2.25 on eBay, and at the time, I think it was $50 to grade a card.
1973 Topps #31 Buddy Bell
The 1973 Topps baseball set has the monster rookie of Mike Schmidt and another for Goose Gossage ($140 in PSA 8). PSA considers Bell’s rookie a common ($10), which is a little silly when recent sales show the card has been moving for between $30 and $50. When I was building a graded set, this card was pretty tough to track down. So while PSA may not value the card, set builders do.
1971 Topps #193 Bob Grich
PSA definitely values the 1971 Topps Bob Grich card. They list it for $100 in PSA condition, while commons are priced at just $12. The set is condition sensitive, and some cards have skewed populations, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for Grich. So I would say people appreciate his rookie card. Though not as much as the HoF rookie cards of Ted Simmons ($600) or Blyleven ($625).
1991 Bowman #565 Kenny Lofton
PSA only shares two cards in its online price guide for the 1991 Bowman sets (HoF rookies of Jim Thome and Chipper Jones). However, in PSA 8 condition, both are listed at less than grading fees, and the reality is that at those grades, Lofton’s sells for similar prices as the HoFers. Junk wax era cards, what can you say?
1973 Topps #614 Rookie Outfielders (Dwight Evans)
The Evans rookie is a little different than Bell’s in the 1973 set since it’s a high number. The Dwight Evans card is listed for $50 but tends to sell for well over $150; I can’t say how much of that is from his career accolades or from being a high number in a popular set.
1952 Topps #407 Eddie Mathews
Eddie Mathews’s 1952 Topps rookie is one of the Top 200 sports cards in the hobby; it’s an absolute monster card. And if you’re reading this blog, you probably can’t afford a PSA 8 copy!
1975 Topps #623 Rookie Infielders (Keith Hernandez)
The 1975 Topps set is insanely popular, but PSA prices PSA 8 commons (not minis) at just $5. But, the Hernandez rookie is priced at $160, not quite as much as the HoF rookie of Gary Carter ($200) or Jim Rice ($180), but close! Obviously, the Brett and Yount cards are more, but 32x the cost of a common for Hernandez is substantial.
When looking at these ten cards, the two that stand out to me are Bob Grich and Hernandez. I knew the Mathews was a huge card going into writing this, but I was surprised to see those two cards so far above commons in their sets. What do you think? Are any of these rookie cards underrated or overrated? Let me know in the comments or over on Twitter, and don’t forget to check out my newsletter on Substack, and happy collecting!