Thursday, January 23, 2014

1977 Chong Modesto A's Baseball #5, Ricky (Rickey) Henderson

Today's hazy black-and-white set is an ugly duckling that became, at least for collectors, the beautiful swan. Many minor league collectors even consider this 1970s rarity their Mona Lisa. With an estimated 500 team sets printed (and many discarded since 1977), singles go for four figures in the current marketplace; PSA's article on Rickey notes that one team set sold for over $1300 in 2007.

1970s card publisher Chong Enterprises included a lot of bat in Henderson's photo and didn't quite get his name right, but captured Rickey's squinty focus. ("Rickey might have bad days, but Rickey would never spell Rickey without the 'e.' Don't worry, Rickey, you're still the best.")

This particular image isn't well-known, but it reappeared in a 1980s "Klector's Mints" series by NYC cab driver and baseball fan Bernard Kleckner. He recolored black-and-white sports photos with chalk and printed cards for taxi customers as a way to generate repeat business.

Kleckner handed out 400 of each card in his series, similar to the print run of Chong's Modesto team set, but demand and cost for the 1977 original runs far higher, the hobby being what it is.

Chong printed a 22-card team set for Modesto, Oakland's affiliate in the single-A California League, and players in bold went on to appear in the majors.
  1. Ted Smith
  2. Barry Wright
  3. Craig Minetto
  4. Dominic Scala
  5. Ricky (Rickey) Henderson
  6. Jesse Wright
  7. Mike Rodriguez
  8. Ernie Camacho
  9. Pat Dempsey
  10. Randy Green
  11. Mike Patterson
  12. Mace Harrison
  13. Rod Patterson
  14. Monte Bothwell
  15. Bart Braun
  16. Rich Oziomiela
  17. Tom Trebelhorn, Manager
  18. Rod McNeely
  19. Ron Beaurivage
  20. Brian Meyl
  21. John Eisinger
  22. Juan Gomez / Tom Trebelhorn

#22 shows both Juan Gomez and team manager Tom Trebelhorn, but it's not clear to me whether this Gomez is the same Juan Gomez drafted out of a New Jersey high school in June of 1977 by Detroit. (That Juan Gomez didn't appear in a pro game until 1978, so I assume this Juan Gomez was a trainer or team official.)

Value: Lew Lipset auctioned a "Ricky" for $750 in 2011. It's fair to say you'll pay hundreds, if not more, for one of the few that remain in the open market. (The latest one I saw was a Buy-It-Now listing on eBay for $15K+ and hasn't been sold; completed auctions are hard to come by.)

Fakes / reprints: As a Hall of Fame pre-rookie, Henderson's at high risk for fakery. Chong also reprinted this card (with a new border and back text) for their 1989 Modesto Alumni set, so anything that says "alumni" is from that issue.


rickeyfanatic said...

Thank you for taking the image of my card and using it without permission.

rickeyfanatic said...

For the comment of the value being unrealistic, see Cal Ripken minor league sales recently. 20k and many over 10k. Chong is just as rare and in impeccable condition.

Matthew Glidden said...

Sorry, sounds like you don't want that, so I'll change to another image without the ID'd slab. (My sole intent's to provide a reference for other collectors.)

rickeyfanatic said...

Provide a reference, but are you also providing a pricing reference from known sales of the card?
PSA 7 recently sold $1500.
There are very few graded higher than that. A top 3 graded copy of this card fetches a premium, as it should.

Matthew Glidden said...

I've changed to a different card and noted that few auctions close on 1977 Chong cards. Hope you can get $15K for it, as it would reflect an upswing in collectors' appreciation for Rickey. (I'd take him on my team over Ripken any time.)

Matthew Glidden said...

(And the blog provides my take on pricing and reprints because readers asked to add it. Most type cards just need an eBay search for completed sales. Rarities like this card Rickey card depend entirely on who's active on the market at a given time, since a couple of big buyers will drive anything up.)

rickeyfanatic said...

I will agree that most sales for an item like this will not happen on Ebay as a completed auction.

There has been a great amount of interest in this particular card, I believe Rickey is getting his respect in the hobby, some of it long overdue.