Despite not having comparable statistics to some of his contemporary outfielders, Roberto Clemente is still widely considered one of the most popular and talented baseball players ever. Clemente is also a great lesson for collectors. Sometimes it is not the best players who are widely collected, but the ones who are most beloved. Roberto Clemente was a fan favorite, and consequently his memorabilia is some of the most collected in all of baseball.

Had Clemente lived longer, he may have gone down as one of the most accomplished players ever, statistics and all. Instead, his life and baseball career were tragically cut short when a plane he chartered on New Years Eve 1972 to bring earthquake aid to Nicaragua crashed right after takeoff. This selfless act of charity typified Roberto Clemente.

A native of Puerto Rico, Clemente helped usher in a new era of Latin American stars in baseball. Many of today’s brightest baseball stars owe a debt of gratitude to Clemente for paving the way for them.

Clemente debuted for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955—he played for the team his entire career. There is only one recognized rookie card for Clemente, a 1955 Topps, which is in a set that also included rookie cards for fellow Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Harmon Killebrew.

The Clemente card, which shows him in two poses against a green background—a headshot, plus Clemente at bat—is considered more difficult to find in good condition than the Koufax or Killebrew cards. The biggest problem for the card was poor centering, which tends to be accentuated by the green background.

Early in his career Clemente was by no means a star. He struggled to hit for power, though his defense—which led him to 12 consecutive Gold Glove awards to end his career—was outstanding. In addition to being fast and athletic in the outfield, Clemente had an absolute missile of an arm, which scared the daylights out of base runners—few tested him.

Though Clemente would have other popular and valuable cards after his rookie year, such as his 1963 Topps card, it was not until 1968, when he was a full-fledged star, that anoth...

That card, which shows a stoically suave Clemente gazing to the left of the camera, is unequivocally the card that gives Clemente collectors the biggest fits. Not only is it rare, it also has many flaws, which is not surprising since the set was not released publicly. The plastic coating on the card is prone to cracking, and the print on the backside of the card is often out of focus, to name a few of the card’s numerous problems.

By 1968 Clemente had already won four batting titles, an MVP award, and a World Series. Three years later, in 1971, he would win his second world title.

The following year, 1972, Clemente was plagued by injuries. He only managed to play in 102 games, but in his very last regular season at-bat he hit a double for his 3,000th career hit. No one knew it at the time, but Clemente would never step to the plate in a regular season game again.

Clemente’s death shocked the baseball world—in his usual selfless manner, he had felt compelled to accompany relief rations to Nicaragua himself. But his premature death also makes his collectibles even more sought after because his signature, for example, is very scarce. In fact, finding a Clemente autograph today is difficult. Many of his autographs are simply “cuts” (autographs on pieces of paper).

In 1973, the Baseball Hall of Fame decided to waive its five-year waiting period for entry for the deceased Clemente, an honor that only had been bestowed once previously, for a dying Lou Gehrig. Hall of Fame busts are among the most popular Clemente collectibles, as are commemorative coins, statues, new and game-used jerseys, and newspaper clippings from around the time of his death.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Old Cardboard

Old Cardboard

Check out this well-organized collection of 500 sets of baseball cards, each over 50 years old. Browsable by type a… [read review or visit site]

The Baseball Card Blog

The Baseball Card Blog

Ben Henry's lively vintage baseball card blog, started in January 2006, offers hundreds of great posts on (and pict… [read review or visit site]

Cardboard Junkie

Cardboard Junkie

Dave Campbell's in-depth blog on old baseball (and some football) cards lives up to it's motto: 'do cards, not drug… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Roll up your socks for this Library of Congress collection showcasing hundreds of players on colorful early basebal… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball Hall of Fame

