Don't hate him because he's rich, handsome and plays shortstop for the New York Yankees. Cheer for him because he's classy, charitable and a tremendous talent.
That's what fans of Derek Jeter will tell you. And it's hard to argue with them.
"There is a poise about him, a self-assurance and confidence, a sense of pride in who he is and what he does that, for me, never tips over into arrogance," explained Jonathan White, an actor based in Ireland, who owns the PSA Set Registry's No. 1 Jeter Master Topps Set on the PSA Set Registry. "He is also deeply conscious of the unique position he has achieved - one of a handful of men named as captain of the most storied team in American sports. Yet, in the face of the history that has preceded him, he is both humble and respectful."
Cary Crane, who owns the PSA Set Registry's No. 1 Jeter Basic & Collector Issues Set, agrees.
"He's a class act, the way he lives his life on and off the field," he said.
Jordon Wertheimer, who owns the PSA Set registry's No. 2 Jeter Topps Basic Set, shares similar sentiments.
"He's a great ambassador for the game," he said.
Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation is evidence of his good character. His charity has raised millions to help teenagers avoid drug and alcohol addiction. But being a nice guy in the Big Apple will only get you so far. To qualify as a true Yankee legend, you have to be productive on the field. A four-time World Series champion and nine-time all-star, Jeter has a Cooperstown resume to match his Hall of Fame personality.
"One thing you can't take away from him is that he's a winner and gives 100% on every play," said Kenneth Ryan, a Red Sox fan, who has gone against the grain to compile the Registry's No. 1 Jeter Master Set.
And if a permanent place in Yankee lore had not already been cemented for him, Jeter recently passed Mickey Mantle to move into third place on the Bronx Bombers' all-time hit list. The two players ahead of him are Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
His growing list of accomplishments helps to explain why there are five Jeter sets on the PSA Registry: Basic & Collector Issues (491 cards), Master (2,081 cards), Basic Topps (13 cards), Master Topps (350 cards) and Rookie (8 cards).
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The 1993 SP rookie (#270) is the key to any Jeter collection.
"That's the Holy Grail of Jeter cards," said Tim Wiley, proud proprietor of the Registry's No. 3 Basic & Collector Issues Set.
"It's the Honus Wagner of the Derek Jeter world," he said.
Wiley points out that the foil surface on this card makes it susceptible to scratches. Its borders and corners also fray easily. Of the 9,151 graded, there have been just nine PSA 10s.
"The only PSA 10 I've seen on eBay in recent times went for $5,500," said White.
Even more elusive in PSA 10 is the 1993 Upper Deck Gold Hologram Jeter (#449). Each 15-count case of 1993 Upper Deck factory sets included one set of cards with gold foil holograms. Just 58 such Jeters have been plucked from these sets and graded by PSA, and only five have been deemed PSA 10s.
Also tough to track down are Jeter's 1993 Topps Inaugural Marlins and Rockies rookies. Available in factory sets that celebrated the debut of these two expansion clubs, the cards boast the respective franchise logos and were sold at the teams' stadiums. Four thousand Marlins sets and 5,000 Rockies sets were reportedly manufactured.
One of Jeter's first certified autograph cards was included in the 1995 Action Packed Scouting Report set (#1A). Inserted at a rate of one in every 480 packs, these Jeter cards also flaunt a piece of diamond. One sold for $174 in an American Memorabilia auction in July 2006.
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Jeter's 1996 Leaf Signature Autographs single is also highly coveted. The Yankees shortstop signed just 1,000 of these (700 bronze, 200 silver and 100 gold), and just five have been graded by PSA. A non-graded example sold for $225 on eBay in July 2008.
Another tough issue from the same year is Jeter's Select Certified Mirror Gold single (#100). The Mirror Gold issue features gold foil versions of the 144 cards in the 1996 Select Certified set. Inserted at an average of one card per every 300 packs, just 30 of each of these cards were manufactured. Only seven Jeters have been evaluated by PSA, and there has been one PSA 10. Ungraded examples generally fetch in excess of $200 each.
Wertheimer says that many of Jeter's cards from 2000 to present are also difficult to find in high-grade because people generally don't submit them to PSA. He points out that there are just two PSA 10 Topps Jeter cards from 2001 (#100).
"The cards in the later years, let's say 2000 to 2007, they're not graded, they're not worth that much and it's difficult to find them," said Crane.
With George Bush and Mickey Mantle in the background of the photo, Jeter's 2007 Topps card (#40) was also highly sought-after upon its initial release. The regular issue sells for around $15, but a Copper parallel version - limited to just 56 copies - sells for considerably more. One ungraded Copper Jeter sold for $10,100 on eBay in March 2007.
And as Jeter continues to rack up hits, his cards are bound to become even more popular. Only 34 and with close to 2,500 hits, Jeter should easily surpass 3,000 hits. Some baseball pundits believe he can reach 4,000 hits.
"If he stays healthy, here's a guy who can play for a long time. I don't want to put a number of years on it, but he could easily play for another eight to 10 years. And, if he does that then he's the only player that I can imagine has got a shot at breaking Pete Rose's hits record," said Wertheimer.
So yes, he's rich, handsome and plays shortstop for the New York Yankees, but he's also classy, charitable and a future Hall of Famer.
"I just think he's a great guy. He's a really good role model for kids," said Wiley.
"The fact is, for 13 seasons he has delivered consistently to an exceptional level under the brightest lights on the baseball stage. He has added luster to his team's already gleaming legacy. Furthermore, he has done it with honor and dignity. He has been a leader both on and off the field. Of how many of his contemporaries can the same be said?" he noted.
Not many. And that's what makes Jeter so hard to hate.