This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 5/4/2014
The term "Holy Grail" has become a popular if not over-used adjective for describing extremely high-end sports cards and collectibles. Like the mythical Holy Grail itself, such items are so rare that the ambitious acquisition of them becomes a true quest for their seekers. There is a sort of mystical fascination with their scarcity, supported by the items' mythical statuses, the stories about why they are so significant and rare. The famous T206 Honus Wagner yellow-backed tobacco card, for example, has long been called The Holy Grail of all baseball cards. With less than 100 believed to exist, they command small fortunes when they occasionally sell, and the story behind its scarcity has become legend: how Pittsburgh's powerful shortstop, an ambassador of the game and genuine good guy and roll model in his community, simply didn't want his image associated with tobacco for fear that it would promote tobacco use among children, those who most often collected and treasured such cards.
While some readers might not immediately recognize the many connections, modern collectors now consider the offered 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold Derek Jeter card the "Holy Grail" of modern sports cards, right in line with the T206 Wagner. Most importantly, only 30 copies were produced, making it almost three times as scarce as the T206 Wagner. It may be a coincidence that both cards are yellow or gold, but it's no coincidence that the players featured on both cards are remarkably similar as well. Like Wagner, Jeter has played his entire career with one team, and both players have been considered the most admired, respected and beloved players of their generations. They both served as captains of their teams, and they both played shortstop. In fact, Wagner is considered the greatest shortstop of all-time -- at least, that's what his Hall of Fame Plaque says. But what will Jeter's say? Is he really even in this conversation? The answer is yes.
Honus Wagner might have better career power numbers than Derek Jeter -- he was a bruiser with incredible strength and speed -- but his postseason stats aren't remotely comparable. Jeter has more than twice as many doubles in the postseason (32, the all-time record) as Wagner had total hits (14), and his 200 total postseason hits and 302 total bases -- almost twice as many as the next highest totals -- will be records for generations to come. Postseason runs scored? Jeter 111, also the all-time record, Wagner just 6. In fact, Jeter holds a whopping ten different postseason batting records and ranks within the top 6 of 14 of those. He is not just Mr. November, he is Captain Clutch, the real Mr. October! World Series Rings? Jeter 5, Wagner 1. For total career hits, Wagner might lead the comparison for now, currently standing alone in the #7 spot, but if Jeter has an average season in 2014 with at least 150 hits, not only will he pass ol' Honus, but he'll leapfrog Cap Anson as well -- yeah, Cap Anson -- ending his career alone in the #6 spot, behind Tris Speaker, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, and Pete Rose. The conversation is indeed very real. Moreover, Derek is one of just two players to ever accumulate 3,000 hits, 250 home runs, 300 stolen bases, and 1,200 RBI in the history of the game. The other player? Willie Mays. If that doesn't put Jeter into the conversation for all-time greats, however, then maybe his HOF plaque should at least read "The Greatest Shortstop of All Time," and we can then compose something else for Mr. Wagner's.
These are numbers and comparisons for the ages. So, too, is the offered 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold card. The story behind this card is similar to the T206 Wagner in that it is also a story of production, albeit of a different kind. Produced and distributed during the summer of Derek's rookie season, only 29 other examples entered packs of the 1996 Select Certified product, most of which have now turned up. That season, Derek's .314 average and 22 postseason base hits helped him to both the AL Rookie of the Year Award as well as to the Yankees first World Series Championship in nearly two decades. According to most printed price guides, which haven't changed much in the last two decades, Jeter's traditional rookie card year is 1993, a somewhat arbitrary designation since he has plenty of cards from 1992 and wasn't officially a rookie until 1996, the year this card was issued. As a card produced and distributed during that memorable summer of his rookie season, droves of collectors have now begun to designate the 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold issue as a rookie card, especially since it boldly proclaims "Rookie" right on front. In terms of scarcity, visual appeal, and overall desirability, no other modern baseball card holds a candle to it, and with the passage of time and the absence of franchise Hall of Fame ambassadors like Wagner and Jeter, its comparison to the T206 Wagner will eventually feel as natural as October baseball in the Bronx.