The Budget Baseball Card Investor

The 1953 Topps Satchel Paige is an underrated card of an underrated player.PHOTO BY MILE CARD COMPANY

In my continuing series on baseball cards priced below $1,000 with room to appreciate in value, I am turning my attention to the 1953 Topps Satchel Paige. Jonathan Celona, the co-owner of Champion Sports Cards & Collectibles and a specialist in postwar cards, singled it out as a good buy.

Notes PSA, the top grading company:

Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige (1906-1982) began his big league career with the Cleveland Indians in 1948 at the age of 42, making him the oldest player to debut in Major League Baseball.

Satchel helped Cleveland win the American League pennant and World Series in his first year.

Just imagine what he could have done at the age of 32! Paige was so popular that more than 72,000 fans came out to see him in his first home start in Cleveland after winning his first game on the road in Philadelphia.

He is widely considered the greatest pitcher to emerge from the Negro Leagues posting an unofficial record of 103-61 (a .638 winning percentage), with 1,231 strikeouts and a 2.02 ERA.”

The backs of the 1953 set were wonderful too, perhaps the best of any cards ever.PHOTO BY MILE HIGH CARD COMPANY

As researchers delve deeper into the Negro Leagues and gain a fuller appreciation of Paige’s accomplishments in the majors, his legend only grows. “I think Satchel is one of the most underrated players because he was in the Negro Leagues for so long,” Celona says.

Due to his late start in the big leagues, there are only three Paige cards in all.“The Topps is the most affordable of the three,” Celona adds.

By coincidence, Mile High Card Company has all three of them for sale in itscurrent auction ending on October 4.

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“[The 1948 Leaf] is arguably, the toughest postwar card in the hobby,” PSA explains. It’s the mother of all short-prints. In all my years of attending shows, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in person. 

Even though it is graded in poor condition (but with “bold colors” and “adequate clarity”), Mile Highs has already reached $5,999. A PSA 8 (near mint-mint) sold for $89,000, and that was 11 years ago, according to Vintage Card Prices.

A 1949 Bowman PSA 6 (excellent to mint) at Mile High is currently up to $1,735. The average price in that grade, based on recent sales, is $2,400.

Which finally brings us to the 1953 Topps. The highest grade below $1,000, PSA 6, averages $730. An SGC rating in the same grade, such as the one Mile High is offering, goes for about $100 less. Mile High’s well-centered example is currently at $528.

Celona loves the aesthetic appeal. “The Bowman and Leaf are small,” he notes. “The Topps is the only regular size and his only Topps issue. The artwork is beautiful, too”

I agree that it is one of the finest portraits in the entire 1953 set, along with the Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson. Last April, the original painting for the Paige sold for $45,000 in a Robert Edward auction.

The original artwork for the Paige card sold for $45,000.PHOTO BY ROBERT EDWARD AUCTION

Satchel, who derived his nickname as a boy lugging bags for railroad passengers, has always occupied a special place in my heart. I remember seeing him in uniform at a Mets Old Timers game with my father in the early 1970s.

The MC quoted one of his most popular maxims: “Don’t look back; something might be gaining on you.” My dad’s broad smile still stays with me.

The rest of Paige’s wisdom to live by was also highlighted in the 1973 classic: The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book. (See page below from my own boyhood copy.)

“Satchel Paige is very popular,” Celona says. “He was such a colorful character. I believe his Topps card could increase in value over the next two three years by 30% to 50%.”

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