My Most Prized Baseball Cards


The post below is full of nerdy content. Beware, should you choose to read it.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the Topps baseball card company has a new gimmick called “The Cards Your Mom Threw Out” promotion.

In its 2010 baseball series, Topps has created a subset of reprinted cards titled, “The Cards Your Mother Threw Out.”

Those playing along will find special cards, one placed in every sixth pack in Topps’s sets this year; the cards will have nine-digit computer codes that can be activated at After a person enters the code, a vintage card from 1952 might randomly appear, or perhaps an ordinary one from last year. The cards can be delivered, kept in online Topps accounts to trade for other cards that are unlocked, or used in sweepstakes.

Underlying the campaign is the possibility that the code will yield the holiest of Topps cards, the 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card. A mint condition card, issued during Topps’s rookie year (and Mantle’s second), sold in 2001 for $275,000.

“We have more than one Mantle rookie card in this,” Warren Friss, vice president and general manager of Topps Sports and Entertainment, said last week in the company’s downtown Manhattan office. Later, in the interview, he said, “We have at least three.”

In short, Topps is trying to bolster sagging card sales by appealing to the near-30 year old crowd who often wax nostalgic about those young and carefree days when collecting baseball cards was all the rage.  I am a part of that crowd and let me tell you – it has worked, hook-line-sinker.

It caused me to pore over my old cards and pick up a few new packs.  I was lucky enough to get one of those nine-digit computer codes mentioned above and “pulled” a 1964 Wes Covington Phillies card. Not what I was hoping for.  BUT I was able to trade it online for a 1982 Dave Stieb card, pictured below.

Looks like the anonymous online-card trader got fleeced!  Anyway, as I mentioned earlier I began to pore over my old cards and in the interest of attracting even more nerds to this site, I present to you: My Most Prized Baseball Cards.

Let’s begin with a story.  When I was 8 years old and obsessed with the Toronto Blue Jays, I got on a typewriter (for those of you who don’t know what a typewriter is..)  and wrote a letter to my favourite Jays asking for their autographs. This is what I got in return.




Gruber – a notorious born-again Christian – took the opportunity to try and convert my 8-year old self by referencing a passage in the bible along with his signature.  In his signature he references “Romans 10: 9, 10”

Romans 10:9-10 (King James Version)

9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

in English:

Romans 10:9-10 (New International Version)
9That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

in other words:

Romans 10:9,10 is used commonly to prove if we once confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead, we will go to Heaven. This is the point at which we are given our ticket to Heaven. How we behave after that is important but not critical.

Nice try, Kelly.  There was no such thing as Google for me to look up the verse when I was 8 years old so I had to look it up in the bible, and it was all gibberish to me.  Perhaps my impressionable 8 year-old-self lucked out.  Regardless,  I still love you.

Kelly Gruber’s advice didn’t wasn’t all for naught as he says: “Don’t get caught in a run down; know two ways out of your house.”

I have almost every Kelly Gruber card ever printed but my two favourites are his rookie card and a painting of him by Vernon Wells Sr., pictured below.

When I first became serious about card collecting I was either 8 or 9 years old.  It was at this time when the card business was booming and Honus Wagner cards were being sold for millions of dollars.  The entrepreneur in me thought it would be a great idea to collect rookie cards of players that would be sure-fire Hall of Famers. Then, I would sell their cards for millions and live a life of deviance and debauchery.  Case in point: Ken Griffey Jr.

Being the smooth operator that I was, I picked up this screw-driven bullet-proof plastic case to put these precious cards in and save them in peak condition for many years to come.  The only problem is that about a million other kids my age had the same idea.  Although I don’t have a Beckett Price Guide handy, today it is worth about $4.


Gregg Zaun is #9 on the Toronto Blue Jays all time leaders list for OBP and #1 in my heart. Check out those pipes, I wonder if he has Jason Grimsley & Kirk Radomski to thank for that. Just kidding. We know our Zaunbie is 100% clean. It is those Lenny’s breakfasts that put on the muscle and only the finest of hairstylists to frost his tips.



