30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Steals of a Lifetime

Money isn't everything.  Well at least not to me.  That doesn't mean I'm careless with the Benjamins I do bring home.  After my credit card issues in the 90's... I've worked very hard to stay on top of my expenses.

In fact, collecting within a budget has been a necessity... and that's why I've been a bargain bin collector since I returned to the hobby in the late 2000's.

On Monday, Night Owl wrote an interesting post detailing some cards he was able to acquire cheaply that have significantly risen in value.  He titled his post, Steals of a Lifetime.

I've always enjoyed reading posts about collectors finding great deals on anything... but especially sports memorabilia.

Today, I thought I'd follow Night Owl's lead and share a few of mine.  Now I'm not organized enough to dig up the greatest deals I've ever had.  There are way too many flea market finds, card show hauls, and eBay/COMC purchases to sift through.  So for the sake of this post, I decided to focus on graded rookie cards, because they are fairly easy to search up in my purchase history and will be easier to assess the current market value due to the third party grading.  Now some of these cards have made appearances on this blog in the past, but hopefully there are a few surprises as well.

So without further ado, here are thirteen steals of a lifetime...

1990 Leaf #325

Purchase Price$17.59 (4 Sharp Corners on 2/20/18)
Current Market Value $135 to $152
Growth Percentage667% to 764%

I accidentally bought two of these a couple of years ago.  The other one set me back $24.  Actually I have multiples of a few cards in today's post.  One day, I'll organize all of my duplicates and sell them at the same time.

1996-97 Hoops #281

Purchase Price$32.55 (4 Sharp Corners on 2/23/19)
Current Market Value$250 to $275
Growth Percentage668% to 744%

There are a few Kobe cards in this post... and obviously his accident back in January impacted his card values.  I started picking up his graded rookie cards about a year ago, because he's my favorite player and I knew he'd be entering The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this upcoming summer.  I also knew this would drive up his card prices... possibly out of my budget.

1990 Topps Tiffany #692

Purchase Price$11.30 (4 Sharp Corners on 1/15/19)
Current Market Value$90 to $120
Growth Percentage696% to 961%

I remember thinking to myself that this was a little underpriced while flipping through their inventory.  But no way I could have ever predicted this.  I can't wait to watch the documentary next month.

1997-98 Topps Chrome #115

Purchase Price$103.55 + $7.85 shipping (eBay on 5/27/19)
Current Market Value$875 to $1,000
Growth Percentage745% to 870%

This card was purchased less than a year ago and I've watched it slowly rise in value ever since.  Then a few months ago, it made quite a leap.  Then another leap.  And another.  I've wanted one of these rookie cards since they were hot in the 90's.  It just shows that timing plays a huge role in securing deals.

2011 SP Authentic #27

Purchase Price$10.50 (eBay on 12/16/18)
Current Market Value$92 to $117
Growth Percentage776% to 1014%

This was one of those purchases where I bid on the item, because I had already won an item from the dealer... and he offered free shipping on anything else you won.

1995-96 Ultra #274

Purchase Price: $7.50 (COMC on 6/27/11)
Current Market Value$71 to $125
Growth Percentage846% to 1566%

Okay... now we're getting to some of the older COMC purchases.  Back in the early 2010's, dealers were blowing out their graded cards.  I decided to stock up.

1985 Chong Modesto A's #17

Purchase Price$8.89 + $2.99 shipping (eBay on 3/17/19)
Current Market Value$85 to $130
Growth Percentage856% to 1362%

Yup.  Another card impacted by a documentary

1996-97 Bowman's Best #R23

Purchase Price$46 + $3.88 (eBay on 3/4/19)
Current Market Value$480 to $580
Growth Percentage862% to 1188%

Can you believe I picked up this card for under $50 a year ago?  Crazy.

1996-97 Upper Deck #58

Purchase Price$30 + $3.75 shipping (eBay on 4/15/19)
Current Market Value$299 to $330
Growth Percentage 896% to 1000%

Another crazy Kobe.  Once again, I know that the values of Kobe's cards are inflated and will eventually settle, but there's no way this card ever goes back to what they were a year ago.

1997-98 Topps #115

Purchase Price$20.79 (4 Sharp Corners on 11/20/18)
Current Market Value$274 to $350
Growth Percentage1222% to 1583%

Like the Sosa, this was a card that seemed to be priced too low, so I added it to the cart.  In fact a few months later, they added another one to their inventory for less than a dollar more... so I grabbed it too.

1992-93 Hoops #442

Purchase Price: $3.36 (COMC on 7/10/11)
Current Market Value$92 to $130
Growth Percentage2638% to 3769%

When I saw PSA 10 Shaquille O'neal rookie cards were listed for $3.36... I bought the seller's entire inventory.  I flipped a few to cover my costs and the rest is gravy.

1992-93 Ultra #328

Purchase Price: $3.36 (COMC on 7/10/11)
Current Market Value$101 to $139
Growth Percentage 2905% to 4036%

The guy with the O'neal Hoops rookies also had Ultra rookies.  Yup.  Purchased all of these too.

1997 Bowman Chrome #182

Purchase Price: $5.38 (COMC on 7/10/11)
Current Market Value$200 to $240
Growth Percentage3617% to 4360%

But the highlight of that COMC purchase was this Beltre rookie card that I've blogged about before.  Unfortunately... the seller didn't have a stockpile of these.  Otherwise, I'd be looking into picking up a 1956 Topps Mantle or 2011 Topps Update Trout right now.

Speaking of that Trout... that's one of the cards featured in Night Owl's Steals of a Lifetime post.  So head over there and see some his steals.  But before you do, don't forget to answer today's question of the day...

