2018 Baseball Hall of Fame Class
Collecting Cards, Autographs, and Game-Used Memorabilia of Cooperstown's Newest Inductees
by Kevin Glew
The six members of the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction class boast a combined 40 All-Star Game selections, six World Series rings, and 1,714 major league home runs.
And the numbers of Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, Alan Trammell, and Jack Morris are almost equally as impressive individually.
This wide-ranging class includes two first-ballot inductees (Jones and Thome) as well as two others (Morris and Trammell) who were forced to endure 15 years on the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) ballot before being elected by the Modern Era (Veterans) Committee.
And the rookie cards and autographs of the 2018 class members are as diverse as the honorees themselves. Their first-year cards span from Morris and Trammell's 1978 Topps prospects cards to Guerrero's shiny 1995 Bowman's Best single, while their signatures range in appearance from artful to borderline scribbling.
Let's take a look at each of the inductees and their key rookie cards, their autographs, and the market for their game-used items.
Selected as the top pick in the 1990 MLB draft, Jones played his entire 19-year major league career with the Atlanta Braves. The eight-time All-Star captured the 1999 National League MVP award, two Silver Slugger Awards, a National League batting title, and was an offensive force for a franchise that won 14 consecutive division crowns and a World Series title in 1995. The switch-hitting infielder finished his big-league career with 2,726 hits, 468 home runs, 549 doubles, 1,619 runs, and 1,623 RBI and is one of only nine players - and the only switch hitter - to register a .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage, .500 slugging percentage, and 400 home runs.
His 1991 Bowman rookie (#569) offers a posed shot of him in the follow through of his left-handed swing. This card was produced in high quantities and is easy for hobbyists to obtain for their PSA Hall of Fame Players - Post-War Rookies set. Kevin McHolland, who is collecting this set, likes the design of this card.
"The layout is very clean," he said. "The image is not cluttered with too many graphics."
Of the 8,860 submitted, there have been 1,589 PSA GEM-MT 10s.
For those looking for a high-end Jones rookie, they can pursue his 1991 Topps Desert Shield (#333) single. Issued in wax packs to U.S. troops serving in the Persian Gulf, the Desert Shield set boasts the same 792-card checklist as the regular Topps issue. A gold Desert Shield logo on the front of these cards distinguishes them from the regular cards.
Anywhere from 6,300 to 7,000 copies of each card are believed to have been manufactured. Military supply personnel reportedly sold some stock to hobby dealers before it was shipped to the Middle East, but many of the cards that made it to the troops were destroyed or damaged. There are 28 PSA 10s of the Jones card, with one fetching a whopping $10,742 in a SCP Auctions sale in March 2018.
Jones was an accommodating in-person signer during his playing career, and his autograph is also one of the most attractive from his era. Jones will generally write out his full first name followed by a large J and then a line for the remainder of his second name. He likes to add his No. 10 in the loop of the J.
"Very early in the minors and then maybe his first two years in the majors, he actually spelled out almost every letter [in his first and last name]," said PSA/DNA autograph authenticator Bill Corcoran. "Even now his autograph is the same size, same style, the same basic letter formation, but he just cuts a few of the letters off at the end of his name."
Jones used several different bat brands during his career, including Louisville Slugger, Mizuno, Glomar, and Adirondack/Rawlings.
"He preferred using Adirondack/Rawlings bats," explained PSA/DNA bat authenticator John Taube. "From the left-hand side of the plate, he predominantly used a natural [colored] Rawlings, model number MS 20, which was Mike Schmidt's model. And from the right-hand side of the plate, he used a black Rawlings, model number 794A."
Taube says Jones' bats are typically 35 inches in length and they weigh 32 to 33 ounces.
Jones' well-used bats will often showcase heavy pine tar along the lower handle. His uniform number "10" is frequently written in black marker on the knob and/or barrel end.
A signed PSA/DNA GU 9, 1999 Chipper Jones bat sold for $1,964 in 2018.
Guerrero boasted a tremendous combination of power and speed that, coupled with his strong throwing arm, made him one of baseball's best all-around players during his major league career. Signed as an amateur free agent by the Montreal Expos in 1993, Guerrero became a regular outfielder with the club in May 1997. After four All-Star Game selections and two 30-30 seasons with the Expos, Guerrero signed with the Los Angeles Angels after the 2003 campaign and continued to be one of baseball's most dangerous hitters.
In his six seasons with the Angels, he was an All-Star four times, captured four Silver Slugger Awards, and was named the American League MVP in 2004. He joined the Texas Rangers in 2010, and after clubbing 29 home runs and registering 115 RBI, he was selected to his ninth All-Star team, won his eighth Silver Slugger Award, and was honored with the Edgar Martinez Award, as the league's top designated hitter. In all, in his 16-year big league career, he batted .318, walloped 449 home runs, and recorded a .553 career slugging percentage, which ranks 23rd all-time.
Guerrero's 1995 Bowman's Best card (#2) is his most coveted rookie. This card features the young slugger in his Montreal Expos uniform in a batting pose against a shiny silver background.
Wally DalPan, who owns the No. 11 Current Finest Hall of Fame Players - Post-War Rookies set on the PSA Set Registry, says there are some condition issues with this single.
