It’s got some rough edges, fuzzy corners, some light surface snow, and a curved-but-not-awful corner crease — but it’s got some character and it’s mine.
And it’s also signed by Rickey Henderson.
It’s a copy of his 1980 Topps Rookie Card and it’s also a recent pickup from a major autograph dealer. It’s also a story that has a few pieces that this collector thought made it interesting enough to present right here.
Piece No. 1? Its cost. Steiner Sports recently teased some new arrivals on its website and Henderson was one of them. I searched his name and did a double-take when I saw this card. It was among several others from the 1980s that had been inked by MLB’s career stolen bases leader and member of the Hall of Fame.
His iconic — and pricey — Rookie Card was alongside Topps cards from 1981 to 1988 — a run of Rickeys that’s impressive but not expensive save for that debut. Also among them? Fleer cards from 1981 and 1983 and his 1983 Donruss Diamond King. They can all be had for less than the price of a typical pack these days but that RC will cost you more like a box if you can find it in decent shape. But when they’re all signed? Via Steiner they’re all the same price — and that’s why I was hooked. I had a sale code so I got it for less than its posted price of $99.99, but I felt that was a bargain compared to the others. Not all buyback autos are the same — this one is far, far better.
I knew the condition of the card could be risky since it’s one often found in rough shape and not one that’s anywhere near as plentiful as the others up for grabs, but the centering of the card (its presented image is at right — click for a closer look) was decent and the autograph was completely on the card — not always the case with Henderson and his trailing last name squiggles. I also was assuming that the card shown was the one that I would receive. Once my card arrived — packed loose between cardboard along with a Steiner authenticity “credit card” inside a sealed photo/magazine bag inside a photo mailer (something Steiner should work on as that’s risky for shipping) — I was glad to see that it was indeed the same card. This particular card wasn’t as crisp as presented in the teaser photo but it wasn’t an overall bummer, either. I knew it wouldn’t be perfect based on the preview image where you could see the corner crease, but the reality is that this card is one that’s routinely found in lesser condition than this and the autograph looks good. (Throw it in a PSA slab and people have asking prices of upwards of $300 — and part of me had wished I had asked Steiner to put it in one of its slabs but I’ll get it in one of some type eventually.)
Piece No. 2 … how many were signed? I’ve purchased other autographs from Steiner before, but the hologram on the back and its code got me wondering about what it might mean when it comes to cardboard. That’s where I did a little homework and got another surprise. Its code included info on when the card was signed — March 10, 2017, to be precise — and by doing some cross-checking of numbers I was able to estimate how many of this particular card was signed during the session.
It turns out there weren’t many.
The cards were sorted for their signing and their entry into the database with his 1981 Topps autos totaling about the first 10 cards and others in about the same volume up to around 25 copies for some years. But when it came to mine? It appears that just three copies of the card were signed during this session. Yes, there are other signed RCs out there — this just affirmed to me that this was a rare one for Steiner … at least this time.
After doing the research I was tempted to buy another one immediately as it was still available on the site. (Why? Why not?) Realistically, I was wondering about condition — maybe there would is a hidden gem with the next card? (You know, an even better bargain.) But then part of me considered that there may be a reason this particular card was scanned.
A week or so after my card arrived and while writing this piece, I did another check of the inventory and the card was still there with the same price as the others.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have another one in my online cart right now.
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