How Does It Feel To Lose Half a Million Dollars?

Forced to sell my baseball cards when I was broke, I missed out on a lot of money — but learned some valuable lessons

Tim Wise
Human Parts
Published in
5 min readSep 1, 2022
A Jackie Robinson 1955 Topps baseball card
Just one of many cards from the 1910s–1980s that I owned at one time. Image: 1955 Topps Jackie Robinson, Baseball Collection, flickr/CC BY 2.0

To answer the question posed in the title: it sucks. No shock there, I suppose.

And no, I’m not exaggerating.

If I still had the baseball card collection I possessed 30 years ago, I would be able to auction it for around half a million dollars today.

I thought about this again when I saw a story in the New York Times recently about the $12.6 million fetched at auction for a 1952 rookie card of Mickey Mantle — the most ever for a piece of sports memorabilia.

No, I never had the ’52 Mantle.

If I had, but now didn’t, the title of this piece would be far more shocking, not to mention depressing.

But I did have a Roberto Clemente rookie card from 1955 in good enough condition to be worth nearly $40,000 today.

I had two absolutely pristine Sandy Koufax cards from 1956 and ’57, which would easily fetch $75,000 now for the pair. Plus another gem mint specimen from 1965, worth about $15,000 more.

I had every Willie Mays card put out by Topps, the leading card company at the time, from 1952–1973, and though the quality varied, combined, they would be worth, conservatively, another $60,000 today.

I had 10 copies of Eddie Murray’s 1978 rookie card — actually got those fresh from bubble gum packs myself as a kid. One was in perfect condition, and the other nine were close. Combined value today? About $50,000.

I had three copies of Rickey Henderson’s 1980 rookie card, which, given their near-perfect condition, centering, and color, could have brought me over $125,000 in the current market.

Between these and others I won’t bother listing, the value I can easily estimate for the whole thing is just shy of $500,000.

That amount could be mine within a matter of days. If I still had them.

But I don’t.



Tim Wise
Human Parts

Anti-racism educator and author of 9 books, including White Like Me and, most recently, Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020)