Sportscards: What does a "white whale" pull look like?

Posted on March 06, 2015 by Collect TheHobby | 0 Comments

So it's that time of year where an annual baseball card collector favorite, Topps Heritage baseball has just been released.  We are already seeing some awesome pulls on social media and the popular online venues where cards are sold!  A few red "Real One" autographs numbered out of 66, punchboard boxtoppers, down to very cool "gum stained" cards are all selling for strong prices so far.  You just never know what you will get in a box of this set, which makes it so much fun to open.  For fun in this post, we decided to share our best pull from Heritage over the years that we ever hit...a "white whale" card. 

More on "White whale" cards

What do we consider "white whale" cards?  Honestly the term is thrown around a little too often sometimes on cards that are cool, but not truly outstanding enough to be a real "white whale" in our minds.  To each his own, but we reserve the term for cards that fall into a few buckets.  One bucket are cards that are truly scarce now because of a low amount of survivors.  Think of pre-war cards made in the 19th century where less than a handful are known to exist.  Those are cards that when you land one it's an incredible feeling and they tend to be very valuable in all conditions even if they are barely resembling cardboard anymore.

The next bucket we use the term for are condition rarities.  Many vintage sets in the post-war period from the 1950s to the 1980s have cards like this.  They are cards where although you may easily find an off grade to mid-grade card, finding one in mint to gem mint condition is exceptionally rare.  For some of these, just finding one centered can be a bear of a task in any grade.  These usually end up being quite valuable as well and there a few modern cards in this bucket as well.

The last bucket is where our pull lands.  We use the term here for modern cards that are close to impossible to find.  We reserve the term largely for key "1 of 1" cards where there is only one example out there.  As one of one's are more common now, we only apply it to key rookie cards and important relics and cut autographs.  In some cases, as was the case with our card, the manufacturer skips any significant marketing around these cards or even add them to released checklists.

A whale is sighted...

We always break some Heritage each year and the set has evolved with different distribution methods over the years as you may know.  In the fall of 2009, it was another year of the "Updates & Highlights" boxes.  This is where high number Heritage cards were mixed with flagship update cards in packs rather than the complete set model you see today.  It was noted that there would be a run of cut signature cards, but we have never found a complete list to this day for 2009.  These cards are so tough to pull in these sets, that we typically do not have them on our radar as something to pull, because it just doesn't happen. 

My wife and I always break boxes together.  I had not planned on breaking many boxes of the high numbers in 2009, but we usually buy at least a little of every Heritage set.  The economy was still on shaky ground and it was a tough year overall selling singles.  We waited to see what the holidays looked like and saved more money for our kids instead.  Ironically, my in-laws who usually get us cards for Christmas chose a single hobby box of 2009 Update and High Numbers as a gift.  It was a busy year with the kids and we got to opening it that night.  

We always have a good time opening Heritage.  I tend to sit and read each card as I go because I enjoy this set in an old-fashioned way compared to most other sets.  We usually split the packs in half and go at our own pace.  My wife grabbed a pack from the box and said this one feels like winner.  I get that often from her, so I didn't flinch as I was reading the back of a Pedroia base card thinking it could be an SSP.  I thought I had scored, but I would soon be outdone.  As she opened the pack she had that face when she hits something extra special (she knows when she hits something valuable).  "I got a really thick card with an auto and a jersey!"  While she enjoys baseball very much, she doesn't know her history as well as I do and asks me... "Is Roger Maris a good player?... I think this may be a pretty big card".   "It's a real 1/1!!!", she yelled grinning indicating I need to pay attention now.  As I leaned to take a closer look...

Here is what she landed that night....

I feel like we jumped up and down for an hour and then told the story over and over at shows and online for weeks.  It was one of the highly coveted and under publicized Cut Autograph Relic cards from 2009's set, featuring Roger Maris!  A true 1 of 1 card of a lifetime!  A genuine "white whale" of a pull for us, especially considering the significance of this card!  As you may know the 2009 set was based on the 1960 Topps design.  That year Maris would have an outstanding season after being traded to the Yankees, showing some of the power that he would go on to display in 1961 to break a well known record we all know.  He lead the league with 112 runs batted in, a .581 slugging percentage, took home a Gold Glove award, and was ultimately the American League MVP in 1960.  Most people we meet have still never heard of it, so it definitely fits the bill for a "white whale" to us.


This card is likely always going to be our very best pull from a Heritage pack!  Although my wife would not agree as a diehard Red Sox fan, I still consider it the best pull we ever had out of any product due to it's "white whale" nature.  The Yankee pinstripe was a nice added touch on the relic and the "cut" fit inside the window which sometimes doesn't happen.  The card, although fresh from a new pack, had a real "vintage feel" about it.  It was a great design by Topps that I wonder why they did not advertise more as a possible "chase card".  I did enjoy the card for a little while and then decided to sell.  I wanted to find a collector who would appreciate the Yankee history more.  I fielded numerous offers at the time, but felt the economy was too soft and the offers were too low.  We put it away in a display case for awhile. 

We ended up selling the card a couple of years later on eBay for significantly more money than we had been offered at the time.  We are proud to say that it easily topped the "Top 50 Most Watched Sports Cards on eBay" hosted by Cardboard Connection when we sold it.  The buyer was a high end collector that we shall not name for privacy.  I do not know where the card has traveled to since, but I would guess that buyer still owns it if I had to.  Just an exceptional card!

Best of luck with your Topps Heritage breaks this year and beyond!

We hope this post shows you how magic can happen when you open a box of sportscards.  When it does, we doubt you will ever forget the feeling! 

If you ever need help with your sportscards collection, feel free to contact us.  We would also welcome some comments below if you have any other questions or thoughts on this post, especially if you know of other cards in this set that are similar.  Lasltly, share your "White Whales" with us on social media as well.  For more general information on sportscards, like us on facebook, follow us on twitter, instagram, or pinterest!

Posted in Collecting Tips, Our Travels



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