Ozzie Smith Rookie Card Market Guide
Posted on 6/9/2022
As one of Major League Baseball's greatest shortstops, Ozzie Smith played with a flair like none before him. His acrobatic defensive plays won him the National League Gold Glove Award for 13 consecutive seasons. Today, he's considered one of the most legendary players of his era, thanks to his talents as a shortstop and hitter. However, does his iconic MLB status translate to his rookie cards and their values? This guide will share further information on Smith’s Hall of Fame career and take a closer look into his rookie cards and their current market values.
Early Years with the San Diego Padres
Ozzie Smith was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 1977 while playing for California Polytechnic State University and made his MLB debut in 1978. Just a few weeks into his contract, he performed one of the greatest fielding plays of his career. In a game against the Atlanta Braves, he dove behind second base while going after a center field ball hit by Jeff Burroughs. Smith caught the ball in his bare hand, then hit the ground, bounced up and threw Burroughs out at first.
Smith finished his rookie season with a batting average of .258 and a .970 fielding percentage. He also became famous that year for his trademark backflips, which he would perform for fans before the game. In 1980, Smith set the MLB single-season record for the most assists (621) by a shortstop and won the first of his 13 Golden Glove Awards.
From Shortstop to Consistent Hitter
In 1982, Smith joined the St. Louis Cardinals, where, with the help of manager Whitey Herzog, he started to develop his hitting technique. His newfound batting talents helped the Cardinals sweep the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series (NLCS). Then, during the 1982 World Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, the starting shortstop scored three runs and fielded flawlessly. In Game 7, Smith's base hit started a rally that led to the Cardinals winning the championship.
In 1985, while playing against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, Smith hit a left-handed home run (his first ever in 2,967 left-handed at-bats) that won the game. The hit brought the house down and is still considered one of the greatest moments in Cardinals' history. That same year, he was named the NLCS MVP. In 1987, Smith became the team's No. 2 hitter and won a Silver Slugger Award, with a .303 batting average, 75 RBIs, 43 stolen bases and 104 runs scored.
Smith stayed with the Cardinals until his retirement in 1996. In 1999, he was included in The Sporting News' list of 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and in 2002, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He finished his career with a .262 batting average, 28 home runs, 793 RBIs, 2,460 hits and 1,257 runs scored.
Are Ozzie Smith Rookie Cards Valuable?
Ozzie Smith began his career at a time when a good player might only have two or three rookie cards. His iconic 1979 Topps #116 card has been known to reach astronomical prices at auction. At Robert Edwards Auctions in 2017, a Gem Mint example of this rare card sold for $36,000. Additionally, there have been recorded sales of his Topps #116 that reached over $100,000 at auction.
Investment Potential for Ozzie Smith Rookie Cards
With so few Ozzie Smith rookie cards distributed, and so few surviving, prices for top-graded cards continue to be high. Given his legendary Hall of Fame status, prices should remain strong for Smith's cards and could possibly even increase over time as long as collector interest remains high.
Top Ozzie Smith Rookie Cards
As with many players of his era, Smith only had two "official" rookie cards issued: his famous Topps #116 card and its Canadian O-Pee-Chee counterpart. Fortunately for collectors, he also had two "oddball" promotional rookie cards issued by Hostess and Family Fun Centers.
1979 Topps #116 Ozzie Smith ($144,000)
The 1979 Topps collection is famous for its abundance of future Hall of Famers, including shortstop Ozzie Smith. The 726-card set features the likes of Nolan Ryan, Mike Schmidt and Pete Rose, to name a few. Smith's Topps rookie card is considered one of the most iconic cards of its era and is a huge collectors' favorite.
It features a close-up portrait shot of Smith looking away from the camera with a quizzical look on his face in an intriguing photo that looks like an unplanned candid shot. A holy grail card for the ages, it's bordered in white and features the Topps baseball logo at the lower left. Many of these surviving cards have centering issues, so it's exceptionally rare to find one with perfect centering in top-grade condition.
SportsCardsPro shows Ungraded trending at $20, Grade 7 at $111, Grade 8 at $273 and Grade 9 at $2,750. Grade 9.5 trends at $3,025, and Gem Mint at $144,000.
At PriceGuide.Cards, Ungraded trends at an average price of $20 and has a top price of $4,550. Graded trends at an average price of $150 and a top price of $30,702.
At Sports Card Investor, values trend at a low price of $33 and a top price of $4,650. The source also shows the same sale for the as PriceGuide.Cards, as the Topps #116 card sold through PWCC in May 2017 for $30,702.
1979 O-Pee-Chee #52 Ozzie Smith ($7,271)
Manufactured for the Canadian market by O-Pee-Chee candy company, this card looks exactly like its Topps #116 counterpart but without the Topps logo. On the reverse, the stats and information are written in both French and English, which is an identifying hallmark of O-Pee-Chee issues. This card is especially popular with collectors because it has the same graphics and historical value as the Topps US version but without the hefty price tag.
At PriceGuide.Cards, Ungraded trends at an average price of $31 and a top price of $1,500. Graded trends at an average price of $180 and a top price of $7,271.
SportsCardsPro shows Ungraded trending at $35, Grade 7 at $128, Grade 8 at $316 and Grade 9 at $2,077. Grade 9.5 trends at $2,285, and Gem Mint at $5,079.