Roy Halladay rookie cards and special inserts are always pleasing to the eye.  The 2nd old-school looking card is from the Topps Heritage series where they give the cards a throwback style as if they were from the 50’s. Very nice! Most baseball fans freak out for game-worn jersey inserts and the dual insert card of Burnett and Halladay is a great one.  The added touch of Burnett wearing a Marlins cap beside a Yankees logo is a nice one.  Couldn’t have found a shot of him in his 3 years as a Jay?  It is also funny to see a baby-faced Halladay in the last card trying to look menacing with the face of a 12 year old. 

The piéce de resistance is my Roberto Alomar rookie card.  This card is an O-Pee-Chee, which I thought was a piece of crap since all they did was rip off the Topps brand.  However, to my surprise, they are worth much more to collectors since they treasure the brand.  Who am I to argue? Alomar will be inducted into Cooperstown next year. Book it.  No word yet on whether his bronzed bust will feature the wicked stache.

Speaking of O-Pee-Chee, fellow card aficiando and O-Pee-Chee connoisseur Early hooked me up with a few gems.

The card on the left is a Dave Stieb rookie card from 1980.  Look how young and fresh-faced he looks without his trademark mustache.  The card on the right is current Jays manager Clarence “Cito” Gaston from 1973.  O-Pee-Chee offers up this tidbit of information about Cito: “The Padres’ second leading hitter in 1972, Clarence has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons.”  Sorry about your luck Cito.

The above card is what is known as a “Turkey Red” (inspired by the original baseball cards issued by Turkey Red Cigarettes).  Cal Ripken is one of my favourite players of all time and thanks to this Turkey Red I learned something new: in Cal’s 21 year career, he appeared in 19 consecutive all-star games.  Remarkable!

The above Ozzie Smith card is an example of the “Cards Your Mom Threw Out” inserts in the Topps 2010 set.  Look at those chops.  Who knew a guy who hit .211 in his rookie season would go on the be inducted into the Hall of Fame?  The things you learn from the backs of baseball cards….

Finally, my favourite current Jays pitcher, Dustin McGowan.  His cards are a hot commodity these days and it is hard to understand why – his career was basically over up until a few months ago and it is not like he is a sure Hall-of-Famer.  Rookie cards for him are over $10 and don’t even think about getting a signed card of his…  Anyway, I was able to pick up a few of his cards from the Heritage Series.

What are your most prized cards? Any stories to go along with your cards?  Post your thoughts in the comments section and consider this post a safe-haven for baseball nerdiness.

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13 replies on “My Most Prized Baseball Cards”
  1. says: grspur

    I thought O-Pee-Chee was a Canadian company that licensed Topps content in Canada. They used to be based in London, if I’m not mistaken.

    When I worked for the Free Press, I previewed an estate auction on York Street where they were selling a Mantle rookie card. Can’t remember what it sold for, although it can’t have been astronomical otherwise I would remember.

    I can’t be swayed by this Topps promotion because my mother didn’t throw out my cards and I still have a couple of boxes full of 1970s era baseball and hockey cards. Still fun to look at them occasionally and remember the simplicity of being an eight-year-old sports fan.

  2. says: Ian

    Very cool! I think my favourite out of all of them are the Gregg Zaun cards – he looks ripped in the Orioles card, that must’ve been back in the “alleged” HGH days.

  3. says: Early

    Great article.

    I got back into card collecting about 5 years ago. Not as an investment but rather as link to childhood. I know, nerdy.

    The point about grabbing up the Ken Griffey, Alomar, Fred McGriff rookies as an “investment” to be sold years later for millions is not something that only passed through the mind of youngsters.

    Grown adults, who, when realised the Mantle’s, Aaron’s, Mays’, Berra’s etc that their mom’s really threw out were fetching $1000’s on the market “reinvested” in cases, I mean cases of what is now known as Junk Wax. That is the late 80’s early 90’s Donruss, Score, Topps, UD etc. The best card of that time is the UD Griffey RC, and it goes for $20 or so. What is $20 when you were expecting $2000? After paying $400 20 years ago for these cases, the man, now ready to retire goes to a local shop only to be offered $10 for the case. I don’t know if Topps’ giveaways will be able to attract the “investors” again.

    But I think it is becoming increasingly popular with collectors.

  4. says: Callum

    I find it a lot of fun to unlock these old cards and then trade them online with other card nerds. I recently traded a 2002 Jaret Wright for a John Gibbons and Dave Martinez (who?) for a Johnny Mac. The inserts – like a signed rookie card – are a lot of fun as well. This year’s signed Jason Heyward is going for $30. Not a lot but when you look at a Joe Mauer signed rookie going for more than $2,000 on ebay, it might be a good investment.

