Card of the Day: 1969 Topps Dock Ellis

Today’s Card of the Day is the rookie card of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, who played for the 1968 to 1975 Pirates, then returned for a brief time during the 1979 season. He was one of a handful of players who were with the Pirates during the 1971 and 1979 World Series winning seasons. Ellis was born on this date in 1945. To celebrate the occasion, we take a look at his 1969 Topps card. It’s #286 in the set.

Here’s the front of the card:

We’ve covered the 1969 Topps set here multiple times, so I won’t go too long on the front of the card. There’s some interesting things on the back to go more in depth on. This set design is rather boring as you can see. The Pirates part looks cool at the bottom, but that’s a coincidence, rather than Topps matching it up to the team colors. All of the team names have yellow lettering with a black outline.

I mentioned it recently, but Topps went through a phase of using pink for the Pirates in the 1960s. I don’t know what they were thinking, but they got them good with the 1965 borders for the photo, and the 1966 cards were almost as bad. They used purple for the Pirates in 1967, but then went right back to pink for the 1968/1969 sets, using it here for the name/position circle. It feels intentional. My guess last time was a bitter 1960 Yankees fan got moved up to the set design team in 1964 and used his new powers for evil.

You get a great shot of Ellis here early in his career. The photo may have been taken prior to his big league debut in June of 1968, when he would have been 23 years old (possibly 22 still if it was early spring).

Here’s the back of the card:

What is with the pink, Topps! What I liked here is the scouting report they gave for Ellis, mentioning three different pitches, with a scouting report for each. You don’t see that too often on the older cards. What I also like here is that they have all of his pro stats. They also identified the leagues, though I think level of play would have been better if they had to choose. Generic Gray Topps Man shows Ellis sleeping against a wall because he threw 15 complete games. Not gonna lie, that’s nothing impressive for 1965, other than it happened in the minors. You don’t see too many pitchers now approach 189 innings in a minor league season. Note the spelling of “bull-pen” above the cartoon.

The 1969 Topps set isn’t hugely popular, but there are collectors for all of the regular Topps sets from that era. Ellis is basically a common card most years, though his rookie card is more desirable than a common. That’s true for any player who had his type of career. You can get one for around $10, but it’s a little more pricey for a nicer one, so you probably want to be in that $15-$25 range. Someone has a PSA 9 with a $595 price tag. There’s a PSA 8 for $425, and another for $450.

There’s an interesting comparison between PSA and SGC in the prices. A PSA 6 has an asking price of $125+ shipping. There’s an SGC 86, which is equal in grade to a PSA 7.5. The asking price for that card is about $1 less than the PSA 6.

There are actually more completed auctions than active. That’s due to the popularity of his rookie card. For comparison, a PSA 9 ended for $500 recently, so that $595 price for the active listing isn’t outlandish by any means. A PSA 8 recently ended for $210, so those $425/$450 prices are fairly high. A large percentage of the closed auctions were in the $20-$25 range for ungraded cards in mid-grade condition.