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Old 01-13-2018, 12:11 AM
trdcrdkid's Avatar
trdcrdkid trdcrdkid is offline
David Kathman
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 1,214
Default Hobby history: Most valuable and most underrated cards, 1981

In the November 1981 issue of Baseball Hobby News, Lew Lipset, who had been writing about card prices in The Trader Speaks for the past few years, wrote an article listing the 10 most valuable baseball cards and the 10 most underrated baseball cards (as he saw them). I've posted the two-page article below, showing each page in full and with just the text, to make it easier to read.

He had the T206 Wagner at #1, and he correctly predicted that it was not likely to be dislodged from that perch. Note the estimated value of $14,000, which probably has a lot of us wishing for a time machine. Next are the 1933/34 Goudey Lajoie and T206 Plank, which are certainly still among the most valuable and sought-after cards, whether or not they would rank as high in a similar list today. Lipset's #4 most valuable are the 1951 Topps Current All-Stars of Stanky, Roberts, and Konstanty, which would never make such a list today. They're certainly recognized as rare (only one of each has been graded by PSA), but there are many cards a lot more valuable than these now. SMR lists the Konstanty at $45,000 for a PSA 2, Roberts at $62,500 for a PSA 2, and Stanky at $38,500 for a PSA 1.

Lipset's #8 most valuable ($750) was the 1953 Glendale Meats Art Houtteman, which had been a famous and valuable rarity throughout the 1970s, when regionals were hot. Of course, this card wouldn't be anywhere near the 10 most valuable cards today. (A PSA 6 went for $9400 in the spring 2009 REA auction, and an SGC 20 went for $1528 a year later.) Right after Houtteman on Lipset's list is T3 Ty Cobb, the only card on the list that made it primarily because of star power rather than rarity. I don't think this card would be among the 10 most valuable cards today (because it's not a rookie card), but it has done all right pricewise; SMR shows a value of $220,000 for a PSA 8. Note that Lipset mentions the 1952 Topps Mantle, which had had a big runup in price, but he doesn't include it in his top 10, which he considers to have "the least likelihood of ever falling back from their values". All of these cards are worth more today than they were in 1981, but some have risen in price much more than others.

Lipset's list of "most underrated" cards is interesting, especially for the Net54 crowd. These are mostly scarce sets that were quite underrated in 1981, and which have risen steeply in value. The individual cards that Lipset lists as underrated -- E97 Sullivan, M116 McConnell and McQuillan team variations, E90-1 Mitchell, E102 Miller fielding -- are all still valuable and have risen quite a bit in value, but not nearly as much as superstar cards such as 1952 Topps Mantle, M101-4 Ruth, or any Joe Jackson card. Lipset, like most people at the time, greatly underestimated how much demand for superstar cards would skyrocket in the coming decades.

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