CONCORD, N.H. — Baseball cards depicting former President George H. W. Bush as a Yale first baseman have fetched thousands of dollars each since they were specially-made for the White House in 1990. But experts now believe that many of the cards in circulation were not part of the set presented to the president.
The difference? The cards given to Bush by the Topps trading card company have a thick, clear coating on the front, while others floating around do not.
Given their scarcity, both versions likely will remain among the most valuable modern-day cards, said Joe Orlando, president of Professional Sports Authenticator in Santa Ana, Calif. Yet those who have purchased uncoated cards over the years — one sold last month for $3,367 — believing that they got one of 100 cards given to the president may feel a bit duped.
The discrepancy came to light when former White House chief of staff and avid baseball card collector John H. Sununu sent some of the 11 cards he was given by the president to Orlando’s company to be graded. Surprised to see the thick coating on each card, experts initially told Sununu his cards weren’t produced by Topps.
“I said, now, wait a minute, I’ve got a fairly good provenance,” Sununu recalled Tuesday.
Chagrined, Sununu sent off a copy of the note Bush wrote him accompanying the cards and asked Bush’s office to send another card from the president’s stash and a letter verifying its authenticity. He also called former Topps CEO Arthur Shorin who, immediately after presenting the cards to Bush in 1990, traded the president three of his own cards for one autographed Bush card.
Shorin confirmed to the authentication company that his card, too, had the glossy coating. And together with Sununu’s cards, it was enough for the company to conclude not only that more than 100 cards were produced, but that those given to the president differed from the others in circulation.
Orlando said it’s not uncommon for cards to “escape” from manufacturing facilities under a variety of circumstances.