Nothing stimulates the hobby faster than two rookies from storied franchises slugging home runs at a record pace. Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger have arrived as baseball’s top sluggers and hobby treasures. Both have a chance to join Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001) as the only players to be named MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season.
On pace to become the first Yankee to win the Triple Crown since Mickey Mantle in 1956, Judge led the American League in homers (27), RBI (62), and hitting (.327) at the midpoint of the season. The 25-year-old behemoth outfielder has given Yankees fans hope for the future and collectors excitement for the present. The first Judge cards of consequence were released shortly after the Yankees selected him in the first round of the 2013 MLB Draft. Because these cards were issued before Judge was on a major league roster, they are considered prospect cards or inserts. In today’s hobby, a star’s earliest cards outdo the rookie cards in significance and value.
The most sought-after card of the summer is the Judge 2013 Bowman Draft Pick, selling for $17 with the more limited chrome version selling for $50 and the even more limited Chrome Refractor version approaching $200. The simple posed design against a white background is easily preserved and holds its value exceptionally well. From the card back we learn that Judge was a First Team All-Western Athletic Conference selection all three seasons at Fresno State. Not surprisingly, Judge was also the College Home Run Derby Champion in 2012 and played wide out on the prep football team.
Judge’s official rookie cards are found in 2017 packs. His 2017 Topps card is the first to carry the official MLB “RC” logo. Although the Topps set does not feature the glitz and glitter of the latest printing technologies, rookie cards from the Topps flagship are must haves for rookie card collectors. The Judge rookie is selling for $10 with limited Gold Parallel versions selling for $70.
Judge will likely destroy the Yankees record for home runs by a rookie (29) established by Joe DiMaggio in 1936. As Judge’s name becomes synonymous with Yankees legends, interest in his autographed cards will increase. His 2013 Bowman Chrome Certified Autograph cards have sold for $850 in recent weeks with Refractor versions selling for $1,400. His 2015 Bowman Inception can be had for a more affordable $125.
Twenty-one-year-old Cody Bellinger was called to the majors in late April due to a rash of injuries to the Dodgers outfield. What appeared to be a short-term promotion became one of the best starts to a career in baseball history. Bellinger’s league-leading 24 homers in 62 games are the most by an NL rookie in the first half of the season since 1933.
On Opening Day, most Bellinger baseball cards could be had for mere pocket change, today they are among the most coveted in the hobby. Bellinger’s cards date back to 2013 when the Dodgers drafted him in the fourth round of the MLB Draft. One of the earliest Bellinger cards is the 2013 Panini Elite , which sells for nearly $100 with autographed versions valued at $3
Because Bellinger was not considered a top prospect at the time, his major prospect and insert cards were slow to roll out. Topps got into the act with 2015 Bowman Chrome Autographed cards. One of the more sought-after Bellinger cards to date, the Chrome Autograph is selling for $400, while rare Blue Refractor versions — limited to a print run of 50 — sell for $1,200. His 2016 Bowman Chrome Scout’s Prospect card is popular among first card/rookie collectors, selling for a much more affordable $10.
Bellinger has already hit two home runs in a single game six times, breaking Mike Piazza’s Dodgers rookie record for most multi-homer games in a season. As the records mount, expect interest in Bellinger cards to increase. His first official rookie card has yet to be released, but expect a wide-range of Bellinger RCs to be issued in the coming weeks.
The 1967 Topps set is celebrated for its simple, yet eye-pleasing design, a Hall of Fame checklist, rookie cards of two baseball greats and card No. 355 featuring Carl Yastrzemski.
In 1967, the man they called Yaz had one of the greatest seasons in baseball history, winning the Triple Crown and leading a fading franchise to the World Series. Yastrzemski hit .326 for his second consecutive batting title, tied Harmon Killebrew with 44 homers and and led the American League with 121 RBI. He also led the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits, and total bases to earn American League MVP honors. Thriving in the clutch, Yaz hit .417 and slugged .760 with nine home runs and 26 RBI in the month of September while leading the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox to the AL Pennant.
The ‘67 Topps Yaz card is a must for any long-time Red Sox fan or Triple Crown memorabilia collector. Excellent to near mint versions are readily available on eBay for $30-$45. Crisp, highly-graded samples sell for as much as $950.
The 1967 Topps set is arguably the most popular set of the decade. Advances in photo and printing technologies produced the most vibrant-looking cards to date. The clutter free, borderless design is ideal for both head-and-shoulders and close-up “posed action” shots featured throughout the series. Unlike other Topps issues from the ‘60s, the emphasis is clearly on the player, not the team name or card design.
The card backs lend a hand in grading the 50-year-old cards. The solid lime green backs help identify wear and damaged corners almost as well as the black borders of the 1971 Topps issue. With flaws easily identified, mint conditioned 1967 Topps cards are a true rarity.
The card backs also display a vertical design, allowing more length for season-by-season statistics, while leaving room for the Topps cartoon and player notes. Did you know that Yaz won two batting titles and finished second twice in his first eight seasons of professional ball? The card back also tells us that Yaz signed a $100,000 signing bonus while attending Notre Dame and worked at a Boston printing firm during the winter months early in his career. Amazing how much we learned about our favorite players on 2 ½ x 3 ½ in. baseball cards in the days before the internet.
The 1967 Topps Set also includes the first Topps card of Maury Wills and the last Topps card of Whitey Ford. Wills is pictured in a Pirates uniform (he played with the Pirates and Expos in the middle of a standout career with the Dodgers), while Ford is pictured completing his famed Hall of Fame pitching motion. At this stage of his career, Ford — still one of the game’s most popular players — battled injuries, while serving as an unofficial pitching coach for the Yankees. You will find classic cards of baseball greats Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks and the last card to list Mickey Mantle as an outfielder.
The “Rookie Stars” checklist is headlined by Rod Carew and Tom Seaver. In 19 major league seasons with the Minnesota Twins and California Angels, Carew compiled 3,053 hits while winning seven batting titles and hitting .300 or better for 15 consecutive seasons. Topps didn’t include Carew in its original release, but after a hot start at the plate, the 22-year-old second baseman was added to the more limited high-number series. His ‘67 Topps rookie sells for $175 in excellent to near mint condition, while highly graded versions are valued over $1,000. This card is a double print, making it a bit more common than most cards from the high-numbered series.
Seaver achieved 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts, and 61 shutouts over a 20-year career. His arrival in New York began to change the fortunes of the Mets, a perennial doormat since joining the league in 1962. The Mets all-time leader in wins, Seaver was the 1967 National League Rookie of the Year and a three-time Cy Young Award winner. His highly coveted ‘67 Topps rookie — an extremely limited high-series card — commands $700 or more in decent condition, while highly graded versions are valued over $2,000.