A friend recently sent me a surprise package of cards in the mail, highlighted by a new addition to my Steve Garvey collection.
The card was about one-and-a-half times the dimensions of a standard baseball card, featured what looked like a real autograph (see Author’s Note at end), and most notably was made from a ceramic material.
The back featured complete statistics, a serial number (430/1000), and some “Interesting Facts About Steve,” among them his favorite player being Gil Hodges and his nickname being Garv. There was also a 1985 copyright date in the bottom right corner, which in conjunction with Garvey’s stats, established a year for the card’s issue.
“Garv” was packaged in a tri-fold of corrugated cardboard, it’s front panel identifying the product as Armstrong’s Pro Ceramic Baseball Cards and indicating the full name of the player whose card was enclosed. The middle panel housed the card, and the back panel featured high praise from five of the era’s biggest stars: Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, George Brett, Pete Rose, and Steve Garvey.
According to no less an authority than Mr. October, these cards were “the epitome of baseball card collecting…Just like a classic car.” Meanwhile, Tom Terrific predicted the set to “soon become a bit of Americana” while Charlie Hustle declared the cards “winners.”
After doing some very light research I learned that the entire set of Pro Ceramic cards consisted of five players: exactly the ones who had hyped the cards on the back of the packaging. It was also evident that two different sets were released, one with autographs and one without. My gut sense from searches is that the unsigned cards are actually more scarce than the signed ones.
As nice a card as my “Garv” was, gold autograph and all, I toyed with the idea of pursuing the full set though I imagined at least the Seaver would be out of my price range.
Much to my surprise, I was able to nab all five cards for $29. And that’s total, not each! As good a deal as that seemed, my searches revealed other sets having gone for as little as $14.
On one hand it really is the “epitome of baseball card collecting” to see a high-end set from my collecting hey day fizzle its way into oblivion. On the other hand, it’s also the epitome of baseball card collecting to find bargains when you ignore “book value” and buy the cards you like.
After all, what really is oblivion but a hiding place for forgotten gems, a secret corner of the Hobby universe where ceramic baseball cards go not to die but only to await appreciation.
Author’s Note: A Pristine Auction listing for the set indicates the autographs as facsimiles. However, all look good to me, and they also vary from card to card enough to rule out an auto-pen sort of approach. For instance, here are two autographed Garvey cards with numerous evident differences in the signatures.
If someone faked these, I’d say they did a damn good job! That, and their ridiculously low price suddenly makes sense.