What are some of your steals of a lifetime?

Happy Thursday and sayonara!


  1. I'm not sure if it was 2 or 4 copies, but I remember snatching up 2011 Topps Finest Mike Trout's rookies for a $0.50 a pop - too bad they weren't 2011 Topps Update but whether it's reality or not, Trout has been good to those who have held onto his cards.

  2. Nice cards and nice price increases going on there. I can't really think of anything. I got a 1956 Roberto Clemente back in the day for $80 which has risen a lot. And I have a 1969 Nolan Ryan that I got I think for Christmas. If so, that's straight up profit.

    1. Indeed it has.. I bought a '56 Clemente at the end of 2019 for about $350. It was a PSA 5.5, and I thought I got a great deal. $80 is a much, much better deal though.

  3. Graded RCs of HOFers/popular players...very smart.

  4. You've done a fantastic job picking up high-grade RCs, especially basketball. I'll be interested to see the boost McGwire and Sosa cards get over the next couple of months. It will probably make me regret selling/trading most of my Sosa collection.

    I can't decide if I'll join in the potential BBA or not, but I'll mention one that you already know about: in May of 2014 I purchased my Alex Ovechkin SP Authentic FW Auto Rc (BGS 9.5) for $375. The seller had listed it at $450 but accepted my best offer. That's now a $2k card minimum, with one seller asking over $12k!

  5. Very appropriate: stealing my post right down to the blog title!

    I know nothing about those NBA cards, never seen any of them in my life. But I do know the Beltre card. Happy to say somebody sent it to me just because.

  6. In 1987 I bought the STAR 1984-85 BSK set 288 cards for $40,works out to about 13 cents a card,a BGS Jordan #101 6.5 is going for at least 6K. I need to have mine graded.

  7. Feels like I have been saying wow an awful lot lately. Wow. Awesome stuff!!

  8. Fun post. Yeah anything basketball has skyrocketed lately. Fun seeing some of these and how they've gone up so much.

  9. I'm guessing the market value on these is more because they're graded.

    I got a Modesto A's program when McGwire and Canseco were playing for them. So they're both in the team photo. Dudes used to hang out outside the stadium and collect foul balls then sell them back to the team. LOL @ Single A.

    Voting for the Bowman's Best Kobe though.

  10. I had no idea Tim Duncan cards were that valuable now. Holy smokes!!!

  11. Well done Fuji! I'll give this a try but I tend to not have such foresight or luck.

  12. I'd have to say that 8 million card collection I picked up 5-6 years ago for $400.00 (plus $200.00) to have them hauled to my house. If everything was commons it would have still been a steal of a lifetime. However, complete sets of 70's and 80's baseball and football by the dozens each. In all fairness, I let my dealer buddy Bob have 99.9% of it for the $600.00. I did keep my fair share of stuff.

  13. my most recent steal was bidding $11 for an auction lot on line and getting an entire set of 1989 Score football in a binder not shown in the picture

  14. Nice cards (especially the Walker)!

    I'm a bit curious about hte prices on a lot of these junk (or slightly post junk) era rookie cards which seem to have taken off recently despite the fact that we seem to be entering a new depression.

    Well done though :)

  15. Great stuff, I think I may have to tackle this topic in the coming weeks.

  16. I got my Trout rookie the same way Night Owl did. In fact I'm not even sure how I came up with it. I got a lot of '11s in '11 from various trades. And a few years later I made a big garage sale purchase that was heavy in the '10s and '11s. I didn't even know that card was a big deal until Night Owl posted about it a year or two ago, and I went back to look to see if I even had it. Clearly the card did not mean anything to me when I got it. I appreciate it now though!

  17. My best two steals were.....

    1. Trading my 1985 Topps Dwight Gooden rookie card for a 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson rookie card.

    2. Buying a Mariano Rivera autograph from a card store in St. Louis for $10 in 1998.

  18. laurens - wow. that's definitely a great deal. trout has definitely made an impact on a lot of collectors' collections

    peter k steinberg - i think i waited too long to start buying my 1956's. but that's okay, i still love them.

    chris - wow. a psa 5.5 clemente? nice. and that ovechkin is insane. very nice purchase

    the lost collector - a lot of it for me is the value. if they're cheap, i'll usually grab them.

    night owl - a free beltre is a better deal than my $5.38 beltre. thanks for the great blog post idea.

    sg488 - super jealous. that set is so awesome. you're sitting on a goldmine.

    the diamond king - lots of bloggers are showing off lots of awesome stuff. i've been writing wow in comments a lot too

    bulldog - yeah... the international market really helps with basketball cards.

    elliptical man - it's 100% due to being graded. i'm not planning on selling, but if i did... graded is the way to go. not just for value, but for security. these day you have to worry about people buying cards and swapping them out or claiming cards are damaged. that program sounds really cool. i might need to look one up on ebay

    collecting cutch - they've soared in the past 6 months. gotta imagine they're close to reaching their peak. but i said that two months ago too.

    gcrl - gotta remember that these are the cream of the crop. i also paid good money for kurt suzuki and devin setoguchi autographs ;)

    johnnys trading spot - 8 million cards? my head hurts just trying to comprehend how much spaced that takes up. awesome deal though

    friend11 - wowza. that must have been a very pleasant surprise. that's an awesome set.

    sean - it's just a trend. it wouldn't surprise me if most of these are worth 50% or less in a few years.

    tim b. - look forward to seeing which cards you write about

    bo - yeah... that trout is the card to have. can't imagine a single collector out there who wouldn't want to own a copy for their collection

    the snorting bull - although i love gooden... trading for rickey was an excellent call. and a mariano autographed card for $10? that's definitely a steal.