There’s nothing any card collector likes to unwrap more than cards from his favorite team or of his favorite player. Each of the recommendations below are guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of any Braves card collector. Also, if you know someone who is a fan and not a collector, one of these as a gift just might turn them into one. (The prices listed represent a ballpark figure of what the item might cost on eBay. Every auction is different, and eBay is certainly not the only source for acquiring cards.)
Sometimes, you can get a real sense of just how unknowledgeable baseball fans can be by listening to them debate the undebatable. For example, listen to the numerous debates over who the greatest Braves pitcher of all-time is. Fans of a certain age will say Phil Niekro. Every Braves fan loves Knucksie, but he can’t be considered the best Braves pitcher ever. Others will argue for Greg Maddux, the best pitcher most of us were fortunate enough to watch on a regular basis. Still, despite his dominance with the Tomahawk across his chest, he only made roughly half his starts while a member of the Braves. I’ve even heard some say Tom Glavine, since, unlike Maddux, he started his career in Atlanta and spent most of his career here. Again, Glavine was great, but he isn’t even the greatest southpaw in Braves history.
It is shocking to me that any Braves fan would even think to debate this. Warren Spahn is not simply the greatest of all the Braves pitchers, but I think we can safely say that he’s one of the ten best pitchers to every hurl a baseball. He has a lot of great cards, and I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from getting one of Spahn’s great base cards, but if you want to keep things affordable, I’d suggest his 1964 Topps Giants card. There’s no mistaking the southpaw for a young man on this card, but it’s a great shot of his mischievous smile.
1964 Topps Giants Warren Spahn, $5.00
1969 Team Set
In the first year of divisional baseball, the Atlanta Braves would appear in the National League Championship Series. This team may have been anchored by the excellent starting pitching of Phil Niekro and Ron Reed, but it’s the big bats that make this team set one for the ages. The names Hank Aaron, Rico Carty, Orlando Cepeda, Felipe Alou, Clete Boyer, and Tito Francona are familiar to any baseball fan. The 1969 Topps team set is a must own for any Braves team collector.
1969 Topps Atlanta Braves Team Set, $80.00
A Hank Aaron / Mickey Mantle Card
If you take the greatest player in the history of the Braves franchise, Hank Aaron, and you put him on the same card as the most popular player in modern collecting, Mickey Mantle, you have a great baseball card that will be desired by many, many people. Aaron and Mantle would face off in the 1957 and 1958 World Series at the peak of their powers. Both would win MVP in 1957 and Topps would snap a photo of the two together at the 1957 World Series and memorialize the moment in the 1958 set with one of the ten best cards Topps has ever produced.
I recently acquired this card myself and can guarantee that any baseball fan, but especially a Braves fan, will be giddy with excitement if they were to receive this card as a gift. (If you want a cheaper option, Topps featured Aaron and Mantle on a card together in the 1975 set. This card includes images of both players 1957 Topps base cards and commemorates their receiving the MVP award in the same year.)
1958 Topps World Series Batting Foes Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron, $50.00 - $400.00
1982 Team Set
It was the 1982 NL West champion Atlanta Braves that would eventually lead to the crowning of the Braves as America’s team on TBS. Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro was still going strong and Dale Murphy turned himself into one of the most popular players in the sport with his MVP performance. This team set has all the players you saw on TBS, like Chris Chambliss, Bruce Benedict, Rafael Ramirez, Glenn Hubbard, and Bob Horner. While the 1982 Topps set is nice, the Donruss set is better looking and therefore, the best of the bunch.
1982 Donruss Atlanta Braves Team Set, $5.00
A Glavine/Maddux/Smoltz Card
We all know how fortunate we were to see these three masters pitch together for as long as they did. There have been several cards over the years showing them together in base sets, but they have typically been cluttered by the inclusion of Steve Avery or Kevin Millwood. If you want a card featuring just these three, then you typically have to look for relics and autos. Well, make that just relics if you want to keep the card affordable. Even then, you have to be careful. You want the card to include Braves relics, and only Braves relics. The occasional Cubs relic for Greg Maddux is one thing, but who among us could stand looking at an orange jersey fragment for Tom Glavine?
Unfortunately, the best relic card featuring all three is the 2005 Donruss Prime Patches card. Make no mistake, it is a beautiful baseball card. Plus, each of the three windows on the card should feature a bit of patch in addition to jersey. The problem is that this is not an easy card to track down. They do show up from time to time on eBay, but not often. If you find one, you should snatch the card up immediately, whether for yourself or for your favorite Braves fan.