1979 Hostess #102 Ozzie Smith ($2,518)
Issued by Hostess (the bakery company famous for its cupcakes), this attractive card features a vibrant image of Smith at bat, set against a brilliant blue sky. His name is featured in red at the top, with the Padres' name in blue below. These cards were printed as three-card panels on boxes of Hostess products, so the borders have cut lines to make it easy to cut the cards from the box.
These cards are hard to find, not only because of distribution numbers but also because so few of them have survived. Considering that they were part of the packaging box, it's probable that a great many were damaged before they even reached the public. If you're looking for this gem, try to find one that hasn't been cut through the dotted lines, as this probably caused many a casualty for these cards.
At PriceGuide.Cards, Ungraded trends at an average price of $31 and a top price of $165. Graded trends at an average price of $221 and a top price of $2,025 (grades unspecified).
SportsCardsPro shows Ungraded trending at $35, Grade 7 at $134, Grade 8 at $167 and Grade 9 at $397. Grade 9.5 trends at $689, and Gem Mint at $2,518.
1978 Family Fun Centers #1 ($207.50)
Issued by Family Fun Centers and given away as a promotion, this is considered by many to be Ozzie Smith's true rookie card, as it is the first one that features him in his Padres uniform. The card itself is oversized and features an image of Smith in his trademark defensive stance, on one knee with his arms posed in front to field the ball. Graphics include a woodgrain print border (similar to the official Topps rookie card), and the Family Fun Centers mascot and logo at the bottom.
The back of the card features a headshot of Smith, along with a facsimile signature. Most of the back is printed with an interesting quote about his "greatest thrill in baseball," playing with a US team in China and South Korea. Family Fun Centers issued another Ozzie Smith card in 1979, but the image is entirely different and shows Smith at bat and smiling, so it's impossible to confuse the two.
The original set consisted of 39 cards that featured different Padres players. A search of online auctions shows that a 16-card set, including Smith's card, can trend for around $207.50 (condition unspecified).
Where Can I Find Ozzie Smith Rookie Cards?
You can find Ozzie Smith rookie cards at specialty sports memorabilia shops and auction houses. Here's a list of some of the top online auction sites for sports cards:
- Memory Lane
- SCP Auctions
- Heritage Auctions
In addition, you can also find Smith’s cards at sports memorabilia shows, which are typically set up on weekends in different cities across the country. You can check collector sites, social media pages and local newspaper listings to find out when a show is coming to your area.
How Are Ozzie Smith Rookie Cards Graded?
Professional appraisers use a numeric grading system to grade sports cards. This system has scores ranging from Ungraded to Perfect 10 and is universally recognized throughout the sports card industry. Here's how it works:
Perfect 10: A Perfect 10 card is scored with Gem Mint ratings across all four of the standard grading criteria: centering, edges, surface and corners. This card is perfect in every way, even when viewed under 10x magnification.
Gem Mint: Gem Mint cards have an overall 10 score, but one of the criteria scores slightly less, usually due to an almost-imperceptible issue or manufacturing flaw.
Grade 9.5: Almost Gem Mint, with just a very tiny flaw or condition issue.
Grade 9: Excellent condition, with just minor wear (or a minor production flaw) that doesn't impact the look of the card.
Grades 8 and below: These cards have production flaws or condition wear, and they're graded according to the amount or severity of these issues.
Raw: Just removed from an original pack or box.
Ungraded: A card that hasn't been graded.
Sports card values are fueled by three primary factors: condition, rarity and collector demand. And while condition and rarity are universally recognized, collector demand is an unknown quantity that can't always be predicted or even understood. Because of collector demand (or the lack of it), a card that's rare and Gem Mint may not sell, while a lesser-condition card that's fairly common may increase in price if enough collectors are looking for it.
Collector interest can depend upon an athlete's popularity or performance. If an athlete is having a breakout year, then prices may jump if the athlete is popular. Yet, a mediocre season may cause prices to plummet later on. Likewise, a retired athlete may make a comeback on a hit TV show, and prices may start to catapult. Online auctions can also have a significant impact on prices. If there's a bidding war for a card, it can reach record-breaking prices. And if this price is highly publicized, then other cards for that athlete may rise as well.
Ultimately, it is always a good idea to buy cards in the best condition that you can afford and focus on cards that you truly like and would enjoy owning because sales and price increases are never guaranteed.
Should I Get My Sports Cards Graded?
Professional grading can authenticate the originality of your cards and also enhance the overall quality of your entire collection. That's because grading provides each card with a condition score that's universally recognized by everyone in the industry, including sellers, collectors and appraisers.
Certified experts will thoroughly examine your card for any condition issues or manufacturing flaws during the grading process. If the card is authentic, they'll also certify its authenticity. When the card is graded, this information is entered into an international database that keeps a permanent record of your card.
Typically, graded cards may be easier to trade or sell, and they often sell for higher prices than Ungraded cards. But whether you plan to sell or keep your cards, having them graded gives you the satisfaction of owning a collection that's been professionally certified. With grading, your cards will be authenticated and enhanced with an established quality level that people will recognize for generations to come. For further information on CSG's 10-point Grading Scale and to find out more about our industry-leading services, visit CSGcards.com.
*Any mention of "investment potential" is for entertainment only and should not be construed as investment advice. The Certified Collectibles Group does not provide investment advice and is not liable for any buy, sell or trade decisions made by any parties.
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