Monday, June 21, 2010

Cardboard appreciation: 1982 Topps Traded Cal Ripken

(Hey! It's the first day of summer! I have a few summer-like posts on the horizon. Come to think of it, all of my posts are summer-like, seeing as they focus on baseball. I like that. Time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 70th in a series):

For less than a week, the Stephen Strasburg 2010 Bowman purple refractor was one of the most valuable cards in my collection.

It isn't any longer. I mailed it off this afternoon. I do admit that I did it with a hint of sadness. It was nice to have something that cool in my possession, even though I knew almost the whole way that I would give it up soon.

It's a different feeling for me because I don't have a lot of cards that would be considered extremely valuable. As a collector of modest means, I have a few "jewels," but nothing that is terribly difficult to acquire. All of my high-priced cards were obtained either through finding a deal somewhere or through sheer luck. I've never thrown a ton of money at a single card.

Strasburg is an example of that. So is the '82 Traded Cal Ripken card.

The Ripken card has consistently been my collection's most expensive card -- in terms of the dreaded book value -- almost since the day I acquired it. Back when Topps first issued its traded sets, you could not find them in stores. You had to send away for the entire set, which is what I did with the 1982 Traded set.

The Traded sets were extremely exciting back then. A novelty. Terrific fun. I was very disappointed in the fact that I didn't get to send away for the first one in 1981 -- I'm not sure why. I probably couldn't afford it.

When the '82 set became available, I immediately shipped off my 15 bucks, and the Traded set arrived in a tidy, dark blue box. Already, Ripken was one of the more coveted players in the set even though he hadn't yet put up the numbers that would lead him to the Hall of Fame.

That Ripken card has been carefully preserved all these years. Back at the height of my book value obsession, I would compile a list of my more valued cards (you should have seen the prices in 1992), and update them yearly. Ripken always sat on the top.

But now it's time for another card to join Ripken, or at least reside in the same ballpark.

The Strasburg card has brought me enough cash that I can actually think about some of the cards that I figured were unattainable in my current state.

There are several ways that I could go, but I'm thinking of finally landing one of the mega Dodger cards of the 1956 Topps set. That would be either Jackie Robinson or Sandy Koufax.

It's about bleeping time that I got a card of Robinson during his playing career. This might be the opportunity.

But I'm also weighing a several other options. Here they are:

1. Purchasing more than one Koufax card. That would mean picking up 2 or 3 from the 1960s.

2. Putting another dent in my 1971 Topps wants. Not a lot of cards to go. But even with the Strasburg cash, I couldn't fully complete the set.

3. Finishing off a few long-standing wants. In one, fell swoop, I could wrap up the 1976 Topps set, grab the 1992 Bowman Piazza, the 1981 Traded Valenzuela and a few others.

All of these sound tempting, particularly the Robinson option and the last option.

I've been known to take suggestions periodically, so what would you do? And, no, giving you the Ripken card is not an option.


  1. Ripken is probably the number one rookie card between the 1969 Jackson and the Bowman 2001 Pujlos.

    Finish off the 1976 set

  2. Robinson. In the best condition you afford.

  3. Option 3 is the one I would go with. I would rather finish multiple items in one fell swoop. But like you, option 1 is very tempting.

  4. I'd go for the '56 Robinson. Whenever you look at it, that one card will remind you of your good fortune with the Strasburg sale.

  5. The best Robinson card you can afford. There are few players that transcend the game. Jackie Robinson is one of them.

  6. lemme see, option one, Sandy Freakin Koufax, or option three, Mike Piazza?????????

    dude, really? is this even close?

    Koufax. end of story.

  7. If Piazza played on the Braves you wouldn't be saying that.

  8. my rule of thumb is to usually spend half on something frivolous (a box or packs or something) and the rest on something that you really need and wouldn't necessarily otherwise purchase like the 1971s or Koufax or something.

  9. I'd go for Jackie Robinson since its probably older and harder to get in good condition.

  10. I'm normally a "hit a few wants at once" guy, but paulsrandomstuff convinced me here. '56 Robinson for me too.

  11. I have to say go for Jackie. Big card money deserves a big card in return. Sure, you can get a bunch of smaller things and it'd be fun to swim in them (metaphorically speaking), but you can always slowly chip away at the smaller things. How often will you have a wad of cash to go for the big purchase?

  12. I'm with CG, amongst others, and say go for the big fish, Jackie Robinson. Picking up one of the nefarious 9 here and there will be a reward in and of itself, but looking at a beautiful Jackie Robinson will be amazing. Who would have thought you could get a '56 Robinson out of a pack of 2010 Bowman?

  13. go big. you won't regret it.

    in other news, i really appreciate the local card shop of my youth - i was able to buy the 81 and 82 traded sets there when they came out. same with the rest through 86, including the 84 fleer.

  14. IF you buy the Robinson you won't regret it. If you do any of the other options you might.

  15. I remember reading Krause Publications' Baseball Cards Monthly magazine back during the wild, wooly 1980s and they never seemed to think highly of the Traded/Update sets. As a set that wasn't available through wax, it wasn't deemed "legitimate" by the editorial staff. And besides, they said, it wasn't even Ripken's rookie card, since he appeared on a 1982 Topps card already and on his own cards in the Fleer and Donruss sets.

    Thus, I never got any of the Traded sets at all.

    Anyway...I say you should try and nab a Robinson card from his playing days. You're a Dodger fan and he is a very important part of your team's history. Koufax was great, but his 1960s cards can be picked up at decent prices if you look. If you have the coin to pick up a decent '56 Jackie...go for it.

  16. I suggest you send the Ripkin card to me...oh wait...I wasn't suppose to suggest that...

    A lot of people have already mentioned what I was going to say, so I won't repeat it. If you want concise, go read Community Gum's comment again as that sums up all of my thoughts on the subject.

    Lastly, I can sympathize with the entire intro to this post. A vast majority of my collection is probably worthless to most others and even my nicest cards wouldn't be very difficult to replace. The only single I've dropped coinage for was the 1997 Skybox AUTOgraphics Emmitt Smith card. And that was only because I had coveted that card for years and finally felt I had the income to buy it.

  17. When in doubt, always go vintage, especially if its a player like Robinson or Koufax. The 71 set, the Piazza, Fernando, et al; you can work on that stuff. Once you complete the 71 set, then what? Continue to build it. But how many times are you going to get enough cash together to grab a Jackie Robinson or a second year Koufax?

    One day, you'll look at that Koufax and think, "Stephen Effin Strasburg paid for this and he finished with a 94-63 career record with a 3.71 ERA." That should make you appreciate the card in hand even more!