Hall of Fame Update
2019 Baseball Hall of Fame Class
Collecting the Rookie Cards and Memorabilia of Cooperstown's Six Newest Inductees
By Kevin Glew
The six members of the 2019 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction class boast a combined 46 All-Star game selections, 626 wins, 1,131 saves and seven Outstanding Designated Hitter awards.
And the individual resumes of Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith and Harold Baines are almost equally as remarkable.
This year's Cooperstown crop includes two first-ballot inductees (Rivera and the late Halladay), one member elected in his last year of eligibility (Martinez) and two others (Smith and Baines) voted in by the Today's Game Era (Veterans) Committee. Mussina received the nod in his sixth year on the writers' ballot.
As veteran collector Kevin McHolland points out, this year's group also recognizes two positions that have traditionally been underrepresented in the Hall - relief pitchers (Rivera, Smith) and designated hitters (Martinez, Baines).
And the rookie cards of these new inductees are as diverse as the honorees themselves. Their first-year cards span from Baines' and Smith's early 1980s rookies to Rivera's glossy 1992 Bowman debut to Halladay's shiny 1997 Bowman Chrome single. Each of this year's inductees also has a legible autograph, which can't be said about many modern players.
"All six of them seem to take pride in their autograph," said PSA Lead Autograph Authenticator Kevin Keating.
Let's look at each of the inductees, their key rookie cards, their autographs and the market for their game-used bats (in the cases of Martinez and Baines).
Most baseball pundits would rank Mariano Rivera as one of the greatest relief pitchers of all time. So it wasn't a complete surprise that the Yankees closer became the Hall's first electee ever to receive 100 percent support from baseball writers in the voting.
Originally signed out of Panama in 1990, for the bargain basement price of $3,000, Rivera was primarily a starting pitcher during his early seasons in the Yankees' minor league system. After breaking into the major leagues, he served as a lights-out set-up man for closer John Wetteland on the 1996 World Series-winning squad. After assuming the closer's role in 1997, Rivera registered 30-or-more saves in a season 15 times, recorded an ERA of 2.00-or-less in 11 campaigns and was selected to 13 All-Star games.
A key contributor to five World Series-winning Yankees teams, Rivera was on the mound for the final out in four of those championships (1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009). He finished his 19-year major league career with a record 652 saves and a 2.21 ERA. MLB's American League Reliever of the Year Award is now named in his honor.
Mariano Rivera's most coveted rookie is his 1992 Bowman single (#302). As is the case with several prospects in the 1992 Bowman set, Rivera is photographed in his street clothes, wearing a golf shirt and white pants. Poor centering is the main condition issue with this card, but it can generally be found in high grade.
Of the 5,629 submitted, there have been 1,345 PSA GEM-MT 10s. One PSA 10 sold for $421 on eBay in February 2019.
Rivera possesses one of the most attractive and meticulously crafted modern autographs. Generally a very accommodating signer during his playing days, Rivera carefully includes every letter of his name in his signature. Since 1996, Rivera has also had an exclusive autograph agreement with Steiner Sports.
"He writes out every letter. It's just a beautiful autograph, similar to what we see in Pedro Martinez's autograph," said Keating. "It's pretty uncommon these days for any major league player, much less someone of his stature, to write his name in such a presentable way."
Fellow PSA authenticator Bill Corcoran agrees. He adds that Rivera's autograph has changed only modestly since the beginning of his career.
"The early ones are more pointed with the 'M' and the 'R.' Over time, those two letters have become more rounded, and that kind of gives his autograph a smoother look, whereas the 'M' and the 'R' are a little more jagged around the edges on the earlier ones," said Corcoran.
A signed 1992 Bowman rookie with an autograph graded PSA/DNA 10 sold for $460 on eBay in February 2019, while his regular PSA/DNA authenticated cards were selling in the $100 to $175 range in January. A PSA/DNA authenticated signed ball commanded $289 on eBay in February.
Halladay was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot and will be inducted posthumously. A first-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1995 major league amateur draft, the 6-foot-5 right-hander eventually blossomed into the team's ace. In parts of 12 seasons in Toronto, he topped the American League in complete games five times, innings pitched three times, was a six-time All-Star and won the American League Cy Young Award in 2003.
After being dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies in December 2009, the workhorse hurler continued his dominance in the National League, recording 21 wins and leading the circuit in innings pitched and complete games in 2010 to earn his second Cy Young Award. On May 29th of that season, he tossed the 20th perfect game in major league history. And just over four months later, on October 6, he became the first National League pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the playoffs when he blanked the Cincinnati Reds in the opening game of the National League Division Series.
In all, Halladay was selected to eight All-Star games, collected 203 wins and posted a .659 winning percentage in his 16-year major league career. He died in a plane crash on November 7, 2017.
Halladay's 1997 Bowman Chrome single (#212) is his most sought-after rookie card. Veteran collector Wally DalPan says the Chrome technology was still new when this card was produced.
