Ah, the Topps of 1987. I remember it well, having decided to put together the whole set by opening packs. Topps was the only brand carried at the Little Champ, the convenience store near my home. I cleaned them out of packs on a fairly regular basis and self inflicted tooth decay chewing the gum that came in the packs. There were 792 cards in the set, and I must have bought 3,000 before giving in and going to a dealer and picking up the two I could never find. It was so late in the year that the Traded set was out, so I went ahead and grabbed one. Among the cards in the Traded set was this Greg Maddux rookie, but who cared? It was the Fred McGriff and David Cone cards I wanted.
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Both McGriff and Cone went on to have excellent careers, but Maddux, the 300+-game-winning pitcher and future-first-ballot-hall-of-famer is The Man in this set. Fortunately for me, the set only came in a box -- no packs, no gum. I now have eleven copies of this Maddux card. If I'd had to bust packs to get them, I wouldn't have a tooth left. But unfortunately for me, Topps produced ... maybe 100,000 sets? ... of Traded in 1987 (based on the known print run of 30,000 Traded Tiffany that year). So this rookie card is commonplace and even my Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) graded "mint" cards aren't worth much more than the Traded set cost me back in 1987.
But that can be good news if you're looking to pick up a Maddux rookie card for your collection. Mint-graded (PSA 9) versions can be had for $5 on auction -- gem-mint (PSA 10) can be found in the $25 range. Quality control was actually decent on the Traded set, with off-center top-to-bottom issues being the most common among the examples I have here. But bear in mind that you're buying a card, not making a solid investment. Maddux collectors usually have several copies of the card, and dealers can get them to you by the dozen. Even after #31 retires and enters the Hall (right now he's pitching like it's 1994, so his retirement will have to wait awhile, thank goodness), this card won't see much of a price hike. But that doesn't mean you'll be wasting money on a purchase.
What you'll get for your money is the 1987 Topps-Traded #70T, featuring an action shot of Maddux in his follow-through in what appears to be warm-up throws for a Wrigley Field day game. (His glove hand is too far behind his back for me to think there's anyone at the plate -- Dude is just too good a fielder for that to happen.) Pony cleats and Rawlings glove remind you that this young man hasn't picked up the big Nike and Wilson endorsements yet, and the collar-length hair, lobe-length sideburns and mustache, set atop a 150-pound body further underline the fact that he's in his early 20s in the late '80s. The photo is framed in the wood-grained border of the 1987 set -- itself a throwback to the 1962 set -- with the Cubs logo in the top-left corner, the Topps logo in the bottom-left, and "Greg Maddux" in white letters over a red background at the bottom.
The card's back is white with blue-lettered statistics on a yellow field. The backs tend to be off-centered left to right, even on my PSA 9 copies. Here you see Maddux's stats from 1984 Pikeville to 1986 Chicago, none of which really indicate what he was going to accomplish in his future (even the 10-1 '86 Iowa stint had a 3.02 ERA). Beneath the stats is a little wonderfact about Greg pitching against his brother when Mike Maddux was with the Phillies in 1986. Right below that is a bit of baseball trivia concerning Al Rosen in the 1954 All-Star Game, followed by Greg's height, weight, date of birth -- the usual baseball card/driver's license sort of information.
All in all the card is pleasant enough to look at. But it's really not that great of a card. Considering only the various Maddux rookie cards, the most desirable is the 1986 ProCards Pittsfield, which is a minor league card. After that comes the very rare 1987 Cubs Canon. Arguments can certainly be made against either of these cards -- the Pittsfield is a minor league card, so not really a rookie card, and the Cubs Canon, though listed in Beckett, isn't really a baseball card, being more of a promo photo. But there are still several 1987 rookie cards... well, let me just list them: Dave Berg (Wrigley Field give away), Donruss #36, Donruss The Rookies #52, Fleer Update U-68, Fleer Glossy Update U-68, Leaf #36, SportFlics Team Preview #22, Topps Traded #70T, and Topps Traded Tiffany #70T. So nine readily available 1987 rookie cards. Of those, the SportFlics is likely the most difficult to find (but who cares? It's ugly), followed by the Dave Berg (which is slightly oversized but a good find). Of the Big Three brands, Donruss/Leaf, Fleer, and Topps, only the 1987 Donruss #36 (and the Leaf, made-for-Canadians parallel) is a true rookie card. Fleer and Topps are "extended" rookies, meaning they weren't produced for the regular sets, while the Donruss/Leaf was in the main set. Indeed, it's difficult to argue that the Topps Traded is even the best example of that card, since the Tiffany version is valued at roughly six times the non-Tiffany version.
The point is, this card has an average Epinions review of 5 stars (before I weighed in with this Epinion). I just don't see it.
Throwing out for a minute the all-time great baseball cards, the Mantle rookie, the Wagner T206, and figuring just 1980s rookies, it's difficult to line up the Topps Traded Maddux against the likes of the '82 Topps Traded Ripken, the '84 Donruss Mattingly, the '84 Fleer Update Clemens or Puckett, the '85 Topps McGwire, or the '89 Upper Deck Griffey (I'm not including Bonds since the jury's still out on him, in the collecting world and elsewhere). Considering those the best of the era, and worthy of 5 stars, none of the major issue Maddux's stack up in collectibility. This is certainly not reflective of Maddux's place among them, but only reflective of the enormous glut of cards placed on the market after the 1984 rookie crop renewed interest in baseball cards. So that would move the best of the Maddux rookies into the 4 star range, in my opinion.
And this isn't the best of the Maddux rookies.
What it is is a genuine Greg Maddux rookie card from the most famous baseball card company. It's easy to find and affordable. And there should be a copy in your collection -- after you get a copy of the '87 Donruss. And the real bargain is still out there: a mint-graded Topps Traded Tiffany is well worth your consideration. But pick up a 1987 Topps Traded 70T, too. In fact, pick up, say, 30,000 in an attempt to try and corner the market. It'd certainly make my piddly eleven copies increase in value....
Ah, the Topps of 1987. Too bad I have to give a memory 3 stars. But I'll always have Paris... er, I mean, I'll always have the Little Champ.
(I also reviewed the two other Maddux rookies in the Epinions database, giving both the 1987 Donruss Maddux rookie and the 1987 Fleer Update Maddux rookie higher ratings than this Topps Traded.)
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