    Speaking of Moms throwing away things, my Mom never threw out my cards but she did throw out my Panini books. For those who don’t know, Panini was a sticker company and they had a baseball set where they sold packs of baseball card stickers that you could place in a scrapbook of sorts. I had a few books filled up with the stickers. Now THAT is a good link to my childhood and brings back fond memories. I wish I had those books back. Nerdy.

  5. says: Early

    As for O-Pee-Chee,

    Topps licenced the OPC brand as well as Topps Venezuela to print and produce a card almost identical to Topps in non-anglophone markets. From 1965-1992 O-Pee-Chee featured a set of cards identical in design to Topps. The major differnece is the card stock, bilingual text and the popular “Now With…” caption printed on the front of cards of traded players. OPC baseball cards can be grouped into 4 disticnt eras,

    1965-1969 – short sets that were printed at about 1-2% of Topps, very rare. The stars esp Mays and Mantle are very popular amongst collectors.

    1970-1976 – Full sets that mirrored Topps. Short printed to 5-10% of Topps. Some sets, esp 1971 are very hard to find and can fetch alot of money on auction.

    1977-1992 – Sets featured Jays, Expos and stars. sets contain less cards but can carry the same value as their Topps couterparts. Lots of typcial high run junk of this era.

    1993-1994 – OPC printed orgiginal designs that still featured Jays and Expos. OPC stopped printing baseball cards for distribution in Canada after their 1994 series.

    Upper Deck company revived the O-Pee-Chee brand in 2008. These were not printed in Canada nor did they feature bilingual text. 50 card insert sets in 2008 and 2009 and then a full set was released in June 2009. It was popular in Canada (converted hockey collectors) but was also distrubuted normally throughout the USA.

    From 1978-1989 on OPC made a set that was less than 400 cards

  6. says: Kman

    Nice collection.

    I haven’t purchased too many cards in the past five years but some of my highlights are:

    Jay Bruce base Bowman Chrome Rookie
    Jason Bay Sweet Spot Auto (n.275)
    Brian Giles UD SP Auto
    Curtis Thigpen Bowman Sterling Auto/Game Used (soon to be worth millions?)
    Jeremy Sowers Bowman Signs of the Future Auto
    Victor Martinez Game Used Bat

    My two favourite additions:

    Lou Boudreau SP Legendary Cuts Game Used
    1911 T-205 Jack Quinn Rookie (horrendous condition)

  7. says: Alain

    Alright so since this was posted I’ve been running all around Halifax trying to find a store where I could buy some new cards and had no success until last night. I picked up 5 packs of the 2010 Topps Series 1 and have a couple of the cards your mom threw out, still need to go look at them to figure it all out. I also bought somevintage look cards that had bubble gum in it. I was like a little kid so excited to open up the cards. Will need to pick up more soon! Thanks Callum haha, now i’m gonna be even more broke.

  8. says: Early

    Alain, there used to be a shoppe near Stadacona, don’t know if it is still there, “Just Singles” if I remember correctly. Also, there was a great shoppe in Truro at the Train Station plaza, can’t remember what it is called, “Batter’s Box” maybe. If you are looking for real vintage cards, the one in Truro had them.

    But like most Canadian card shoppes they lack comprehensive baseball coverage and hockey is king. Even now in Toronto some shoppes won’t carry regular series baseball issues. I can only imagine those east coast shoppes are just full of Crosby junk now.

  9. says: ian

    Is there any other ball player that signed his baseballs with Romans 10:9,10? I have one signed by Marty Barrett and one other autograph but I cant figure out who the other signature is. Any help appreciated…

    1. says: CLAY MARSTON


      ROMANS 10:9,10 – KEVIN BASS – 1987 / SID BREAM – 1986 / DAVE DRAVECKY – 1986 / KELLY GRUBER – 1987 / JOE JOHNSON – 1987 / JERRY NARRON – 1985 / REID NICHOLS – 1986 – 1983 / DARRELL PORTER – 1987 – 1986 / JERRY TERRELL – 1984 – 1983 / MICKEY WESTON – 1992 / GEOFF ZAHN – 1983.

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