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1950-1951 Toleteros Joshua Gibson
Starting Bid - $5,000, Sold For - $13,200
Graded VG-EX 4 by PSA. Magnificent example of one of the rarest and most highly prized of all postwar cards: the 1950-1951 Toleteros Josh Gibson. This is a card which is so rare, its existence has only been documented within the last fifteen years, and its significance as Josh Gibson's only known standard card issue has propelled it in this very short time to being one of the most well-known baseball cards in the collecting world.
Many collectors concentrate on collecting Hall of Famers. Josh Gibson has always presented a problem for these collectors because for decades he was simply not found in any card sets. The discovery of his inclusion in the 180-card 1950-1951 Toleteros set, the third and final year in which this company issued cards in Puerto Rico during the Puerto Rican Winter League season, was momentous. Finally a card issue featured the legendary Josh Gibson, the greatest slugging star of the Negro Leagues. Similar in spirit to the 1940 Play Ball card of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1948-1949 Leaf card of Babe Ruth in that this card was not issued during Gibson's playing career, this card is unique and of great significance: there really are no equivalent alternatives. Babe Ruth had hundreds of cards issued of him, dating back to his earliest days as a minor leaguer with Baltimore in 1914, and many different cards were issued of virtually every Hall of Famer of the twentieth century. The nature and economic realities of the Negro Leagues, however, have created several special challenges for card collectors. Of these, no player is of a greater stature than Josh Gibson. Even Satchel Paige can be found in the 1949 Bowman and 1953 Topps sets. While some may think it is almost inconceivable that the most celebrated stars of the Negro Leagues were not honored with trading cards at the peaks of their careers, it must be remembered that it was a different time and world, and the issuing of cards needs an economic incentive and rationale in any era. This incentive simply did not exist to justify the issuing of cards of many Negro Leaguers. This is actually very much in keeping with the harsh economic realities of the Negro Leagues, and the fact that this affects even the greatest Negro League stars such as Josh Gibson speaks volumes about the significance of this card, issued in Puerto Rico in 1950, in tribute to the then recently deceased legend. Gibson, a huge star in Puerto Rico, played his final season there in 1946. He died of a brain hemorrhage in early 1947 at the age of 35, although it is well documented that Satchel Paige, Ted Page, and all of his teammates were certain that he really died of a broken heart because he was not chosen to be the first black player to break the color barrier in the Majors.
According to the combined Population Reports of PSA and SGC, a total of thirty examples of this card have been graded between both services. (Note: we believe some of these may be "double-counted" as they have been regraded or crossed from one company to the other.) A grade of VG-EX 4, while perhaps not impressive for a more common card, like a T206 or 1952 Topps, is actually quite remarkable for a Toleteros Gibson card. Many of the Toleteros cards exhibit slight traces of glue residue or paper loss on the reverse (which dramatically affects grading), which is extremely common for this issue due to the fact that Toleteros cards were often glued into albums (as intended) for display and storage. Additionally, as collectors of Toleteros cards are well aware, the colors and quality of images can vary greatly on these cards due to normal production variances. The offered example is outstanding! It is bright, crisp, and clean, with four strong, square corners showing just touches of wear at the tips. It is centered nearly perfectly. The blank reverse is entirely clean. Close inspection reveals two tiny, almost imperceptible surface cracks present in the top and right border, which appear to be all that account for the assigned grade despite a better appearance. This is an ideal opportunity to acquire a stunning example of this famous card, worthy of even the finest Hall of Fame or rookie-card collection. Reserve $5,000. Estimate $10,000+. SOLD FOR $13,200
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