"They had a lot of trouble in those first few years getting those [Chrome] cards centered," he added.
Of the 588 submitted, there have been 116 PSA 10s, one of which sold for $330 on eBay in February 2019.
Halladay was an accommodating signer during his career, and his autograph remained fairly consistent during his life. In his first name, you can generally read the "R and the "y," while in his last name you'll see the "H," the two "l's" and the "y."
"In my collection I have something he signed around the time he debuted, from a company called Autoball, and he signed it five or six different times," explained Keating. "If you look at such early examples of his signature and compare to how he was signing his autograph towards the end, you'll see it remained pretty much unchanged in terms of the structure, slant and flow."
Halladay's autograph has risen in value since his death and Corcoran has noticed an increase in the number of autographs being submitted.
Keating says the supply of genuine Halladay autographs is bound to dry up.
"I'm sure there are plenty out there for the time being; however, there is a limited supply. And I do not believe that there are dealers sitting on large quantities of inventory," commented Keating.
A 1999 Topps card with a PSA/DNA authenticated signature sold for $101 on eBay in January 2019, while PSA/DNA authenticated signed baseballs were fetching $500 to $600 after the induction announcement.
Unlike Halladay and Rivera, who were first-ballot inductees, Edgar Martinez was forced to wait until his 10th and final year on the writers' ballot to be elected. In his 18 major league seasons, all with the Seattle Mariners, Martinez was a seven-time All-Star, a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner and a two-time batting champion.
The Puerto Rico native is also one of only nine major league players to finish his career with 300 home runs, 500 doubles, a batting average higher than .300, an on-base percentage better than .400 and a slugging percentage higher than .500. He also performed well in the post-season for the Mariners, going 12-for-21 (.571 batting average) with two home runs in the 1995 American League Division Series against the New York Yankees, while also delivering the series-winning walk-off double in Game 5.
A testament to his greatness as a hitter is that the Outstanding Designated Hitter Award was renamed in his honor in 2004.
Martinez's most notable mainstream rookie is his 1988 Fleer single (#378). This card is not expensive and is easily obtainable in high grade. Of the 1,366 submitted, there are 651 PSA 10s. One PSA 10 sold for $49 on eBay in January 2019.
There's also a rarer glossy version of this card that came exclusively in a factory set. It is estimated that around 60,000 of these sets were produced. There are 200 PSA 10s, one of which commanded $168 on eBay in February 2019.
Like Halladay and Rivera, Martinez was an accommodating signer throughout his career. Corcoran says that early in his career, you could read almost every letter in Martinez's first name. Now he generally writes "Edg" with a line extending upward from the bottom of
the "g" that makes it look like a "y." In most of his present-day signatures, you can also read the first four letters in his last name before they tail into a "z" which looks more like a "y" with an exaggerated loop.
"He's another guy that, for a contemporary player, has a pretty nice autograph," said Corcoran.
A signed 1991 Upper Deck card with the autograph authenticated by PSA/DNA sold for $40 on eBay in December 2018, while a signed official major league baseball authenticated by PSA/DNA realized $129 in the same month.
Professional Model Bats
PSA bat authenticator John Taube says Martinez used primarily Louisville Slugger bats throughout his career, but he also swung some Rawlings/Adirondack lumber. The Hall of Fame DH's bats generally measured 34" long, but their weights varied, ranging from 29.5 to 36 ounces, according to Taube.
One of the defining characteristics of a Martinez game-used bat is his copious use of pine tar.
"He was a big tar guy on the handles," said Taube. "I have one here at my office right now that's the heaviest [in terms of pine tar] I've ever seen."
Aside from the pine tar application, another trademark of Martinez's game-used bats is that his No. 11 is usually written on the knob.
In today's market, Taube estimates that an authenticated game-used Martinez bat could fetch $1,200 to $1,500.
Elected to the Hall of Fame in his sixth year of eligibility, this durable right-hander recorded 270 wins and 2,813 strikeouts in an 18-year major league career. A five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner, Mussina split his career between the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. He won 15 or more games in 11 different seasons but didn't register a 20-win season until his final major league campaign in 2008. And though he never won a Cy Young Award, he was a top-five finisher six times and in the top six nine times. The workhorse righty also posted seven wins and a 3.42 ERA in 23 post-season appearances.
Mussina's 1991 Ultra Update rookie (#U-4) is the card that collectors must acquire to complete their Baseball Hall of Fame - Post-War Rookies set on the PSA Set Registry. This card came in a factory set and is readily available in high grade. Of the 3,562 submitted, there have been 774 PSA 10s, one of which sold for $39 on eBay in January 2019.
"There are a ton of those that have been graded PSA 10, and you can still get that card for $40 or $50," said McHolland.