"In my opinion, the issue is mostly the centering because it's a borderless card; it's hard to find what is truly centered on this card," he said.
Of the 5,270 submitted, there have been 346 PSA 10s, one of which fetched $301 on eBay in June 2018.
There's also a rarer refractor version of this single. Each of the 195 cards in the regular Bowman's Best set were produced in a parallel refractor version and one of these 195 refractors was inserted in every six packs of the regular 1995 Bowman's Best product. The word "refractor" is printed on the bottom left of the back.
"There's a centering issue with Guerrero's refractor," noted McHolland. "All of the refractors from that set are tough to find in good shape because there aren't many of them."
In fact, out of 316 submissions, 188 have received a qualifier from PSA. A PSA MINT 9 sold for $699 on eBay in May 2018.
During his playing career, Guerrero was the most elusive in-person signer of the 2018 inductees.
At first glance, his autograph resembles a scribble, but it you look closer, you'll notice a V and his last name joined together.
"There are some certified minor league autograph cards where he actually spelled out every letter [in his first and last name]," said Corcoran.
But almost immediately after his big league career began, his autograph took the form that it's most often seen in today.
Taube notes that Guerrero used numerous brands of bats during his career, but he preferred maple bats.
"It really didn't matter what make he was using, they were all about 34 inches and 32 ounces," said Taube. "And no matter how many different makes he used, the use characteristics are generally the same: his pine tar application, which on his well-used bats was very heavy, and his cleat marks. Plus, you generally see his uniform number  marked on the knob."
Guerrero was fairly active in signing his gamers and many of them have surfaced on the market.
A PSA/DNA GU 10, 2005-08 Vladimir Guerrero game-used X Bat sold for $1,320 in February 2018.
Originally selected in the 13th round of the MLB draft by the Cleveland Indians in 1989, this big, lumbering left-handed hitter surprised scouts and blossomed into one of the most prolific home run hitters in major league history. The five-time All-Star would register 16, 20-home run seasons, 12, 30-home run campaigns, six 40-home run seasons, and one 50-home run campaign during his 22-year big league career that he divided between the Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, and Baltimore Orioles.
His consistent long ball output made him just the eighth player in major league history to club over 600 home runs, finishing with 612 (the eighth most all-time). A Silver Slugger Award winner and a key member of the 1995 and 1997 pennant winning Indians teams, Thome was also one of the game's good guys, winning the Roberto Clemente Award in 2002 and the Lou Gehrig Award in 2004 - both of which recognize a player for their outstanding community and humanitarian efforts.
The 1991 Bowman set was the only mainstream issue from that year to feature a Thome card (#68) in their regular series. So while this card is not expensive or rare, it's his most desirable rookie.
"If you remember the era from between 1988 and 1992, there weren't as many card companies and there weren't as many parallel type issues, so they really overprinted them," explained DalPan.
Out of 5,501 total graded by PSA, there are 2,523 PSA 10s with even more (2,712) PSA 9s.
Thome was an accommodating signer during his playing career. However, after spelling out all the letters in his name for at least a portion of his minor league career, his signature evolved into a J connected to his last name.
"For a couple of years in the minors, he certainly spelled out every letter," said Corcoran. "His signature today is similar, but it does appear to have become a little more embellished. And it's not as crystal clear as it used to be."
Like Guerrero, Thome employed a variety of bat brands during his career. Taube says Thome appeared to prefer Rawlings and Louisville Slugger bats that were generally 34.5 inches and weighed 32 to 33 ounces. Thome's bats also regularly feature a distinctive tape job.
"He wrapped the lower handle and the knob. It was padded wrap," said Taube.
Thome's bats also frequently exhibit pine tar in an area near the upper handle and towards the center brand.
A PSA DNA/GU 9, 2003-05 Jim Thome game-used Louisville Slugger bat sold for $1,440 in February 2018.
Taken by the Cincinnati Reds in the 11th round of the 1989 MLB draft, this 6-foot-1 right-hander developed into arguably the best closer in National League history. Left exposed by the Reds in the 1992 expansion draft, Hoffman was chosen by the Florida Marlins, and after just 28 games with the Fish, he was shipped to the San Diego Padres as part of a package for Gary Sheffield. It was on the West Coast that Hoffman would enjoy his greatest major league success, recording 30 or more saves in 13 of 14 seasons between 1995 and 2008.
Along the way, he was selected to seven All-Star Games, was named National League Fireman of the Year by The Sporting News in 1996 and 1998, and took home the National League Rolaids Relief Awards in 1998 and 2006. He completed his 18-year major league career with the second-most saves (601) and games finished (856) in major league history, following New York Yankees legend Mariano Rivera. It's a testament to his excellence that the National League's Reliever of the Year Award is now named after him.
His 1992 Bowman card (#11) is his most coveted rookie. This card features the steady reliever in the follow-through of a throwing pose in a Reds uniform and is widely available in high grade. Of the 1,183 submitted, there have been 561 PSA 10s and 504 PSA 9s.
Like Jones and Thome, Hoffman was an obliging in-person signer throughout his career.
