30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Bargain Big Mac

My memory isn't what it used to be.  With each passing year, I'm memorizing less and less of my students names.  Last night I even forgot whether or not I had taken my medication for my sore back.  Luckily I have this blog to help me document my hobby history.

Plus my brain will sometimes associate certain events in my lifetime with key historical events.

For example... I can tell you exactly where I was when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up or when the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake took place.

It works with positive memories too.  Back in the Fall of 1998, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were battling each other in the Great Home Run Chase.  That was also my first year of teaching in public education.  My starting salary was less than $28,000, so I was forced to supplement my income by getting a job at the card shop located across the street at the mall.

At the time, anything and everything related to McGwire and Sosa was on fire.  Big Mac was especially popular because he was the new single season home run record holder.  Plus he was a former Oakland Athletic.  I was fortunate to have a few of his 1985 Topps rookie cards, but his 1985 Chong minor league card always eluded me.  People would always talk about it, but I never saw one in person... even though I worked at a card shop.

Two decades later, I've finally added a copy to my collection:

I tried looking up this card in older issues of Beckett, but couldn't find any information on what these were selling for back in the day.  But I'm pretty sure PSA 10 copies were selling for more than $8.89 (+ $2.99 shipping).  That's what I paid for this copy.

Now if I could only find a PSA 10 copy of his true rookie card for that price.

Okay, it's your turn to share.

What's a bargain priced card you've picked up in the last year or so that once commanded big $$$ back in the 80's or 90's?

I look forward to reading your responses.  Happy Throwback Thursday and sayonara!


  1. Mac's 85 Topps #401 sells real cheap down in Central FL.

  2. I don't know about "big bucks" but I was able to add a Wade Boggs 83 Topps RC to my collection not long ago. That one always seems like it would forever be out of my price range. Nice feeling to pick it up for a couple bucks.

  3. The curious thing about those 1985 Chong McGwires is how many were produced vs how many have been graded. I ran some numbers when I did a blog post about finally tracking down a copy of the Steve Howard card from that set.

    Since apparently all the images are broken on that post, here is the relevant part:

    It was my hope to be posting about the 1985 Chong Modesto A's card of Steve Howard, at this point, but that set poses an interesting challenge. That set includes one "Mark McGwire". When said "Mark McGwire" person starting knocking everything in sight out of the ballpark, that set shot through the roof, hitting well over $800. To make matters more interesting, the set was initially released with an error, McGwire misspelled "McGuire", plus misspellings on five other cards in the set. Naturally, when large numbers and big profits turn blue and brown eyes green with envy and greed, the less scrupulous start rolling their own. According to Beckett, there were only 1700 total sets printed. 500 initial sets with the errors, 500 corrected sets (slightly off center) and finally 700 corrected and centered sets, the last reprinted from uncut sheets, rather than the original plates or negatives. Unfortunately, since these were such low-tech productions, they were very easy to counterfeit. And the counterfeiters let the presses roll. And since the counterfeits were virtually indistinguishable, it is very likely that most if the PSA graded McGwire cards are fakes. Both Sports Collector's Digest and Beckett discourage collectors from buying any 1985 Chong McGwire cards that don't come as part of complete sets.

    What all this means to the rest of us poor player collectors of semi-obscure minor leaguers is that we will likely never be able to complete our collections of those players in this set as the set is almost never found broken up. 1700 copies of that Steve Howard card out there, and in the last three years, I've not seen a single one of them. Not even Dave Weber has singles from this set for sale. I was really rather hoping that McGwires recent fall from grace would have helped put a dent in the price of the set, but unfortunately, all that remains on eBay are loads of forgeries of the McGwire and the occasional hugely overpriced complete sets. If all of those McGwires were truely legitimate, it only stands to reason that there would be an abundance of singles from this set circulating in the hobby. But there's not.

    1. To follow that up, currently the PSA reports over 8700 graded copies of the correct spelling (of which only 1200 reportedly exist) and almost 400 of the incorrect spelling (of which only 500 reportedly exist).

    2. Oh...and the McGwire is the ONLY card from the 1985 Chong Modesto A's set to have been graded by PSA.

    3. A quick check of the Beckett and SGC pop reports also show only the McGwire from the set having been graded, though they both have much more realistic population numbers.

  4. I bought an off-condition '89 UD Griffey for about half the cost of a blaster. I've picked up a few other '89 Griffeys for a buck or two a piece as well. Doubt that would've happened 20 years ago.

  5. Recently snagged a Brien Taylor Topps Gold auto for a couple bucks.

  6. I can't remember. ¯\_( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)_/¯

  7. johnnys trading spot - how cheap is cheap? i'd probably still pay up to $5 for clean copies of the 85t mcgwire. in fact, if i ever start doing 9 pocket pages... that card would look amazing featured 9x on a page

    zippy zappy - worst song ever!

    section 36 - yeah i think i've seen copies of all 3 big 1983 rookies for $5 or under. i wanna say i payed $25 for my entire 83T set a few years ago

    jason presley - thanks for the heads up. it definitely explains why these are so cheap today

    nick - doesn't matter what condition... i'd grab an 89ud griffey for a buck any day of the week. i actually think that card is beginning to rebound right now. if not... i predict it will.

    the lost collector - that's a great deal. i paid $10 on COMC for my copy a few months ago.

    commishbob - it's okay. your little artwork makes up for it.

  8. None recently. Could be awhile lol

  9. Long ago the main focus of my collection was Dan Marino. I had somewhere around 20 or so of his RCs. Many of them I bought at full book even. (about $140 at the time) Now they go on eBay every single day for between 15 ad 20. Some even drop down between 5 and 10.

  10. I haven't seen that one before. Great pickup and fun when these tie back to memories.

  11. Nice addition to your collection. I think my bargain pick up was the 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken uncensored.

  12. parts of my past - you might not have bought them, but you've added a lot of nice 90's inserts to your collection that once commanded some serious $$$

    adame - wow. they were up to $140? that's insane. i remember it being a solid $50 card. not sure if i kept the one i used to own. if i didn't, it sounds like right now is a good time to pick one up.

    bulldog - it was hard living in the bay area and mcgwire not having some sort of impact on your life if you were collecting.

    peter k steinberg - great card. i picked mine up a few years ago too. pretty sure i wrote about it on here. not sure what i paid, but it wasn't top dollar that's for sure.