Ask Babe: New 'discoveries' diminish vintage S.I. values

Apr 9 2012 - 11:27pm

Dear Babe: I have a copy of the first issue of Sports Illustrated magazine, Aug. 16, 1954, in the mailing envelope with the uncut sheet of baseball cards inside. -- Steve Dooley, Las VegasDear Babe: I have the very first Sports Illustrated, Vol. No. 1, from 1954 in mint condition. -- Barbara Fernandez, Fortine, Mont.

It's been a while, so it's probably time to touch base once again.

My standard answer on this is that Internet sales, the "discovery" of cases of first issues in a Time warehouse and the reprinting of the issue for promotional purposes have had a major impact on value.

"Today, top value for an 'original' original is $150-$250 and $75-$100 for copies with flaws," said Phil Regli of www.cardsprograms.com, a longtime magazine dealer.

"It should be noted that S.I. also had a group signed by Eddie Mathews which have done well in auctions."

In the past, Da Babe has noted that the issues that came from the warehouse first sold for $295 and then dropped to $159. These were leather-bound. The prices of these "found issues" brought down the value of originals that folks had saved from August 1954.

Now, leather-bound copies are selling for $150-$250. "It should be noted that the original mailing envelopes from 1954 sell for about $30-$40," Regli said.

In today's marketplace, it's the second issue that is sought after because these have not been reprinted, and no extras have been found in any warehouses. The first issue had a three-page foldout with 27 color repli-cards in the style of 1954 Topps cards, but the second issue has three pages of color (1954 Topps) and B&W (original cards) featuring New York Yankees. That includes Mickey Mantle, who did not have a Topps card in 1954.

Dear Babe: I have a 1992 cherry-wood box set of 1992 Series 1 Leaf with gold cards in it. It says 2,391 of 5,000. I bought it at a department store at one-half off in 1994. I opened the plastic wrapper and looked at the cards once, but that was it. There are133 cards plus nine gold-leaf rookies. -- David Gourlay, Riverside, Calif.

This is a mystery. I can't find any references to boxed sets in any guides. My first inclination is to say it was something produced for a cable network. That still might be true, even though you found yours in a department store.

The problem is, you don't have Series 1 (264 cards), and it isn't a full set of 528 cards. I did see a full set in a cherry-wood box offered in an online auction, but it didn't sell with a $15.99 asking price.

The 1992 Leaf issue is nothing to write home about. Beckett's Almanac of Baseball Cards lists a full set at $15. The only rookie card of note is No. 445 -- Jeff Kent. That card is far and away the most valuable booking, at $2.50.

The most interesting note about the issues is that it was pretty much the first set to have a pack-distributed parallel set. In this case, one gold card was inserted into every pack. However, with a set with a value of just $15, it's not surprising that gold cards, while of historic note, don't command much value. A completed 526-card gold set lists for $60. Most of the cards will be hard to sell at any price, including Kent's.

Dear Babe: I have several 1989 baseball All-Star game programs that are in excellent condition. The cover has a silhouette of a batter and some sailboats on the water inside the silhouette. The background is an orange grove with Anaheim Stadium at the base of some mountains. -- Brad Hornsby, Corona, Calif.

"Unfortunately these don't have a lot of value," said Mike Heffner, president of www.Lelands.com. "They were printed in bulk and sold by mail order, also." He values them at $10 each.

(Babe Waxpak is written by Bill Wagner. If you have a question for Babe Waxpak, include your full name and hometown, the card number, year and manufacturer or send a photocopy. Please do not send cards. The address is: Babe Waxpak, Box 492397, Redding CA 96049-2397 or e-mail babewaxpak(at)charter.net.)

 

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