This card costs 'cause you aren't supposed to have it'
Alex Gordon has yet to play a single game in the major leagues and yet his rookie card is the hottest in all of baseball, selling for as much as $2,550 in recent weeks.Is Gordon the Kansas City Royals' next great player? Could be. But that isn't why his card, which is No. 297 in Topps' 2006 set, is worth that kind of money. The piece of cardboard is worth that much only because it never should have been produced in the first place. Last year, in part to reduce confusion in the marketplace, the Major League Baseball Players Association ruled that card manufacturers could make rookie cards only of players who either made the 25-man roster or played in a major league game the season before. Gordon didn't qualify either way. After he led Nebraska into the College World Series, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 draft didn't sign his contract -- including a $4 million signing bonus -- until late September.
For more on Alex Gordon, check out Rovell's blog.
But a fan named Jeremy Troutman pulled five of Gordon's cards on a shopping trip in his hometown of Wichita, where, coincidentally, Gordon is playing Double-A ball for the Wranglers this season."I went to Wal-Mart, bought two boxes, and got two in the same pack," Troutman said. "So I bought seven more boxes and got another three in the same pack." Troutman, whose story first appeared in the Wichita Eagle, opened 1,000 packs to find his five cards. He sold all five of them to different collectors for a total of $5,761.79. Troutman had the right idea. The Gordon cards are believed to exist only in the earliest shipped packs, many of which went to Wal-Marts across the country. But before you raid your local Wal-Mart in search of a bonanza, you should know that the odds of a payday like Troutman's aren't in your favor. Fewer than 20 of the Gordon cards have shown up for sale on eBay, leading some in the collectibles industry to believe that the card is as rare as they come. Luraschi is confident that fewer than 100 cards got out. A few weeks ago, Jason Mauk, owner of the card store "In The Zone" in Hagerstown, Md., purchased one of the cards from the wholesaler who provides boxes for his store. After hearing the story, Mauk paid $1,000 for it. He then put it up on eBay and sold it for $1,425. "I've sold thousands of cards online and I've never had 2,000 hits on one auction like I did in this case," Mauk said. "I've never had 100 people put a single auction on their watch list like I did with this card." John Schulteis, a 28-year-old from Mission, Kan., bought one of the Gordon cards from Troutman for $895. Schulteis, who buys to sell, currently has the card up for auction. "The fact of the matter is that Topps is the most collected brand out there, and this card ruins it for people in that they won't be able to have it in their set," Schulteis said. The last major error of this magnitude in the trading card industry happened in 1989, when a Fleer card featuring Billy Ripken was released that carried an obscenity clearly written on the knob of the bat Ripken was holding. Fleer's attempted cover-up created more than six versions of that card, but the original remained the hottest property, selling for hundreds of dollars at the time. Today, that card can be had for $5.
|BASEBALL CARD ERRORS|
• 1969 Topps Aurelio Rodriguez: picture of team batboy Leonard Garcia
• 1981 Fleer John Littlefield: picture is reversed
• 1985 Topps Gary Pettis: picture of Pettis' younger brother
• 1987 Donruss "Opening Day" Barry Bonds: picture of Johnny Ray
• 1985 Donruss Tom Seaver: picture of Floyd Bannister
• 1988 Topps Al Leiter: picture is Steve George
• 1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy: picture is reversed
• 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken: obscenity on bat knob
• 1990 Donruss John Smoltz: picture of Tom Glavine
• 1990 Donruss Juan Gonzalez: picture is reversed
• 1990 Topps Frank Thomas: has no name on front