Worst trade ever.

June 19, 2008 at 7:48 pm | Posted in My Cards, Trades | 11 Comments

I was reading Wax Heaven today, and I found a very interesting article that was added as a comment by a reader in this post. The full article can be found on Tuff Stuff. Basically it details how a 16 year old kid sold a 1909 T-206 Honus Wagner card, the Holy Grail of card collecting, for $5 in 1980. That is without a doubt the worst trade in the history of baseball card collecting. The card has sold for as much as $2.8 million in recent years. Here’s a picture of the card that I took at the Baseball Hall of Fame last December:

Reading the article got me to thinking about lopsided baseball card trades. While I never made a trade that was even close to being that lopsided, I can easily tell you about the trade that I have regretted the most. It has nothing to do with the monetary value of the cards involved, but sentimental reasons.

First, some background. When I was in elementary school, my best friend was a kid who lived down the street named Chris. We would get together almost every day. We both collected baseball cards, so we spent a lot of time looking at each other’s collections and trading. One day, in what I would guess to be 1988, Chris’ uncle decided to give him his entire baseball card collection, spanning 1970 – 1977. I remember being totally in awe of these cards that were printed before I was born, and Chris had hundreds of them. I have to give Chris a lot of credit for educating me about older cards. He was willing to trade some of these cards to me, many of which I still have today. They are mostly commons and worth very little, but as a kid, I treasured them.

Anyway, one day I had just gotten my allowance and went on a trip with my mom to Peterson’s Drugs, a now defunct drug store which had a great selection of baseball cards. They sold special packs of cards that hung on a rack and featured 50 “random” cards from different manufacturers from about 1981 to 1987. I bought a lot of these as a cheap way to build up my collection, but I’d rarely get any star players, or even players that I’d heard of. But on this particular day, I opened my pack and pulled a Dave Winfield 1985 Topps All Star card! I know, it sounds like no big deal, but Dave Winfield was my favorite player back then, and I had only bought a few packs of cards in 1985. I was absolutely thrilled to own this card!

I immediately put the card in a protective penny sleeve and called Chris to tell him about my great new card. He invited me over to his house to see the card and to trade. As soon as Chris set his eyes on the card, he wanted it, even though I had no intention of giving it up. He pulled out his binder with his 1970s card and asked me to pick one. I told him that there was no way I would trade the card unless it was for a star player, like a Lou Brock or a Bob Gibson. Chris scoffed at that, and pulled out his Beckett. His 1972 Brock and Gibson cards were worth much more than my Winfield.

Chris countered with a 1976 Doug Rau card. “Who the heck is Doug Rau” I said. “I don’t want that card”. Chris wouldn’t give up. He flipped over the Rau card and read off all of his accomplishments. 2.18 ERA in 1972! 15 wins in 1975! And he was even a #1 pick in 1970! How could I turn down such a great offer, Chris asked. Within a few minutes, he was telling me that this trade offer was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that he would never offer this card to me again. He even questioned his own sanity in wanting to trade it to me now. “Since you’re such a great friend, I’ll do this for you” he said. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when he pulled out his copy of Beckett and showed me that the Rau card was worth a trivial amount more than the Winfield.

I finally relented and made the trade. I regretted it almost immediately. I loved that Winfield card, and made several attempts over the next couple of years to win it back from Chris in a trade. He was never willing to trade it. I was stuck with my 1976 Doug Rau card, which I put in my binder. My heart sank every time I turned to the page that it was on as I thought about the trade. I learned a lesson from the experience, though. I would never again be pressured into trading a card that I didn’t want to trade. Sometimes, sentimental factors should overrule book value or anything else in a deciding what a card is worth to you.

Thinking about the trade again today, about 20 years later, I decided to go up to the attic to find the binder that holds my cards from the 1970s and early 1980s that were part of my childhood collection. I found the Doug Rau card, which I scanned, along with a copy of the 1985 Dave Winfield All Star card that I obtained when I bought a complete set of 1985 Topps at a card show earlier this year. I got the set for about $20 by the way, and it included the McGwire rookie. Great deal, isn’t it? But that’s a subject for another post…

Here are the subjects of the worst trade that I ever made:

I checked Beckett today. The Doug Rau currently books for 40 cents, and the Winfield for 15 cents. It amazes me that these pieces of cardboard caused so much anguish and regret for all of these years.

