Vintage on-card autos – 1955-56 Maurice “Rocket” Richard

Nice signature by the Rocket, makes good use of the white space.

Would you have a player sign a really nice vintage card?

This was the question Sal asked yesterday at Puck Junk.  He had a nice-looking ’63-64 Parkhurst card of Bill Gadsby that, had he bought it slightly earlier, would have been a candidate for an autograph session.

While I answered in the affirmative, I grant that it’s not always that easy.  With few exceptions that I can think of (none, maybe?), a signed card is probably worth less than an unsigned card.  Even with the PSA/DNA grading, they seem to me to be a harder sell than a pristine original.  A lot of this comes from the issue of forgeries.  If Upper Deck is getting their hands on an autograph, it’s likely legitimate (we hope).  Cut autos are a little more dicey because of the number of autopen signatures out there, or the instances when someone else would sign things on a players’ behalf.  Even if you had a card signed in person, there will always be the “prove it” aspect at resale time.

To me, it comes down to whether you collect for value or for sentimentality.  Having Gadsby sign that card, particularly in person, would be something I’d remember and I’d treasure it as such.  A card handed down to me in those circumstances would be really special.  It would mean more as a keepsake than as an investment.  I guess that’s the difference.

I might have about 10 cards with an autograph on them.  It’s not something I particularly chase and I didn’t get any of them myself.  They’re among my favourites, though, particularly in the case of athletes who are no longer with us.

This card of the Rocket is one of the top things in my collection, even though it probably doesn’t rank in terms of dollar value.  For a number of reasons, I think the ’55-56 Richard is one of the most significant cards ever made, and the fact that Richard himself signed this one makes it doubly special.

So far as I can tell, the signature is legitimate.  I have a Richard autograph that was gotten for me in person when I was a kid.  I used that to validate the signature here.  There are a lot of false Richard autographs out there but I compared this to the original I had and it passes muster for me.  I’ve had three different Richard cards with a signature.  Two are legit (to my eyes) and one was made by a 10-year-old kid trying to impress his friends in the late ’50s.  I erased that one 25 years ago.  Probably did far more damage to the card that way, but I was 15 and wanted no part of that mess.

This card is very solid for a ’55 Parkie.  While it shows aging (the scanner has made the greying worse, but it is noticable compared to some others I have), the red bottom is in great shape and the corners are still sharp.  It has a couple hairline creases (maybe the Rocket made them – that would be cool) but has otherwise been well cared for. 

The signature is old.  It shows none of the shakiness of the autographs Richard made late in life.  It’s also likely that nobody would have had this particular card signed after 1990, when prices spiked to such an insane degree.  There’s a reason that lots of signed cards are dinged examples.  This card was higher-end.

What’s so remarkable about it as a card is not what’s on the front (though this is the only time he’s called “Rocket” rather than “Maurice” on his card, so that’s interesting) but what’s on the back.  Parkhurst didn’t put design work or cartoons on the back of their cards.  Their stats were generally minimal.  What this left room for was text, usually a lot of it.  Nobody ever put work into their write-ups the way Parkhurst did, and the write-up here is one for the ages.  Take a look:

I don't think I've even seen the album they offer here. It took years for Bernie Geoffrion to be forgiven for passing the Rocket, if the fans ever really did.

That’s the story of the Richard Riot of 1955, in about as concise a manner as it’s possible to write it.  You have the fact of the riot, the events that caused it, the fact that he lost out on his one and only shot at a scoring title because of his suspension.  This is one of the biggest events in hockey history, and it’s all on this one card.  On top of that, you have the little trivia dig about the Leafs being the only team to win three consecutive Cups (Parkhurst was printed in Toronto) on a card of the ’55-56 Habs, the team that would break that record.

The Rocket was the key to those teams and he signed this card.  I think that’s pretty awesome.

So I’d have had the Gadsby signed.  If you need a clean one for the set, they’re always out there.  I’m not sure I’d have had this card signed, but I’m glad someone else did.

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2 Responses to Vintage on-card autos – 1955-56 Maurice “Rocket” Richard

  1. Dave H says:

    Nice post. I think it certainly depends on the card, its “value” and the purposes you are owning it for. As an investment certainly unautographed is likely better but if you are doing it for a collectible and personal reason then I say go for it! Especially if you have a spare or it isn’t apart of a set.

  2. Pingback: Best of the 70s #16 – 1973-74 Quaker Oats WHA | Diamond Cuts and Wax Stains

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