When MLB announced in August of 2021 that they had awarded their next baseball card deal to Fanatics, cutting Topps out of the picture in 2025 after what will be nearly 75 years as The Real One, I was reminded — once again — that nothing lasts forever.

And that the entire history of baseball cards, especially during the Topps years, has been embroiled in contracts and rights issues of one sort or another.

And that … Ted Signs for 1959.

But that Bucky doesn’t.

Just what am I babbling about now, you ask?

Well …

Ted Williams always had a sort of salty relationship with Topps (and with just about everyone else, if you believe all the stories).

For the first few years of their existence, the Splendid Splinter refused to sign on the Topps dotted line, meaning his cards appeared exclusively in Bowman products.

That changed in 1954, when Topps finally got Williams for their set and made him card #1 and card #250, the last card in the set.

It was all hunky-dory.

Except …

Bowman also included Williams in their 1954 set, but without the contractual right to do so. Hilarity and chest-thumping and legal stuff ensued, resulting in #66 (Ted Williams) being pulled from the 1954 Bowman issue in favor of #66 (Jimmy Piersall).

The result was one of the scarcest and most sought-after cards of the early hobby, and that ‘54 Bowman icon remains an icon today.

Five years later, Teddy Ballgame set about creating another rarity when he decided he’d had enough of Topps’ monopoly and signed an exclusive contract with Fleer.

Now, Fleer wouldn’t secure the rights to produce a full-fledged set of then-current Major Leaguers for another 21 years, but they could nab individual legends, and so they did.

In particular, Fleer went to their planning room and came out with an 80-card set dedicated to Williams, a Red Sox legend headed straight toward the Hall of Fame, covering just about every aspect of his life, from hitting to flying planes in World War II to fishing to signing on to play another season in Boston for 1959.

And that’s where the intrigue sets in.

Because, sitting there on Williams’ right side as he gets ready to ink his new MLB agreement is Bucky Harris, the Sox’s general manger:

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Problem is, Harris *was* still under contract with Topps.

Topps got wind of it, Fleer pulled the card over fears about the “possibility of legal overtones,” and a hobby scarcity was born.

Interestingly, you’ll find that #68 is actually the MOST populous card in the PSA Population Report for the 1959 Fleer set, but that’s selection bias at its best.

Because, not only has “Ted Signs” been recognized as a scarce and valuable card for decades, but it’s also been the subject of a pretty hefty amount of counterfeit activity over the years.

The result is that the most of the cards that come to market have been graded at one point or another, for authentication purposes, if nothing else. Indeed, while an “8” is the most common condition PSA has seen, nearly 300 cards have graded out at a “5” or below (all the way down to 33 PSA 1s as of this writing).

Today, those PSA 8 copies of #68 sell for close to $1200, while PSA 9s push the $6000 mark.

And a PSA 10?

Well, only one of those has sold, hammering down at $34,800 back in February 2020, before the current pandemic-induced hobby boom.

You gotta think that now that same card would push the $60,000 Williams was signing on to receive on the card itself … or a even more.

The really amazing thing, of course, is that this classic, holy-grail type of card has fallen way, WAY behind modern cards with trumped-up, built-in scarcity when it comes to selling prices.

Or … maybe all this Ted Williams talk is making me salty, too.

1959 TOPPS#86 BOB KEEGAN WHITE SOX EXMT+

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End Date: Friday 10/29/2021 17:51:58 EDT
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1959 TOPPS #304 CHICAGO CUBS TEAM PICTURE PSA 8

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End Date: Monday 11/01/2021 18:12:52 EDT
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