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TheStreet Open House

10 Completely Worthwhile Collectibles

5. 1951 Maurice "Rocket" Richard rookie card
Sale price on eBay: $30,100

Sports cards are a tough investment as well, but baby boomer retirement is going to put a whole lot of patently obvious gems into play.

This Parkhurst version of Montreal Canadiens legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Maurice Richard's rookie card is a tough find as it is, never mind as a Professional Sports Authentication grade 9 mint-condition version. It's great for whoever sold it and probably just as wonderful for the person who shelled out for it, but it's also an anomaly in a corner of the collectibles world that's getting shadier by the day.

Sports trading cards are a dicey proposition for buyers who not only have to deal with a market that's volatile under the best of circumstances, but with duplicitous dealers facing federal investigation for rigging auctions, bidding up their own items and tampering with collectibles without disclosing changes. Fraud is so common in the memorabilia world that Peter J. Nash, known to older hip-hop heads as Pete Nice from late-'80s, early '90s group 3rd Bass, has dedicated an entire second career to it on his blog, Hauls Of Shame.

Even high-value cards once considered the safest bets in the industry are now huge risks. A Honus Wagner card once owned by hockey star Wayne Gretzky was sold to Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick in 2007 for $2.8 million. That card was featured in an ESPN documentary and is at the center of a federal case that alleges the broker who sold the card to Kendrick cut the sides to improve its condition. The owners of the company named in the indictment, Mastro Auctions, have since pleaded guilty to fraud and other charges.

We realize there are still people out there hoping their Mickey Mantle rookie card will put their kids through college. They should proceed with caution before pursuing that dream.

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