A home run for baseball collectors, this site features special online exhibits, ranging from a baseball-uniforms da… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc-he)1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)2014 Triple Threads Roberto Clemente/hank Greenberg Cut Auto Autograph 1of1!1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 5 Ex (pwcc-he)1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 5 Ex (pwcc)1957 Topps Setbreak Roberto Clemente #76 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 6 Exmt (pwcc)1956 Topps Roberto Clemente White Back #33 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1964 Topps Mid-grade Complete Set Mantle Mays Koufax Clemente Aaron, Psa (pwcc)1972 Topps Baseball Card Complete Set Of 787 Nice! Ryan Aaron Mays Clemente Etc.1971 Topps Baseball Card Complete Set Of 752 Nice! Ryan Aaron Clemente Mays Etc.1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Card # 164 - Graded Psa 2.5pittsburgh Pirates2012 National Treasures Roberto Clemente Jersey Patch Tag Logo Prime 5/6 Sp HofRoberto Clemente 1955 Topps Rookie ** Sgc 80 / 6 Sharp 1955 Topps Set 206/206 Hall Of Famers Koufax, Clemente Vg/ex-excellent Mint1973 Topps Baseball Cards Large Lot Of 473 Cards Stars Included Clemente Rose1956 Topps Roberto Clemente Wb #33 Baseball Card Psa Grade 5 Ex- Cond "sharp"1968 Topps Complete Set 1-598 Ryan Bench Rc Mantle Mays Aaron Clemente Must See1959 Topps Roberto Clemente #478 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1955 Topps Roberto Clemente #164 Psa 3 Rookie Sharp, Centered Card Undergraded?1966 Topps Roberto Clemente #300 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1973 Topps Roberto Clemente #50 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)2004 Sp Legendary Cuts Roberto Clemente Cut Auto Sp 7/9. Bgs 9/9 Bmf Wow!1971 Topps Setbreak Roberto Clemente #630 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)Roberto Clemente 1955 Topps #164 Pittsburgh Pirates1960 Topps Roberto Clemente #326 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1959 Topps Set Break #478 - Roberto Clemente Psa 8 Nm-mt U311951957 Topps Set Break #76 Bob Clemente Psa 7 Nm 88009bLot(150) 1970 Topps Reggie Jackson Roberto Clemente Brock Robinson, Nm-mt (pwcc)1957 Topps Bob Clemente #76 Psa 7 Nm1970 Topps Roberto Clemente #350 Baseball Card 1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente Hof Pittsburgh Pirates Rc Rookie Sgc 40 Vg 31971 Bazooka No Number Roberto Clemente Psa 8 Absolute Stunner! Hand Cut1956 Topps #33 Roberto Clemente Psa 8 Nm-mt *extreme Hi End* Pittsburgh Pirates1957 Topps Roberto Clemente #76 Psa 7.5 Nrmt+ (pwcc)1971 Topps #630 Roberto Clemente Hof Pittsburgh Pirates Psa 7 Nm1958 Topps Baseball Complete Set (495) W/ Maris Rc / Mantle, Clemente, MaysLot Of (14) 1956 Topps Hof W/ Mantle, Aaron, Mays, Clemente, Robinson +8x10 Autographed Photo Roberto Clemente 1973 Topps #50 Roberto Clemente Hof Pittsburgh Pirates Psa 8 Nm-mt 1970's Vintage Baseball Card Lot Hof Stars Clemente,hank Aaron,nolan Ryan 1972 1969 Topps #50 Roberto Clemente Psa 8 Well Centered!1958 Topps Setbreak Roberto Clemente Yellow Letters #52 Psa 6 Exmt (pwcc)1964 Topps Giants #11 Roberto Clemente Pirates Psa 9 Well Centered *6114652016 Panini Flawless Gold Teammates Mazeroski Clemente Hoak Bat Patch 1/11957 Topps #76 Roberto Clemente Pirates Psa 5 *6110472016 Panini Flawless Baseball Roberto Clemente Material Greats Gold, #'d 8/101969 Topps Roberto Clemente #50 Baseball Card 1956 Topps #33 Roberto Clemente Sgc 86 Nm+ 7.5 84607b1972 Topps Roberto Clemente #309 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1956 Topps Set Break # 33 - Roberto Clemente Ex-exmint White Back U247231970 Topps Roberto Clemente Psa 8 #350 Pirates Beautifully Centered!1967 Topps Roberto Clemente #400 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1958 Topps Baseball #52 Roberto Clemente Yellow Team Variation Bv$5001960 Topps Set Break #326 Roberto Clemente Nr/mint 88952bOriginal 1956 Topps #33 Roberto Clemente Pittsburgh1959 Topps Set Break #478 Bob "roberto" Clemente1957 Topps #76 Roberto Clemente Bvg 7.5 Nm1971 Topps 630 Roberto Clemente * Hof * Psa 6 Ex-mt Centered