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Topps Metal Coins an Oddity with Marginal Resale Value

Bill Wagner - Babe Waxpak by Bill Wagner, "Babe Waxpak"
March 14, 2005

Dear Babe: I still have all of my baseball cards from 1964-1967, which I collected as a kid. Along with the stale piece of bubble gum, they included metal trading coins for a short period of time. I can always find the current prices for the baseball cards in publications, but never seem to find anything on the coins.
George Steele, Roswell, Ga.

When it comes to oddball issues, you want to check out Beckett's Almanac of Baseball Cards or the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards from the editors of Sports Collectors Digest. These thick volumes list just about every card and insert ever produced. Topps made coins in 1964, 1971 and 1987 through 1990. All of your coins are from 1964. Topps produced a set of 164 coins that were inserted in wax packs. There were 120 regular coins and then a 44-coin subset. Naturally, the Hall of Famers are the most valuable. Looking over your list among All-Stars, Roberto Clemente's coin (No. 150) is the most valuable. The Standard Catalog and Beckett's Almanac have it at $20-$30. Henry Aaron (149) is worth $15-$25 with Sandy Koufax at $13.50-$15. As for regular coins, Bob Gibson (59) at $9-$10 and Bill Mazeroski (27) $6-$8 top the list. Commons of either variety are worth a buck or two. Beckett has the higher values.

Dear Babe: The story behind this autograph is fascinating. My grandmother, a petite Irish lady with nine children, attended a Boston Celtic's basketball game. As the players came out on the court, she was amazed at their size. Her son, my uncle Joe, joked about Bill Russell saying, "I wonder what part of Ireland he's from." A few minutes passed and my uncle Joe caught sight of my grandmother going down to the floor and speaking to Red Auerbach. You could see him chuckle and then go to Bill Russell. My grandmother had actually gone down to ask Russell what part of Ireland he was from. I believe Bob Cousy was next to him and they both cracked up. With that, Russell signed his name to my grandmother's program. My uncle still has it. I was told that Russell did not sign autographs. Is that true?
Joseph Trimble, Manassas Park, Va.

It's a great story and there was definitely a time - a long period that stretched over a several decades - when Russell didn't sign much of anything and didn't do any shows. In the end, he either succumbed to the pressure or saw the light of making big bucks for just signing his name. Once he started signing and doing shows, the values of those hard-to-get older signatures dropped.

"Even though he initiated a signing hiatus of about 30 years in the 1960s, his signature, while expensive, is readily available now," said Mike Breeden, a Sports Collectors Digest columnist and autograph expert. "If the program isn't signed on a picture of Russell, you're probably talking about a $75-$100 item. If it is signed on his picture, then you can raise the value to $150 or so," Breeden said.

Dear Babe: I have a program from the third annual Pro Bowl game played Jan. 10, 1953, in the Los Angeles Coliseum. It is in excellent condition. It was signed by Bill Willis, Lou Groza, Elbie Nickel, Horace Gillom, Dan Towler, Bob Hoernschemeyer, Bill Johnson, Gordon Soltau, Leo Nomellini, Bobby Layne, Hugh McElhenny, Hardy Brown and Ed Sprinkle.
Hermann Knechtle, Arcadia, Calif.

"I don't see anything spectacular about the autographs on the piece. I'd put it at $150-$200 with a good bit of the value being in the program itself," said Mike Breeden, a Sports Collectors Digest columnist and autograph expert.

Dear Babe: On Aug. 10, 1968, I was on the playing field at Yankee Stadium for the Old-Timers Day event, thanks to my friendship with Larry Doby. I was able to get the autographs on a ball of Lefty Grove, Bob Feller, Sid Gordon, Harvey Kuenn, Goose Goslin, Ralph Branca, Jimmie Dykes, Sal Maglie, Pie Traynor, Luke Appling, Don Newcombe, Early Wynn and Joe Medwick. Most of the signatures have been faded over time, but are still readable.
Bob Croland, Glen Rock, N.J.

Thanks to the likes of Traynor, Medwick and Goslin, the ball should be worth $250-$350 even with the somewhat faded signatures. Remember to keep the ball in a cool, dry spot out of direct light to try and keep the fading in check.

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About the author
Bill Wagner is a veteran journalist with 37 years in the newspaper business as well as being a former Army combat correspondent in Vietnam. He developed the Babe Waxpak sports card column in the 1980s and took over authorship in 1993, expanding into sports memorabilia and autographs as well as answering questions on cards.

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