If you’re in the market for a true David Ortiz rookie card, well, your options are slim to none.

For one thing, the man who would become Big Papi was known to the baseball world as David Arias as he worked his way up through the Seattle Mariners’ minor league ranks in the mid-1990s before a trade sent him to the Minnesota Twins.

Ortiz told his new team pretty much right away that his name was “Ortiz,” but that was a tad too late to catch the card manufacturers as they went about their yearly ritual of jumping the gun on prospects who might be rookies.

And, so, by the time Ortiz made his MLB debut with the Twins on September 2, 1997, collectors already had our hands on the very first big league David Arias cards, if we so desired or so lucked into them during our pack-ripping that summer.

As it turned out, though, “manufacturers” was a bit of an overstatement, as only Fleer jumped into the Arias/Ortiz fray, issuing his RC in both their base product and in the “premium” Ultra set.

Not surprisingly, these cards are pretty much the most popular in their respective sets, with the Fleer pulling mid-three-figure prices in PSA 10 condition and the Ultra topping $1000 most of the time when similarly slabbed.

But if you want to go really premium — read, “expensive” — you can opt instead for the Ultra Gold Medallion Edition of Papi’s rookie card:

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In case you don’t remember, Gold Medallion was an ongoing parallel inserted in Ultra cards starting in 1995 and extending all the way through 2006.

And, while the “gold” on this card is just a flash of foil and there’s not a medallion in sight, these things are pretty scarce, especially by the standards of the day.

As of this writing, PSA has graded only about 220 of the 1997 Gold Medallion cards, regardless of player. Of those, nearly half feature the might-be Hall of Famer … but condition is a bit of an issue.

The most common grade (so far) for the Arias RC is a PSA 8, with PSA 9 and PSA 10 showing up about 20 percent of the time each.

With less than 30 such cards in existence at this point, and with Big Papi’s continuing popularity, it’s not a huge shock that the last slabbed GEM MINT copy to change hands gaveled down for nearly four grand.

If and when the Sawx hero gets the Cooperstown Call, that may just look like a bargain.

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One of Big Papi’s ballotmates for the current Hall of Fame election cycle is Barry Bonds. And, while the home run champ continues to struggle with the vote, his cards are still strong sellers. Take a gander at the high-rolling Bonds goodies from the end of 2021:

1997 Fleer Ken Griffey Jr. "Lumber Company" Insert

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End Date: Monday 05/30/2022 18:57:01 EDT
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