The aesthetic appeal of Mussina's signature rivals that of Rivera's. Corcoran likes Mussina's autograph because the Hall of Fame hurler generally writes larger than his contemporaries. In most cases, the "M" in both his first and last name is separated from the other letters. But all the letters in his name are legible. He also likes to include an upward round swirl at the end of the "a" in his last name.
"He's another one whose autograph has remained consistent over time; not a lot of change," said Corcoran. "Maybe it was a little bit more hurried as his career progressed, but he's another signer where you rarely see really sloppy versions of his autographs. He generally takes his time."
A PSA/DNA-authenticated 1993 Select Mussina signed card sold for $29 on eBay in February, while a signed ball in which both the ball and the autograph graded PSA/DNA 10 sold for $125 in the same month.
Voted in by the Today's Game Era (Veterans) Committee in December, this 6-foot-5 right-hander was chosen by the Chicago Cubs in the second round of the 1975 MLB draft. He spent the bulk of his minor league career as a starting pitcher before being converted into a reliever. Over the course of his 18-year major league career, in which he also made stops with the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, Cincinnati Reds and Montreal Expos, Lee Smith led the league in saves four times, picked up three Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year awards and was selected to seven All-Star games. Along the way, he accumulated 478 saves, which is the third most all time.
His 1982 Topps rookie (#452) can be evasive in pristine condition. It's located on the far right edge of the sixth row on the print sheet, a position that made it vulnerable to condition woes such as miscuts. DalPan has noticed centering issues on this card.
There are just 44 PSA 10 examples and their value has risen dramatically since it was announced that he was being inducted.
"There were some [PSA 10] Lee Smith rookies that sold in December  for $600 to $700, but if you had bought one a year before that [in 2017], it would have been under $200," noted McHolland.
Smith, too, has been an accommodating signer and has appeared at a lot of shows.
"With his early autographs, he wrote out every letter in his name. It's very simple, very readable," said Corcoran. "It was attractive, but there's nothing fancy about it. There's no flare to it. He's got the big 'L' and the big 'S,' and it slants to the right."
His more recent signing style differs however. "It's gotten a little more rushed and he seems to have had that version for a while now," said Corcoran. "And he appears to have settled into it."
A signed 1982 Topps Smith rookie with the autograph authenticated by PSA/DNA sold for $40 on eBay in December, while a signed ball authenticated by PSA/DNA commanded $55 in the same month.
A surprise electee by the Today's Game Era (Veterans) Committee, Baines is one of the best designated hitters in major league history. A six-time All-Star, the left-handed hitting slugger collected 2,866 hits in a 22-year major league career that included stints with the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Oakland A's, Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians. A model of consistency at the plate, Baines had 11, 20-home run seasons and three 100-RBI campaigns. His big league resume boasts 384 home runs, 1,628 RBI, two Outstanding Designated Hitter awards and one Silver Slugger Award. He also batted .324 with five home runs in 31 post-season games.
Finding a PSA 10 example of Baines' 1981 Topps rookie (#347) is not easy. Not only was the stock on the 1981 Topps cards flimsy, this card is also plagued by poor centering.
"With the early 1980s Topps cards, there are always quality issues," said DalPan.
The veteran collector notes that a PSA MINT 9 of the 1981 Topps Baines rookie could have been purchased for $10 in early 2018, but now it is over $100.
"And if you found a PSA 10, it would be over $1,000," said DalPan.
Of the 1,383 submitted, there have been just 35 PSA 10s. A PSA 9 garnered $158 on eBay in January 2019.
At the beginning of his playing career, Baines often signed his autograph so that you could decipher all the letters in his first and last name.
"Early on, there was nothing really fancy about it; he would just sign his full name. But now it's sort of an 'Hd' and then kind of a 'Bs'," said Corcoran.
Corcoran has seen a lot of ghost-signed Baines items.
"There were a lot of things that someone was signing for him at some point," said Corcoran. "I don't know if it was a family member or somebody in the clubhouse."
A signed 1981 Fleer rookie card, graded PSA 10 with a PSA/DNA 10 autograph, garnered $138 on eBay in February 2019. A PSA/DNA-authenticated signed baseball with a Hall of Fame inscription sold for $99 in the same month.
Professional Model Bats
Taube says Baines used different brands of bats, including Louisville Slugger and Rawlings/Adirondack.
"You will generally see his number [No. 3] on the knob," said Taube. "You'll also see a tape application on the lower handle and knob on a number of bats from throughout his career."
Taube says Baines' gamers generally measured 34.5" inches long and weighed between 31 and 34 ounces.
Baines' bats have increased in value since the induction announcement.
"Before his Hall of Fame induction, you could probably obtain a Harold Baines bat on the market for between $250 and $350, and in some cases less," said Taube. The price range now is approximately $500 to $1,000.
For more information on trading cards featuring these HOF baseball players, please visit PSA CardFacts.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Please note the PSA Population Report statistics and Set Registry rankings quoted are as of June 2019. Additionally, the signed balls referred to in this article are new, official major league balls signed on the sweet spot, unless noted otherwise.