This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 1/5/2014
Welcome to Small Traditions Inaugural Exclusive 100-Lot December Premium Holiday Auction! We hope you'll enjoy browsing and bidding on the following 100 lots as much as we enjoyed collecting, grading, and writing about them. The auction will run through Christmas and New Year's and end on Saturday 1/4, and then we'll return to our regular format for the months of January, February, and March, but in April we'll return to this exclusive 100-lot format to mark the beginning of the 2014 MLB season. For two years now, my partners and I have been working hard to grow Small Traditions to the point of making a premium event like this possible, and it's been my pleasure this month to return to the work that first got me started in this business almost a decade ago, writing descriptions for catalog auctions like Mile High and Goodwin and Company. It's a lot of work, but what motivates me is not the hope of a big sale -- though those are nice -- but it's the idea that I'm lucky enough to work in a business that to most people is just a hobby, something that brings people pleasure and joy, a pastime. With that in mind, I've tried to compose compelling and accurate descriptions that speak to the hobbyist as well as to the investor, and most descriptions contain multiple links leading to my sources, whether population data at PSAcard.com or card information at PSACardFacts.com, stats at baseball-reference.com, biography information at SABR.org, a YouTube video, or simply the meaning of a complex word at dictionary.com. I've tried to make it as enjoyable for you, our consignors and prospective buyers, as it was for me, so please follow my lead now and then, and allow yourself to get a little lost and tangled up in the net. In a word, enjoy!
With that said, it gives me particular pleasure to begin our auction with two modern cards that aren't even graded PSA 10 Gem Mint. Many traditional collectors, and more than a few dealers, often disparage the modern market, and I understand that not everyone enjoys the newer, flashier cards. I understand that they can be confusing, and I understand that a lot of collectors were burnt by card companies' overproduction in the 1980s and 90s and then again by the PED scandal of the 2000s. What I don't understand, however, is how lifelong hobbyists and sports fans can turn their backs on the hobby that has given them so much pleasure over the years and on the active players for whom they cheer and on whose success their moods so often depend. So, I chose to make the offered PSA 9 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold Derek Jeter rookie card the #1 lot in this month's auction -- followed by a PSA 7 Cal Ripken Jr. rookie card -- for a couple of reasons. One, to prove that there is tremendous value in the hobby's most coveted modern cards -- recently, a Pop 12 PSA 10 Gem Mint example of Jeter's iconic and condition sensitive 1993 SP Foil rookie card sold at auction for $28,500, while offers for as much as $25,000 for either of the two existing PSA 10s of this Mirror Gold have been turned down by their owners, one of which I can personally corroborate. The second and more compelling reason why this PSA 9 Derek Jeter card from 1996 (not even his traditional RC year) sits in the #1 spot of this month's auction, however, is because of its singular importance as the most significant baseball card produced within the last 30 years. Its importance stems from two sources, its undeniable aesthetics and its profound scarcity, the combination of which set in motion a trend in sports cards that now dominates the multi-billion dollar market, nearly 20 years later. And what was that trend? To the date of their release, the 1996 Mirror Gold cards boasted the hobby's shortest ever print run for a pack-issued baseball card. A shimmering gold holofoil parallel to the 1996 Select Certified base set, only 30 examples of each player were produced -- that's less than half the total number of known examples of that other hobby-famous and far more expensive yellow card (though the players depicted on each are both very similar: both shortstops, both career players for the same team, both role models in their communities, both on MLB's top 10 career hits leaders list, both MVP-less). Due to the immense popularity of the Mirror Golds, other card companies quickly followed suit in 1996 and throughout the insert-crazed late 90s, producing various versions of the same card, or parallels as we now call them, in shortened print runs from as high as 5,000 to as few as just 1, the coveted 1/1 or one-of-one, which entered the hobby in 1997, no doubt inspired by the success of the ultra short-printed 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold.
These days, cards numbered to 100 or less can be found in just about every pack produced, but in the 1990s they were like gold -- some were actually printed on gold -- and they remain highly collectible. Featuring the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year, 1996 World Series Champion, and future Yankee Captain, offered here is the card that started it all. A benchmark in the hobby, none of its 30 known copies have sold publicly in nearly three years, as its long term potential in any grade far outweighs that of the 1993 SP Foil card and its estimated print run of as high as 1.5 million. Judging by eBay sales and by our own recent monthly auctions, there hasn't been a better time in the last two years to jump into the Jeter market than there is now, and even if he never players another game, he'll still make headlines when he retires and then again when he enters the Hall of Fame. The fun part for the winning bidder of this card, however, will be watching what he does in the meantime, occasionally stealing a glance at this card, and then turning down even the strongest offers from the hobby's heaviest collectors.