When looking on at Sandy Koufax’s career, one might compare it to a comet. Sandy’s career burned brightly and like no other pitcher who came before. By the age of 30, Sandy had racked up 3 Cy Young awards, 4 World Series championship rings, 7 all star appearances, 3 Triple Crowns, and an MVP award.
However, in an instant it was over. Koufax’s career ended abruptly after the 1966 season because of persistent arm trouble. Even though his career was short relative to other Hall of Famers, his mark is deep and enduring. Sandy Koufax baseball cards are among the most popular of their era for a wide variety of reasons.
Playing in the 1950s and 1960s, Koufax was viewed with reverence. Children emulated him. In the Jewish community, he was loved like no other player since Hank Greenberg. As a key part of the Dodgers National League machine once the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958, Koufax received large local and national media attention regularly. Although he has a strong collecting following throughout California and in New York, demand from collectors is strong nationwide.
His amazing seasons have him appearing in numerous subsets on cards issued in the '60s including ERA Leaders and Strikeout Leaders, enhancing the value of those cards, but not necessarily making them attractive targets for investing.
Sandy Koufax baseball cards have shown consistent demand over time. Whenever a current pitcher begins climbing the all-time strikeout leaders list, retired pitchers like Koufax garner additional media attention and industry demand. Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan, Greg Maddux and others have all generated additional attention for Koufax, because of their own efforts.
Alas, post-war pitchers do not seem to get the same valuations as their slugger counterparts. Koufax’s cards are not stranger to this phenomenon. While his high-graded cards have seen consistent appreciation, the majority of his cards lag in performance of sluggers like Mantle, Mays, and Aaron. This does not mean that Sandy’s cards are not worth investing in, as part of a portfolio. The opposite, is in fact true. Although, in absolute dollars his cards are priced at a fraction of home run hitters, the percentage appreciation his cards have experienced is impressive.
Look for cards that are scarce in high grade from particular sets like 1962 Topps and 1957 Topps as well as his 1955 rookie card. A '62 Topps Koufax graded PSA 9 sold for over $66,000 a few years back but it's not likely you've got one that nice in your closet. Looking hard at the PSA 8 wouldn't be a bad idea. We also like some of those unheralded early obscure cards Koufax appears on.
Koufax autographs are extremely popular and thankfully, in recent years, he's agreed to a contract to sign thousands of Topps' current era trading cards and whether you like new issues or not, many of them are terrific. Koufax still has a nice signature and combine that with a blue Sharpie signature, the blue Dodger uniform and today's card technology and you've got a really nice item. Look for cards with a low serial number as there will always be demand. Prices vary based on popularity of the product and the population of the autographed card but you can see them all on eBay here. You can also find single-signed Koufax baseballs and photos for a few hundred dollars.
Below are some vintage Koufax cards to consider. Click the title to see them on eBay.
Top Card Issues to Watch
1955 Topps #123 – Sandy's rookie card just happens to coincide with the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers World Series championship, their only one in the borough. That makes it extra popular with collectors. Koufax and Roberto Clemente are the headliners in the set. A near mint, graded example will cost around $1,500. If you can afford a better one, go for it.
1956 Topps #79 – Topps made both gray and white backed versions of the first series in 1956 and you can find Koufax in both. For a second year card, this one really remains affordable. It's an excellent portrait of the player with his first action pitching image in the background. An '8' can be had for $700-900, which seems reasonable, all things considered.
1957 Topps #302 – This is another excellent card. In fact, most cards from the 1957 are in high demand, because of the move to photographs by Topps. The Koufax card is also part of the scarce series in 1957, making it somewhat scarce and very desirable. You'll only find about one-third as many '57 Koufax cards for sale as those from '56. A rare PSA 9 copy sold in 2006 for $78,000 but that's a bit of an aberration. There's a huge variation based on condition. A PSA 7 will run about $500 but an 8 can hit you for $4,500 and up with those high grade cards seeing deep into five figures.
1958 Bell Brand Dodgers --Issued in southern California, this card was part of a potato chip manufacturer's promotion that included Dodgers baseball cards. Bell Brand continued the promotion through the early 1960s, but the first set is hard to come by and the Koufax card is the crown jewel. Only a couple are usually on eBay but the high grade examples should stand the test of time. As of this writing, PSA has graded only two of the Koufax cards as mint 9.
1966 Topps #10 – This card is important in that it was Koufax's last card. It's also one of his most affordable thanks to being in the well-populated first series.
Check for 9's, but if you can snare an 8 for $375 or less, you should feel good about it.
Any Koufax cards from '58-65 in high grade are certainly worth having and holding.