Sunday, June 27, 2010

My Entry in the Rookie Card Challenge: 1973 Topps #615 Cey/Hilton/Schmidt

I just came across the Rookie Card Challenge on For Card's Sake's blog, and I decided that I'd give the challenge a shot. The whole idea is to pick your favorite bare bones rookie card (sans autograph, sans relic, sans serial number). In other words, none of that new school rookie card nonsense, just good old fashioned base card rookie goodness!

Some of you who have read this blog for a while probably know which of my cards is my favorite rookie card. I've briefly mentioned it from time to time: it's my most valuable card by far, was my oldest card for a while, and it features two former All Stars and one Hall of Famer. I'm talking, of course, about my 1973 Topps Rookie Third Basemen #615 card, featuring Ron Cey, John Hilton, and Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt:
Now granted, it's not in the greatest condition. The corners are about as rounded as corners get, and Cey's name is creased a bit, as you can see pretty clearly. The back is in similar shape:
Terrible corners, a better look at that crease (it's in the bottom left of this picture), and a strange mark in the middle right of the back as well. In other words, I think Beckett would probably give this a 9.5 (hardy har har).

So why is this my favorite rookie card? Well there are the obvious reasons - most valuable card in my collection, oldest card in my collection during most of my childhood, it's a Hall of Famer's rookie card, Ron Cey's nickname is "The Penguin" (and Penguins are my favorite animal), etc.

The real reason, however, is that this card represents the thrill of the collecting hunt. In a world filled with jacked up Beckett prices (cough Burbank cough) where all card collecting is turning to the internet, I managed to pick this Cey/Hilton/Schmidt Rookie Card up, in person, for a measly 75 cents.

Yup, that's right, 75 cents.

I was 12, and I was wandering around a card show rifling through quarter bins. One box produced this rookie trifecta, which had "75°°" written on its case.

I had no idea who Hilton was (especially since he went by Dave Hilton during his 4 year career). I also had no idea who Ron Cey was (I was born a year before he retired, so sue me). But as a 12 year old who was just beginning to love baseball, I knew who Mike freaking Schmidt was. I'd seen the highlight videos at baseball camp. I'd read about him in my baseball almanacs. I knew he was a big deal, and I knew his rookie card was probably a pretty valuable commodity. All I had was a few bucks on me, but it was in a quarter box. Maybe it was my lucky day?

Sure enough, yes it was. I told the seller I found a card I wanted - he took a look at the price sticker and told me 75 cents. 3 quarters later, the card was mine. Really mine, and remains so to this day.

My collections may focus on other players and sets, but few cards in my collection come close to the awesome that is 1973 Topps #615. This card entered my collection as my favorite card in 1998, and remains one of my favorite cards to this day. So yes, I guess you could say that my 1973 Topps #615 Cey/Hilton/Schmidt is my favorite rookie card.

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