Collecting the Players of 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Class

Recently inducted Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Thomas’ Leaf rookie card can be had for between $75-$85.

Being elected for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame is a right of passage for players whose careers exemplified greatness during the era in which they played. This year, the quaint town of Cooperstown, in upstate, New York, will welcome three such players who helped define baseball in the 1990s. Pitchers and former teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will join slugger Frank Thomas in baseball’s annual summer celebration tradition. In so doing, these players will be forever immortalized in the hearts and minds of fans and collectors worldwide.

There were really no surprises when, on this past Wednesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America announced the final results of the annual Hall of Fame vote. Unfortunately for trading card collectors, the rookie cards of all three inductees, of this year’s Hall of Fame class, hail from an era of overproduction by the manufacturers. As a result, un-graded copies are relatively worthless due to the burgeoning quantity available. Autographed memorabilia, however, is a different story. The simple law of supply vs. demand has helped maintain values of all three players while at the same time still being attainable from a budget perspective.

Greg Maddux, nicknamed “The Professor,” was a masterful tactician on the mound who relied on cunning and precision rather than power to frustrate Major League hitters for 22 seasons. Maddux pitched his final game on Sept. 27, 2008. During his remarkable career he amassed 355 wins with a winning percentage of .610. Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1984, the bulk of Maddux’s illustrious career was spent as a member of the Atlanta Braves, alongside fellow inductee and starting pitcher Glavine. The eight-time All-Star won the Cy Young Award—presented to the league’s best pitcher—four time and earned an unprecedented 18 Gold Glove Award for Best Defensive Pitcher.

Rookie Cards (1987): Donruss, Card #36, Leaf Card #36.

Greg Maddux’s 1987 Donruss rookie card graded 10 by PSA.

A Greg Maddux-autographed baseball routinely sells for between $75 and $100.

Of his two rookie cards, collectors prefer the Donruss version. PSA, the leading grading company of trading cards, has had almost 27,000 of these cards submitted, with almost 1,500 receiving a perfect grade of 10. In this condition, the card sells for, an average of, $100.

A Greg Maddux-autographed baseball (those having authentication from either PSA or JSA) routinely sells for between $75 and $100.

Tom Glavine and teammate Maddux formed a powerful 1-2 punch as starting pitchers for the Atlanta Braves during the 1990s. Winning multiple National League titles and an eventual World Series Championship in 1995 helped propel the two pitchers to the top of collector’s want lists for years. Glavine was masterful in the ’95 World Series and was named the Series MVP. He amassed 305 wins and a .600 winning percentage, while earning two National League Cy Young Award during his 21-year career. Drafted by the Atlanta Brave is 1984; he pitched his last game on Aug. 14, 2008.

Rookie Cards (1988): Donruss #644, Fleer #539, Score #638, Topps #779.

A 1988 Tom Glavine Topps rookie card rated a 10 by PSA.

An authenticated Tom Glavine-autographed baseball can be purchased for between $75 and $100.

Almost 2,400 copies of his Topps rookie card have been submitted to PSA with fewer than 600 receiving a grade of 10. Produced in a quantity far exceeding Maddux’s rookie cards in 1987, Glavine’s 1988 Topps rookie card in this grade can be picked up for just $30.

An authenticated Tom Glavine-autographed baseball can be purchased for between $75 and $100.

Frank Thomas was nicknamed “The Big Hurt” for his ability to punish the opposition with his devastating power and timely hitting. His election into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot answered the question of longtime critics of whether a player’s whose primary position was an American League designated hitter was worthy of induction. Named one of the Players of the Decade in the 1990s, Thomas’ playing time came at a time when power hitters were heavily suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs. No such question was ever posed about Thomas, whose God-given size and talent helped him accrue 521 home runs, 1,704 RBI and a lifetime batting average of .301 during his 19-year career.

Rookie Cards (1990): Bowman #320, Fleer Update #87, Leaf #300, O-Pee-Chee #414, Score #663, Topps #414.

Frank Thomas’s 1990 Topps rookie card rated a 10 by PSA.

An error version of the Frank Thomas’s 1990 Topps rookie card is known as a No Name on Front (NNOF) card. When found, it can command several hundred dollars on the secondary market.

Of the six available Frank Thomas rookie cards produced, two in particular have captured the attention of collectors through the years; those being his Leaf card #300 and his Topps card #414. It is interesting to note is that Thomas’ Topps card had an error card issued before being corrected. Very rare samples show the card without his name on the front of the card, referred to as No Name on Front (NNOF). When found, they can command several hundred dollars on the secondary market.

With regards to grading, the Leaf card has been submitted more than 13,600 times with just 1,894 of those having received the top grade of 10. Conversely, the Topps card has seen almost 10,800 copies submitted with a little more than 1,600 having received the same grade of 10. However, the prices, of the two cards can vary greatly. The Topps card can be purchased regularly for $20-$30, while the Leaf card averages between $75-$85.

An authenticated autographed Frank Thomas baseball can be purchased for $50.

Frank Thomas model bats that have been autographed and authenticated, typically sell in the $125-$150 range.

With regards to Thomas’ autographed memorabilia, authenticated, signed baseballs can be purchased for $50. Baseballs that include inscriptions like number of career home runs or MVP years, etc., can command a premium of an additional $10-$20. Authentic Frank Thomas model bats that have been autographed and authenticated, typically sell in the $125-$150 range.

Each of these players was an iconic member of Major League Baseball for a stretch of nearly 20 years or more. Rookie cards and autographed pieces of each are affordable and will maintain their value, making them a nice addition to any sports memorabilia collection.

Rob Bertrand has been an active collector of sports cards and memorabilia for more than 20 years. His involvement in the hobby community is well documented, having been the content manager for the Card Corner Club website before the company’s merger with CardboardConnection in 2011, where he is now a staff writer and multimedia content producer. Rob is also the co-host of the sports collectibles hobby’s only live and nationally broadcast radio show, Cardboard Connection Radio. He is the author of the highly respected and trafficked blog, Voice of the Collector and you can follow him on Twitter @VOTC. A dealer himself, Rob runs an online business through eBay, and is frequently asked to consign collections.

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