July 2013
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 8/3/2013

In late summer 1997, Topps ambitiously attempted to bridge the worlds of baseball cards and fine art in the sophomore edition of its Gallery brand, dedicated to “The Art of Collecting.” To achieve these ends, the company commissioned renowned pop artist Peter Max (b. 1938) to paint portraits of ten of Major League Baseball’s finest players. Unveiled to the world—with much fanfare—at an April exhibition in Max’s Midtown Manhattan studio,  these bold works of art were essentially then miniaturized to the standard 2½" by 3½" size and inserted into packs. The end result of this unprecedented collaboration between canvas painter and card printer was an insert set—dubbed Peter Max Serigraphs—which is stunning in its beauty and highly desired for its collectability. Inserted at a rate of 1 in 24 packs, each card features a dynamic player photo surrounded by an explosion of psychedelic color, a Max trademark.

Topps and Max, however, seriously upped the ante by having the artist autograph and serial number 40 of each card, creating a pod of white whales that has eluded many player collectors to this day. Inserted into just 1 in every 1,200 packs, the odds of pulling a specific player climb to a lottery-like 1 in 12,000. Enter the Derek Jeter card up for bid in this month’s Small Traditions auction. Numbered 31/40 and flamboyantly signed by Mr. Max in black ink and certified by PSA/DNA, this card holds the additional distinction of being the one-and-only PSA 10 of The Captain in existence. Furthermore, out of the 30 total 1997 Topps Gallery Peter Max Serigraph Autos graded by PSA and BGS (this includes all ten players in the set), this Jeter is the only copy of any of them to achieve a Gem Mint grade!  These cards were signed (and thus handled) by Max prior to the application of the UV coating.  After returning them to Topps (and thus further opportunities to ding a corner or scratch a surface), the cards were given the glossy treatment and then randomly inserted into packs. So many were apparently damaged that Topps was forced to issue replacement cards, which do not feature the hand numbering of the pack-pulled variety. Additionally, a handful of less-than-ethical individuals were mailing their regular serigraph cards to Max for his signature and then trying to sell the aftermarket autos as the genuine article. Fortunately, PSA is attuned to such shenanigans, and would unequivocally refuse a red flip (signifying here autograph and card authenticity) to any such cards.  Regarding the Jeter in this auction, there is a consistent sheen across the entire surface of this card when placed under direct light, which is indicative of an under-the-surface (UV coating) signature.  The size, style and location of the serial number are also completely consistent with other known exemplars, a PSA 6.5 example of which is currently available on eBay for $3,500.  Our consignor, moreover, is an avid collector who has worked five years in the museum world in Upstate New York, and he vows to the provenance of the card.

After his 1 of 1s, this is perhaps Jeter’s toughest insert issue to find from 1997.  These virtually never turn up for sale, but when they do, both Yankee and Max collectors compete and send prices soaring.  And that is for the ungraded and uncertified copies!  This one is graded and certified and ready to be added to your PSA Jeter Master Set Registry.  As far as artistry, desirability, and scarcity, this Gem Mint 10 Peter Max Signed Jeter card is truly an advanced collector’s dream.  And like a modern art auction at Sotheby’s, it will take a well-heeled bidder to bring down the gavel and add this masterpiece to his or her collection.         

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $1
Final prices include buyers premium: $3,554
Number Bids: 31
Auction closed on Saturday, August 3, 2013.
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