People make mistakes sometimes. People who work for baseball card companies are no exception. As a result, a baseball error cards appear from time to time. Some hobbyists enjoy collecting baseball error cards and even specialize in it, so here’s a list of some of the more famous or well-known error cards.
T-206 Sherry Magee
The most famous, and perhaps most valuable error card is the T-206 Sherry Magee, an outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies. Magee isn’t a Hall of Famer, but he was a superstar of this era. While he fell short of Hall of Fame standards, he didn’t miss it by all that much.
Initial printings of this card misspelled the 1910 batting champion’s last name as “Magie.” The American Tobacco Company quickly issued a corrected card.
The Sherry “Magie” error card is the third most valuable and third rarest card from the landmark T-206 set, behind the legendary Honus Wagner and Eddie Plank cards. It’s one of the most famous and valuable of baseball error cards. Error cards from hugely popular sets tend to be pretty valuable.
1957 Topps Hank Aaron
In its landmark 1957 set, Topps flipped the negative on Hank Aaron’s card, so the former home run king appears to be hitting left-handed. When you look closely, you can see the printing on his uniform is in reverse, so this wasn’t a case of Aaron fooling around.
Topps didn’t correct the error, so there’s no rare variant to chase. This is a valuable error card just because it’s Hank Aaron. The error doesn’t change its value one way or the other, but it’s famous because it involves an extremely high-profile player, and one of the most famous and popular sets of the 1950s.
1969 Topps Aurelio Rodriguez
If Aurelio Rodriguez looks a little young on his 1969 Topps card, there’s a reason. Rodriguez was indeed young and unproven, but that’s not him on the card. Rumor is that either Rodriguez or a teammate played a prank on the photographer and sent the team batboy, Leonard Garcia, to pose for his picture. Rodriguez hadn’t emerged yet as an everyday player so one can understand how he could fool the Topps photographer.
Topps never corrected this error either. In 1969 there was a moratorium on players posing for photographs for cards, so Topps had to use whatever photographs it had on file, and may not have had another photo of Rogriguez to use.
Rodriguez wasn’t a superstar, but he had a productive career that lasted 17 years, and he won a gold glove in 1976.
1965 Topps Bob Uecker
Why is Bob Uecker smiling so big on his 1965 Topps card? Well, he’s standing at the plate left-handed, playing fool-the-photographer. He was right-handed all the way. He fooled the photographer, and he fooled Topps.
Uecker was the kind of guy who, if the game was on the line and he was due up, you started looking at your pitchers’ batting averages. Most teams had a couple of pitchers who could outhit Uecker. So it’s fun to imagine what might have happened if Uecker had tried hitting left-handed instead.
Uecker famously says his career batting average was .200 and he sounds like he’s bragging. There’s a reason for it. Most people who saw him play don’t believe him until they look it up, because they remember his 1964 season when he hit .198, or his 1967 season when the Phillies and Braves gave him more playing time than he’d ever received previously and he hit a cool .150.
He always had a sense of humor about it, which is one of the reasons he’s been far more successful as a broadcaster, actor, pitchman, and comedian than he was hitting a baseball. Right or left handed.
1966 Topps Dick Ellsworth
Dick Ellsworth’s 1966 Topps card is a head-scratcher. It features a photo of second baseman Ken Hubbs, his Chicago Cubs teammate who tragically died in a plane crash in February 1964 at the young age of 22. Hubbs was the 1962 Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove winner, while Ellsworth was the Cubs’ best pitcher until Fergie Jenkins emerged in 1967. Ellsworth had been an All-Star, and Hubbs wasn’t an unknown player either, so it’s unclear how a mixup happened with a photo that was at least two years old.
Like many other Topps baseball error cards, Topps didn’t correct this one either.
1990 Topps Frank Thomas NNOF
In 1990, Frank Thomas was a can’t-miss prospect for the Chicago White Sox. Unlike many other can’t-miss prospects of the 1980s and 1990s, Thomas lived up to the hype and went on to a Hall of Fame career.
Topps issued a card of him, still in his college uniform, but a printing defect caused a small number of these cards to appear without his name on the front. Topps quickly fixed the defect, so only a small number of these cards slipped out, but the Frank Thomas NNOF is one of the most valuable baseball error cards and most valuable cards of the 1990s.
When Fleer won the right to issue baseball cards, Donruss quickly followed suit. Donruss’ rush job featured poor photography and no fewer than 36 errors in it. Donruss corrected most of the errors in its second printing, though getting photos that were better than the ones on the players’ drivers licenses would have to wait for the next year.
1981 Fleer Graig Nettles
In 1981, Fleer rushed a baseball card set to market, and in its haste, produced a lot of errors. The most (in)famous was its card of Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles, which misspelled his name “Craig” on the back. Fleer didn’t correct every error but they did correct this one. The Nettles error card is worth around $10.
1981 Fleer Fernando Valenzuela
In 1981, Fleer misspelled rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela’s name “Fernand.” Fleer didn’t correct the error, so there’s no extra value associated with this error card. Valenzuela was one of the most popular players of the early 1980s, so a correction would have made this error card much more popular.
1982 Fleer John Littlefield
In 1982, Fleer reversed the negative on pitcher John Littlefield’s card, making him appear to be throwing left-handed. Fleer quickly corrected this one, so the error card is relatively rare. This little known and appreciated card is worth $75-$100. Since Fleer made so many errors in its 1981 and 1982 sets and didn’t fix all of them, this one is easy to overlook.
1974 Topps San Diego Padres
In 1974, Topps printed 15 cards of San Diego Padres players indicating their team as “Washington, National League.” In early 1974, before Ray Kroc bought the team, a deal was in place to move the team to Washington. Kroc swooped in with a no-strings-attached deal to keep the Padres in San Diego, so the Padres didn’t move, and Topps corrected the cards in a second printing. The most noteworthy player among the 15 is Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who briefly played for the Padres in between stints with the San Francisco Giants.
1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds
In 1987, Donruss printed a special set featuring the year’s opening day lineups. The set included a young Barry Bonds, then a can’t-miss prospect with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But the first printing of the Barry Bonds card featured a photo of Bonds’ teammate, second baseman Johnny Ray. Donruss quickly issued a corrected card.
1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy #357
Dale Murphy’s 1989 Upper Deck card shows him backwards in his Braves uniform, as Upper Deck used a reversed negative.
1988 Topps Al Leiter
Al Leiter’s rookie card featured a photo of teammate Steve George, who never made it past AAA. Al Leiter didn’t become a superstar, but he did make two All Star teams during his 19-year career and won two World Series rings. Topps issued a correction with Leiter’s photo.
The whole 1989 Donruss set
This isn’t really an error per se, but it shows the futility of trying to list every single error card. There are six variations of every single card in the 1989 Donruss set. Have fun collecting all 3,960 cards.