Fans and collectors of all stripes owe Sy Berger a debt of gratitude. The former Topps executive is considered "the father of the modern bubble-gum card."
Mr. Berger played a significant role in designing, producing and marketing baseball and other sports and entertainment cards for more than 50 years during his career with Topps.
collectors know Sy is more than just an average baseball card maven, though. He's also an MOT.
Topps honored Mr. Berger in 2004 with a Topps Fan Favorite card (#137). The card is readily available on eBay or Beckett for less than $3. It comes in standard, refractor ($5-$10) and autograph ($10-$40, #CO-71/FFA-SB) issues. Jewish Major Leaguers also honored Mr. Berger's contributions, included a card for the card maker in the 2009 issue (#35).
As the person who signed thousands of players to their Topps contracts, Bergers signature appears on documents that regularly cross the virtual block. A signed contract (like this one for Lee May from my collection) can be found with some regularity on eBay. Expect to pay between $50 and $500, depending on the player — Mickey Mantle's 1958 Topps contract is available on eBay for $15,000, if you've got extra cash lying around.
Player checks, signed by Berger occasionally crop up, too; these sell for $50 or more, depending on the player.
While I'm sure they exist, but I've never seen a contract or check for a Jewish player's Topps card signed by Berger. Such a document would make a very interesting addition to a Jewish baseball collection.
For those who favor books as collectibles, be sure to check out Topps
Baseball Cards: The Complete Picture Collection. This richly
illustrated coffee table book includes a section written by Mr. Berger.
Another fascinating collectible, if you favor ephemera, is Mr. Berger's business card. I found one on eBay a few years ago. Mr. signed it for me via snail mail, and included several additional variations of his business card with his response.
It has been my experience that Mr. Berger is a willing, and generous, through-the-mail signer. He's also been something of a regular at Hall of Fame inductions, as the host of Willie Mays.
And now, to the point of this posting. If you were looking to add a truly unique Sy Berger item to your collection, or just want to savor beautiful sports card artwork, I hope you checked out the latest catalog from Robert Edward Auctions.
The company's 2010 offering (they run one auction each year), which closed on May 1, included 150 lots of original Topps artwork, consigned directly by Mr. Berger.
If you've never seen an REA catalog, they are collectibles — of phone book size proportion — in their own right. The 2010 catalog is 738-pages and weights close to seven pounds. It features 1,684 lots, most lavishly illustrated with beautifully written and deeply researched descriptions.
A piece with a distinctly Jewish attribute was among the artwork up for bid. Lot 872, the painting from which Al Rosen's 1953 Topps card was designed, carried a reserve of $500, with a pre-sale estimate of $1,000-$2,000. The piece hammered for $2,250.
For anyone not fortunate to have won the lot, you can still enjoy looking through the catalogue, in print or online. The Berger Collection is detailed on pages 349-366. The collection is
in REA's permanent archives. And, collectors can register,
at no charge, for REA catalog mailings.