Spring 2017 Major League Baseball "Set Registry Masters" Premium Auction
Back in 1990—at the peak of the era of baseball card popularity and overproduction—Arthur Shorin, CEO of Topps, presented George H. W. Bush at the White House with a binder full of cards featuring a vintage photo of the president in his Yale University uniform. The design of these cards copied the look of the 1990 Topps baseball card set, complete with Bush 41’s two-year collegiate batting record on back, and it would eventually become one of the most storied and iconic Topps baseball cards ever produced, representing a rare collision of popular culture with both presidential and sporting history. It was originally believed that ony 100 of these cards existed, all of which Shorin brought with him to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue back in 1990. However, some copies of the Bush card started turning up on the secondary market, creating a media buzz at the time that even reached the pages of People magazine.
A few years ago, longtime card collector and Bush Chief of Staff John Sununu submitted a small batch of these cards to PSA. The graders at the California-based company noticed something different about the Sununu cards than all others they had previously examined: the cards had an obvious glossy coating. After requesting and then receiving an image of Shorin’s personally autographed copy of the card for comparison, PSA President Joe Orlando presented his company’s exciting discovery to the hobby: there were two different Bush cards, the uncoated regular version (most, if not all, backdoored by Topps employees), and the much scarcer White House Glossy version, limited to only 100 copies made.
The pair of ungraded examples presented here are both the scarcer White House Glossy versions, and they appear to be in strong Near Mint to Mint condition. Each bears an inscription in a fine-point black marker and is signed by President Bush with a noticeably thicker marker. They came to Small Traditions in the framed display with a signed letter from Florida Governor Jeb Bush pictured below. The display was very tightly glued shut, however, and had to be destroyed to free the cards in order to confirm that they were what we had hoped they were, two of the treasured 100 White House versions gifted directly by Topps to Jeb's father, President George H. W. Bush.
Exactly how rare are these cards? To date, PSA has graded a total of 95 of the non-glossy versions but just 14 of the White House, not one of which has achieved a grade above a NM-MT 8. Beckett Grading Services, on the other hand, has evaluated a total of 10 of the glossy versions, one of which we sold back in our April 2014 Spring Premium Auction for a handsome $5,568. In the three years since selling that card, not a single additional glossy or White House version has surfaced at PSA for grading—the total Pop was 14 then, and it remains 14 today—while only two additional copies have surfaced at Beckett—it was a Pop 8 then and is now a Pop 10. Remarkably, according to these population reports, only a single one of those combined 24 certified copies boasts the presidential autograph like the offered pair.
1990 Topps #USA1 George Bush Glossy White House Issue Signed & Inscribed Pair 2 of Only 100 Made w/ Signed Letter from Florida Governor Jeb Bush JSA LOA
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