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WITH THE KIDS

How cards rise in value

May 08, 2003|Duane Noriyuki

A trading card featuring William Shakespeare, issued in the '60s as part of a set spotlighting historical figures, can now fetch $70. Dodger pitching great Sandy Koufax's card from the same set goes for about $450. And how about a Three Stooges set from the '50s? $3,250. The value of a trading card, of course, has little to do with the subject's literary accomplishment, earned-run average or even box-office clout. It has everything to do with demand and the condition of the card.

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A valuable card: Of the first set of modern-day baseball trading cards issued by Topps Co. Inc. in 1952, one of the rarest is that of Brooklyn Dodger Andy Pafko, famous for watching New York Giant Bobby Thomson's "shot heard 'round the world," soar over him into the left-field stands in 1951. But his position on the playing field has less to do with the value of the card than its position in the deck: It was card No. 1 of the set, so many collectors put it on top of the stack, which was then held in place by rubber bands. Many Pafko cards were damaged by the rubber bands, creating a shortage of any in mint condition. The finest known 1952 Pafko card sold in 1998 for $83,870.

Errors and hijinks: Other cards with interesting stories include Hank Aaron's 1956 Topps card in which the negative was reversed, showing the right-handed slugger batting left-handed. Angels infielder Aurelio Rodriguez's 1969 card has a picture of a batboy wearing Rodriguez's uniform. In 1985, another Angel, Gary Pettis, fooled a Topps photographer by putting his younger brother in the picture.

Shakespeare and Stooges: "We must speak by the card," Shakespeare wrote, "or equivocation will undo us." That, alone, should up the value of his trading card, part of a 1967 series on famous figures from history, but it's still a long way to the bonks and bickering of Larry, Moe and Curly. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

-- Duane Noriyuki

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