30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Billy the White Whale

Once upon a time, there was a whale that was so rare I actually doubted its existence.  His name was Billy and he came from the 1998 Donruss Significant Signature set.

Now let's squash any confusion.  I'm not talking about this Billy:

This particular Billy isn't a whale.  He's more like a fish swimming among a sea of collectors.  There are plenty of him to be had.  If you look closely at the photo of Billy on the back, there's the word "REDEEMED" stamped in gold at the bottom:

The one I have been trying to catch for years is the one without the stamp.  He's been and with very good reason.

There's a mysterious story behind this Billy involving a redemption card that wasn't a redemption card that actually was a redemption card.  Confused?  You probably should be.

Years ago Donruss created cards for both Billy Williams and Sandy Koufax to sign.  Billy returned them to the company on time.  Sandy did not.  Well... at least not on time.  Eventually he did sign his cards and that's where the two cards' stories are entwined.

Donruss decided to give any collector who pulled a Billy the opportunity to send their copy back in exchange for two things:

#1: A 1998 Donruss Significant Signatures Sandy Koufax autograph.
#2: Their original Billy Williams autographed card with the special gold tattoo.

Up until that moment in time, there were only two other certified, pack pulled Koufax autographs in existence (both from 1995 Topps Archives), so obviously collectors who were holding onto a Billy were rushing to send theirs to Donruss.

When the dust settled, most of the Billies out there had been redeemed and stamped leaving an unknown amount of unstamped Billies floating sitting in collections or unopened material.

Then after years of searching, one finally appeared in the Bay.  It was like seeing a wooly mammoth.  I wasn't actually sure any still existed, so you can imagine my excitement.

Unfortunately... I wasn't the only collector to discover Billy the White Whale swimming in the Bay.  We ended up getting into a epic bidding war (actually there were only two bids), but I refused to go down without a fight.  $27 (+ $5 shipping) later... I had caught my whale.

Meet Billy...

It's a little hard to see, but if you look closely at his back, you'll noticed that he never had "REDEEMED" tattooed on him.

Now I've heard a rumor that Panini (who now owns the rights to Donruss) often redeems expired redemption cards.  I wonder if they'd accept my Billy?

We'll never know, because I've waited too many years to risk getting my whale tattooed.  However if any of you out there own another copy of this rare Billy... I double dog dare you to try it.

Happy Thursday and sayonara!


  1. Cool card and great set. I cherish my Rizzuto from it.

  2. Great story Fuji! Must have felt awesome to land a card you'd been searching that long for for less than $30!

  3. My only Sandy Koufax auto is the one you reference. Congrats on landing this whale. Billy Williams was criminally underrated.

  4. The post title could also be a physical description of me.

  5. Congrats! What a great story-YES Panini does redeem old ones-I turned one in from 2015 a few months ago and they just sent me an email indicating they are sending me a card!

  6. the lost collector - yeah, i'm a big fan of this set. completed it a while back, but now i'm chasing down the variations.

    shoeboxlegends - thanks. i was prepared to pay up to $40 for the card, so i was pretty excited with the final sale price.

    commishbob - mine too. not 100% sure, but this might be koufax's most affordable autograph

    greg zakwin - thanks!

    billy kingsley - me too! well... if my name was billy.

    b man - thanks. although i have a pair of expired redemption cards that are currently being processed by panini... i'd say there is a 0% chance of me trying to redeem this card.

  7. Awesome card and back story. Love this set!

    1. Thanks! I'm a big fan of this set too... even though it's hard to see some of the autographs. Oh well... the names on the checklist make up for the design flaw.