2005 Donruss Prime Patches Team Materials John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux, $100.00
A Julio Teheran Autograph Card
A baseball fan always worries about the arrival of their team’s top prospects. As you follow these kids through the minors, you become attached. It isn’t just about the team, but you come to care for the kids as well. We all want to see Julio Teheran live up to the hype. You can show your support for the kid right now by tracking down his 2010 Bowman Chrome Auto. If there’s one card a collector wants for any rookie, it is his first Bowman Chrome auto. If you want to gift this card, you should get it now. If he even lives up to fifty percent of the hype he’s received, the cards won’t be affordable for much longer.
While you’re picking up a Teheran, you might as well track down Mike Minor, Randall Delgado, and Arodys Vizcaino as well. Their cards won’t be getting any cheaper either, and they’ll make a great gift as well.
2010 Bowman Chrome Auto Julio Teheran, $40.00
For most people, it isn’t often that you get to see your favorite sports team win a championship. On those rare occasions when it does happen, the collector will save everything they can get their hands on. For instance, I have a newspaper that proclaims the Braves World Champions, as well as the Sport Illustrated issue featuring the Braves celebrating on the cover. I’ll never shake the memory of that game, not that I would even try. Of course, there’s no better way to remember the World Championship team than by looking at the cards from that year’s team set.
The team set you want from this season is both the regular Topps set, and the Topps Traded set. (It is of vital importance to include the Braves from the Traded set since Marquis Grissom, the man who squeezed the final out of the 1995 World Series into his glove, is only included in this extended set.) Topps got the player selection spot on and each player on each card will bring back memories to the gifted fan of the greatest season in Braves history.
Well, except for the Jacob Shumate card. Does anyone remember Jacob Shumate?
1995 Topps and Topps Traded Atlanta Braves Team Sets, $10.00
A Player Lot
When I got back into collecting baseball cards in late 2005, I set myself a goal of collecting every Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz card ever printed. I would go on to learn that this was impossible due to shear number of card available, not to mention the scarcity of many of them. Still, I would rapidly acquire hundreds of cards for each player thanks to player lots on eBay.
A player lot is exactly what you would think it would be, a group of cards of a specific player. You do have to be careful of the wording in the ads though. (Don’t assume that a player lot advertised to contain 200 cards will contain 200 DIFFERENT cards unless the ad specifically state that this is the case. This is how I ended up with 112 1989 Classic Greg Maddux cards. Ugh.) It is, however, the quickest way to build up a number of cards of a favorite player.
For a gift, I would recommend getting a few player lots of the gifted’s favorite player and putting them in a binder. There are few things a collector enjoys more than looking at a variety of different cards of their favorite player.
Player Lot Prices Vary
It was probably a mistake for my parents to put a television in my room as a kid. Late night, there were two things I liked to watch on television. If the Braves were on the west coast, the TV would be tuned to TBS. Otherwise, I’d watch Johnny Carson. Before he started appearing on The Tonight Show, Uecker was hardly remembered at all. On Carson’s stage though, Uecker showed off his quick, self-deprecating wit and would parlay that into a famous series of Miller Lite ads, a series of memorable battles with Howard Cosell on Monday Night Baseball, a not-so great sitcom and the role of Harry Doyle in the Major League movies. If you ever get a chance to listen to Uecker on the radio for the Brewers, you should do it. You might expect Harry Doyle, but what you get is a passionate and knowledgeable baseball fan and a Milwaukee loyalist. He only appears on a single solo card as a member of the Braves, and it’s a classic.
1963 Topps Bob Uecker, $10.00
1988 Team Set
I’ve recommended two other team sets as gifts and each had something in common. They each represented a team that won their division. In one case, the team would become World Champion. The 1988 team was not a championship baseball team. Why do I recommend getting a team set then? Well, because this team wasn’t just bad, but was historically bad. Judging by win percentage, it was the seventh worse team in Braves history. The Braves are, of course, the longest continually operating franchise in baseball. This is also the worst team the Braves have fielded since moving to Atlanta. Their awfulness was on display for the whole country, night after night on TBS. How could you not want a team set of the worst team in Atlanta Braves history?
If you need a little glimmer of hope, each of the 1988 team sets include a Tom Glavine rookie card. 1988 was a disaster, but Glavine’s arrival in the big leagues would one day lead to the revitalization of the franchise. If you get the Topps team set from the year, make sure to get the "Traded" team set as well so you have the Ron Gant rookie, another key player in the franchise’s emergence during the 90s.
1988 Topps Team Set, $3.00