1984 FLEER UPDATE DWIGHT GOODEN
In 1990 I started a Dwight Gooden collection. Previously, my interest was all about collecting complete sets and that’s still very much my priority. But, given all of the various card manufacturers that were around then, it seemed reasonable to have a single-player corner in my collection.
Gooden had already passed his brief peak but he was still pretty good in ’90, as he won 19 games and finished fourth in the CY Award voting. One of my colleagues at the time was a Pirates fan and Gooden hit 100 mph in a win against Pittsburgh late in the season that I might have mentioned to him a time or two.
Visits to my local card shop, along with shows, had me searching for cards to add to my Gooden book. Things came to a pretty-abrupt halt in the middle of the decade when he was first suspended a year for cocaine use and then once reinstated signed as a free agent with the Yankees. The former was heartbreaking; the latter was near unforgivable.
My Gooden book has 138 cards in it, the last one a gift to me from a fellow collector in a Facebook group. My best guess is the last one purchased was a 2013 Topps Archive, which got the COTW treatment in a piece that holds up rather well, says Mr. Modest.
Anyway, not in my Gooden book are either of his best rookie cards, the Fleer Update pictured here or the Topps Traded one. They were way overpriced when he was on the Mets and when they came down once he fell from his once-lofty perch, there just wasn’t the desire on my part to pick them up. Just one of many collecting mistakes from my past.
The Fleer Update Gooden is the one to have; in my opinion it looks more-polished than the Topps Traded issue. And collectors agree. The last raw (non-graded) one that sold on eBay fetched $85 while the last PSA 9 went for $152.99 on 1/19. That’s more than I care to pay.
Cards are an excellent example of the free market and how supply and/or demand drive costs. The Update and Traded cards are somewhat scarce. At least they weren’t printed in the 7-digit range like cards from the base sets in the Junk Wax era were. But it’s hard to consider them scarce when a dealer will have one at virtually any card show you go to and there are currently 118 results on eBay when you type it into their search engine.
You want scarce? If you enter “1964 Topps Venezuelan Casey Stengel” at eBay, it currently shows three results.
The current price of the ’84 Fleer Update is being driven largely by demand. And that’s okay – it just surprises me that a guy who ruined his Hall of Fame talent with recreational drugs is that popular. Just imagine what that card would fetch if Gooden stayed on the straight and narrow and fulfilled his early promises of a Cooperstown career.
In that same ’84 Fleer Update set is the most-desirable Roger Clemens rookie card. Clemens had a fantastic career, one that we hoped Gooden would have produced. But Clemens opted for performance-enhancing drugs, which so far have kept him out of the Hall of Fame and made him an outcast among most baseball fans. Yet Clemens’ raw and graded rookie cards go for roughly twice as much as Gooden’s does.
It’s not hard to imagine that a clean and healthy Gooden with an induction to Cooperstown would probably have a graded mint rookie card that would fetch four digits.
My best guess is that at some point I’ll break down and add the Fleer Update to my Gooden collection. After all, it’s not that expensive. But likely that won’t come until quite a few more of those ’64 Vennys come my way first.