With Opening Day roughly a week away, many of us are excited to welcome in the new baseball season in 2022 by going through some of our most idolized and cherished baseball cards that we have been collecting throughout our years. The start of a new year always stirs up collectors to try and see what new players they should anticipate to be the newest stars for their favorite ball clubs and inspires us collectors to go out and find the rookie cards of these potential future stars.
Even though the New York Mets have been around for 60 years now as a franchise, they unfortunately do not have as many iconic flagship cards that collectors go after when you compare them to other storied ball clubs like the Yankees, the Cardinals or the Dodgers. But that doesn't mean that there aren't at least a few iconic players that have been brought up through our farm system and whose legacies and achievements are still recognized by Mets and other baseball fans alike.
Interestingly enough, the three greatest players to ever be brought up, recognized and play for the Mets organization in the last 60 years happen to all be starting pitchers. I am, of course, referring to Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver and Jacob deGrom. As a result, it's no coincidence that these three players’ rookie cards are the most sought after Mets cards in franchise history by most collectors.
There are a few iconic baseball cards that every Mets fan should know about and try to add to their personal card collections (if affordable).
Nolan Ryan began his rookie season as a New York Met back in 1966 when he was called up for a cup of coffee to pitch in the big leagues. His career spanned over four decades and he retired after the 1993 season holding the all-time Major League record for strike outs and no-hitters. Both records still stand to this day. His official flagship rookie card is the 1968 Topps #177 card and in a PSA 9 it runs currently goes for $14,000 if centered properly. In a PSA 10, which is considered the highest grade a card can get as far as condition and quality goes, there is considered to be only one card in existence that ever received a grade this high. It recently sold at an auction for over $530,000 a few years ago.
Another iconic and revered baseball card in Mets history also is a Topps card from the late decade of the 1960's. This is Tom Seaver's Topps 1967 #581 rookie card. Regarded by many as probably the greatest Mets pitcher of all time, Seaver's career spanned over twenty years and included him taking home three Cy Young awards, winning over 300 games and striking out 3,640 batters. Going by the same grading as the Nolan Ryan card above, a Seaver Topps rookie card in a PSA 9 today would probably set you back $40,000 on average. In a perfect gem mint PSA 10 grade, expect this card to fetch well over $300,000.
The last of these three iconic cards that are highly sought after by Mets collectors is the Jacob deGrom 2014 Topps Chrome Update #US50 card with a picture of him thowing a baseball from a left side angle. Jacob burst onto the scene back in 2014 going eight innings and only giving up one earned run against a top notch Yankees offense in his Major League debut. He finished that year with a 2.69 ERA in 22 starts and went on to win the National League ROY award. He followed that up with winning back to back Cy Young awards in 2018 and 2019, being the only Mets pitcher in club history to win that prestigous award in consecutive seasons.
Since the mid 1990’s up until the early 2000’s, baseball cards started going thorugh a major transformation in the hobby. It used to be that the two major licensed brands for baseball cards, Topps and Bowman, would simply print out one card per player with maybe two or three special insert cards for Hall of Fame players, iconic moments for certain teams or All-Star recognition cards.
But starting in the mid 1990’s that all changed. Topps started printing not only it’s original set like it had been doing for the last 40 years, but it also introduced a higher quality brand set called Topps Chrome beginning in 1996. The base set design was identical to the Topps original flagship set for Chrome. The major diference was the Chrome set added a glossier and more higher quality brand of card than the original set.
These Chrome cards have since been considered the more expensive and the standard set for collectors to purchase if they seek a truly valuable card. Topps and many other card brands also started introducing variations known as “refractors” and ”parallels”. They also created ”short-print” cards, which are special types of design insert cards that compliment the orignal baseball card but have special designs or autographs in or around the card’s borders and on the card’s face. These insert parallel or refractor cards are much harder and rarer to find than the original.
Even though often sought after by many Mets fans and collectors, Jacob deGrom’s 2014 Topps Chrome Update card isn’t the most highly sough after 2014 Topps Update deGrom rookie card. That honor goes to a variation of this card, which is the 2014 Topps Chrome Update #MB-19 Black refractor card.
This refractor card is rare in that only 99 of them were ever created by the Topps company. In a PSA 9 this card can fetch anywhere between $1,500 to $3,500. There are only 7 of these cards in existence on the planet in a perfect PSA 10 condition. In a PSA 10, this card can sell for as high as $8,500 at auction.
The three cards I mention above certainly stand out in price due to the rarity and the quality of player they represent within the Mets organization. But many fans will have their own personal favorite cards that they will want to collect because of the fond memories those Mets players brought to them in thier lifetimes.
What are some of your most sought after Mets baseball cards?