What was the worst trade that you ever made? I’d love to see some good comments in this post.

One more thing … as you can see, I got my old scanner working. I had to hook it up to my wife’s laptop that runs Windows XP since it won’t work with mine that runs Vista. Does anyone have a recommendation on a good, cheap scanner that is Vista-compliant?



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  1. I was 8 and my best friend(who was 8) wanted to get one of my cards… A 1974 Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins) The offer? A 1979 Phil Esposito with his new team, The New York Rangers. The card was new, shiny, and bright.
    And i fell for it. *sigh*

  2. I traded all of my Jeter Rookies (10 or 15 of them) for a Will Clark Glossy Topps All Star Card….

  3. Brian’s Esposito trade may have been bad but it’s understandable. But daaamn, what were you thinking when you traded those Jeters, Jason (or should I call you JV)?

  4. Back in the day I traded a 75 Topps George Brett RC for a couple commons or semistar guys that I needed to complete a set. Don’t even remember what I got. But it wasn’t even close. And my buddy let me know it right away.

    My advice as a PC technician is don’t change your scanner, get rid of Vista. Yuck!! 🙂

  5. Thanks, Greg. I’ve actually had decent luck with Vista, besides the scanner not working. The George Brett trade sounds bad, but at least it helped you to complete a set, which is always good. Hopefully it was the 1975 Topps set, which would mean that you had another George Brett card for your set 🙂

  6. Michael Jordan Upper Deck SP Baseball Star Rookie platinum something or rather. Probably worth a dollar now. Was $110 at the time, and I was 12. So I sold it for $30. Im not a dollar value guy. It’d be cool just to have it back for memory purposes.

  7. There’s always eBay, Matt. I picked up a regular Upper Deck Michael Jordan baseball card for about $1 or so a few months ago. You can probably find your card pretty cheap.

  8. I remember one epic blunder I made in my juvenile days. I must’ve been 14 or 15 and some real suave, intelligent upper classmen came over to my house one Saturday afternoon. I had idealized these two guys ever since meeting them on a Jr. High Letterman’s trip up to Eugene, OR to watch the Arizona Wildcats beat the Oregon Ducks at Mac Court. They really impressed me with their athletic ability, handsome looks, and quick-witted repartee.

    Well, this particular Saturday after I had finished watching Superstars of Wrestling and The Sid and Marty Krofft Supershow, and I woke up my buddy Jason from his slumber at 11:00, these two guys show up with their big three-ring binders full of beautiful cards. When they saw the cards my dad had given me, I could see the gleam in their eye, and the bulge in their pants. But as a foolish, immature, and easily excitable youth, I was too dumbstruck with their 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco. It was too much to take… I think I was salivating. When the cooler of the two guys offered me his Canseco rookie, I would’ve given him what virginity I had left that Jason hadn’t already ripped from me.

    His request: my 63 Topps Banks/Aaron combo card and my 63 Topps Mays/Musial combo card. BOTH! Yeah, you guessed it, I did it. Two early 60’s cards of HOF’ers for the best card in baseball, and of the soon-to-be better than Babe Ruth, record re-writer, certain first ballot Cooperstown bound legend.

    I wonder if that dastardly upperclassman ever regrets swindling the youth of America that fall morning in 1986? If I ever come across that guy again, I’ll tell him, “Frank White, I hate you. You screwed up my youth and made me break up from the best thing that ever happened to me: my BFF Jason.”

  9. I traded for a counterfeit Pete Rose rookie and gave up the real rookie card thinking the fake copy would be really rare compared to the original. I also traded away my Sandy Koufax rookie for a Sandy Alomar second year…….I always got those two guys mixed up.

  10. Me and my friend Adam would just steal cards from hobby stores and then resell them to support our daily need of Pizza Hut meatlovers pizzas. I loved those round sausage-esque globs of fat!

    PS – anyone out there ever trade 1950’s Topps cards for a chance to date a co-worker who could ladle on the sauce better than Papa Murphy’s mom? I did.

  11. Would you buy misc. baseball cards for $1 an inch, some of them are tops. I would assume that they were all looked over very well but ya never know if there’s one that worth something. Have you ever heard of paying $1 for one inch of cards sometimes I buy 4 or 5 inches of stacked cards.

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