In recent years, Hoffman's signature usually offers a large, artful T in his first name and then a line, followed by a pronounced H, one large-looped f, and then another line in his last name.
"In his early signatures, he spelled out every letter," said Corcoran. "It was rather appealing and very symmetrical; it was really nice. These days, however, I think he is abbreviating like everybody else."
After being bypassed by the BBWAA for 15 years, Trammell was elected by the Modern Era (Veterans) Committee. Chosen in the second round by the Detroit Tigers in 1976, Trammell would suit up with the club for his entire 20-year big league career and record a .285 batting average and 2,365 hits. While manning the middle infield in Motown, he was selected to six All-Star Games, won four Gold Gloves, three Silver Slugger Awards, and batted .300 or better with 10 or more home runs in six seasons.
The unassuming shortstop was at his best in the 1984 World Series when he batted .450 (9-for-20) to lead his club to victory and earn himself Fall Classic MVP Honors. Three years later, he propelled the Tigers to a division title when he established career-bests with a .343 batting average, 28 home runs, and 105 RBI, but he finished a close second to Toronto Blue Jays' slugger George Bell in the MVP voting.
With Trammell's election, baseball card history has been made. His 1978 Topps Rookie Shortstops single (#707) is the only card in the PSA Set Registry's Hall of Fame Players - Post-War Rookies set that serves as the rookie for two Hall of Famers. Trammell is pictured on this card with Cooperstowner Paul Molitor (as well as Mickey Klutts and U.L. Washington).
Out of all the 2018 Hall of Famer rookies, "the Trammell card is definitely the hardest [to obtain in high grade]" said DalPan. "It was a difficult year; quality was definitely an issue on the 1978 Topps cards for a number of reasons."
This card is notorious for smudging in the "Rookie Shortstops" lettering near the bottom and on the red line above it.
"Finding it centered is difficult too," said DalPan.
Of the 6,064 submitted, there have been just 24 PSA 10s, one of which fetched $6,850 on eBay in May 2018.
Trammell was an accommodating signer during his playing days and continues to be in retirement. He generally signs so that you can read almost every letter in his first and last names.
"Sometimes he skips a little at the end in the second m, but in general, it is usually present," said Corcoran. "It's not just a couple of loops like a couple of guys sign today."
During his career, Taube says Trammell employed Louisville Slugger, Worth, and Cooper bats that generally measured 34.5 inches and weighed 32 ounces. His bats often have his No. 3 written on the bottom of them.
"Many of his bats share a knobless bottom," said Taube. "They flare a little, but there's no fine knob to the bat."
A signed PSA/DNA GU 9.5, 1993 Alan Trammell game-used Louisville Slugger bat sold for $1,020 in May 2018.
Like Trammell, Morris was forced to wait through 15 years on the BBWAA ballot before finally receiving his Hall nod from the Modern Era (Veterans) Committee. Selected in the fifth round of the 1976 MLB draft by the Detroit Tigers, the hardnosed right-hander was the team's ace by 1979. His 162 wins with the Tigers during the 1980s was the most by any major leaguer that decade. After his first 20-win campaign in 1983, Morris added 19 more victories as the top starter on the Tigers' 1984 World Series-winning club.
After 14 seasons with the Tigers, Morris signed with his hometown Minnesota Twins and proceeded to win 18 games and toss a 10-inning shutout against John Smoltz and the Atlanta Braves in the seventh and deciding game of the 1991 World Series - a mound performance that many consider to be one of the greatest in major league history.
An Opening Day starter 14 times (second most in MLB history), Morris moved on to the Toronto Blue Jays the following campaign and became the club's first 20-game winner and led them to their first World Series title. The five-time All-Star collected a fourth World Series ring with the Blue Jays in 1993. In all, in 18 major league seasons, he tallied 254 victories and hurled 175 complete games.
Morris's 1978 Topps rookie (#703) is from the same series and in the same four-player format as Trammell's. This "Rookie Pitchers" card features a headshot of Morris on the bottom right. The other three pitchers on the card are Larry Andersen, Tim Jones, and Mickey Mahler.
DalPan says the Morris rookie generally doesn't have the same smudge issue as the Trammell. It can, however, be tough to find with proper centering. Of the 2,670 submitted, there have been 87 PSA 10s, one of which garnered $589 on eBay in May 2018.
Morris could be surly, but he was still a good in-person signer during his career. Like Trammell, Morris has a nice autograph in which you can make out almost every letter in his name.
"His signature has been fairly stable [over the years]," said Corcoran. "Maybe the earlier ones are a little neater or more clearly spelled out, but for a relatively recent star, he has a very nice signature."
Corcoran says there's one common characteristic he looks for in Morris signatures.
"While he may not have always done this, one thing that I've noticed in the examples that I've seen is that when he ends the s, he comes back to the left and then he kind of dots the i," explained Corcoran. "In other words, the s doesn't trail off to the right like some people finish it; it comes back to the left and then finishes inward."
For more information on the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees' trading cards, autographs, and game-used bats, please visit https://www.psacard.com/facts/.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of July 2018. Note: The signed baseballs referred to in this article are official Major League balls, unless noted otherwise.
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