The rarity and value of Carribbean baseball cards is well-documented through years of auction results; issues like Billiken Cigars, Propagandas Montiel, and Caramelo Deportivo have become highly desirable due to their rarity and their representation of the great players from the Negro Leagues. It is the 1950-51 Toleteros Josh Gibson, however, that has ascended to the top of hobby lore as the most popular and highly sought-after Negro Leagues card.
Despite the fact that Gibson actually passed away three years before the card was issued, this card is widely recognized as the only standard card of the great slugger, and due to its extreme rarity has taken its place at the pinnacle of the hobby, becoming one of its most desirable cards. Gibson is unquestionably the biggest name in Negro Leagues history, considered by many to rank among the greatest power hitters in the game and perhaps baseball’s greatest catcher. Gibson passed away from a stroke just a few months before Jackie Robinson broke in with the Dodgers in 1947; he was just 35 years old but did not get to experience the major leagues. His election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, however, positions him among the game’s greats.
While the greatest name in major league history is unquestionably Babe Ruth, there are dozens of different Ruth cards available to hobbyists. The 1950-51 Toleteros Puerto Rican winter league card is the only card of Josh Gibson issued commercially in even remote proximity to his playing career. Much like the 1948 Leaf card of Babe Ruth has long been considered a standard-issue Ruth card despite being issued 13 years after the conclusion of his great career, the 1950-51 Toleteros Josh Gibson merits similar status despite having been issued four years after his final at bat.
The card’s rarity is unquestionable. While current population data indicates 27 examples have been graded, we believe the actual number of graded examples to be fewer than that, due to cards being crossed back and forth between grading companies. Regardless, the card is impossibly rare and extremely desirable among advanced collectors. The condition sensitive nature of Cuban cards in general makes a card of this grade an extreme rarity; just eight examples have graded higher but again, we are of the belief that the population reports are skewed due to collectors crossing cards back and forth.
Regardless, a 1950-51 Toleteros Josh Gibson is one of the hobby’s greatest cards; certainly one of its most rare and desirable, and unquestionably the pinnacle of Negro League collecting.