Who is the king of baseball card art?

When Topps introduced “1 of 1” sketch cards in their baseball products last year, collectors went on a frenzy. It’s clear from seeing some of 2009’s sketches that Topps upped the ante quite a bit and has arguably produced some of the best art in sports cards that has ever done.

Below is three examples of card companies hiring artists to work on baseball cards. Given only the funds for one, which would you go after? Judge on whatever means most to you; rarity, overall design, book value, etc.

Which of these artists is the King of Baseball Card artwork, if any of them.

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Artist – Peter Max

Product – 1997 Topps Gallery

Seeded into packs of 1997 Topps Gallery, these Peter Max cards sell for considerably low prices by today’s standards. Of course, that’s for the regular versions. Topps also seeded hand-signed cards of Max, serial numbered to just 40 copies (link).

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Artist – Dick Perez

Product – Diamond Kings, Topps

Baseball Hall of Fame’s official artist has been creating wonderful baseball card art since the mid-80’s and most recently has worked in Allen & Ginter and Topps Chrome.

Unfortunately, most of his early work with Donruss is considered “junk” due to mass-production but several of his 2007 Topps Turkey Red Cabinet cards are signed and hand-numbered, giving it an exclusivity that 1988 Donruss never could (link).

In case you missed it, Wax Heaven interviewed Mr. Perez last year.

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Artist – Brian Kong

Product – 2009 Topps

While today’s sketch cards produced by Topps are true “1 of 1” rarities, let’s face it… in 2009 that gimmick does not really go as far with most collectors as it once did back in the late-90’s.

Just imagine how many “1 of 1” cards Topps, Donruss and Upper Deck produce every single year. You are looking at thousands of “one of a kind” cards that can sell for less than $10 dollars unless it’s a super hot prospect or features a game-used relic and/or autograph.

Perfect examples: one & two

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20 thoughts on “Who is the king of baseball card art?

  1. As far as I’m concerned, Dick Perez will always be the man.

    However, the art for the 2008 Goudey cards is also very strong (are those straight drawings, or hand-colored photos?), although I have no idea who did them.

    As good as Dick Perez has been, though, nothing holds a candle to early Bowman (i.e. 1951-1952), although I do not believe that those were pure drawings.

  2. Among Perez, Max, and Kong (who?), Max is not only the most famous, but one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century. While I’ve never been a big fan of his artwork (I guess I didn’t grow up the 60s or take enough ‘shrooms to appreciate it?), I easily think his effort for ’97 Topps is some one of the best artist collaboration work I’ve seen since Andy Warhol did an art car collection for BMW in the early 80s. The cards are colorful, original, and the hand-signed pieces will, without doubt, increase in value over the years to come. That’s my pick for the group!

    Dick Perez on the other hand is probably the best known baseball card artist–ever. But, while I think his stuff is nice, it has never really appealed to me all that much. Maybe because most of the stuff of his I remember came in packages of late 80s-early 90s Donruss? Hardly some of the best product to come out of that period. At the same time, though, Perez’s work with Masterpieces was a really fantastic. At the end of the day, it’s two truly different products by two totally different artists.

    Brian Kong I’ve never heard of before. Is he famous for a certain product? His style is much more influenced by comic book art and I think it’s really unique–kinda like those fantasy inserts that came with ’91 Fleer. (Wasn’t Frank Thomas a half robot or something? I digress.) I think of all three artists his will appeal much more to younger collectors. Even though he’s probably not the most talented artist of the bunch, his style is very original. Topps should be commended for including it in their 2009 sets! Maybe this is the stuff that will bring more kids in to the hobby??

  3. Ever since I started collecting…1990 Donruss…I’ve loved the Diamond Kings. Gotta go with Perez.

  4. Wow tought call. Since I’m a Cal guy I would want that card. But because Im also a bit of a comics/graphic novel guy, I’m kinda drawn to the Brian Kong card

  5. Dick Perez is so iconic in my opinion. Not that the others guys suck, cause they certainly don’t, but Dick Perez is the king.

  6. Man, how did you leave out Thorzul, PunkRockPaint and kimaloo? Sigh… Well, since we’re talking production cards with paid artists, I’d have to say Perez in this grouping. Though, I have seen another ‘painted’ canvas card that escapes me that i think was painted by someone else… Dang. Now I’ll have to search through all those cards to find it… Unless I already packed it up for a giveaway… Man…

  7. I’m poretty sure the Goudeys and ’50s Bowman cards are hand colored photos. The ’53 Topps cards are all paintings but most or all were based on photos as well. I like the Peter Max cards but when they first came out they were expensive as hell and nowadays they are affordable but you can’t find them anywhere.

  8. Oh, this is a toughy. I like different artists for different reasons but if I had to pick just one, I think I’d go with Brian Kong’s art. If you look at some of his other stuff (not just baseball), he’s extremely talented and versatile in the mediums he uses. I wanna be like him when I grow up! :oP

    And thanks for love Tribecards! I need to get my pencils out and make some more cards!

  9. I just met Brian Kong today in NY Comic Con. He was a great down to earth guy and a huge baseball fan. Most of his work is amazing. I bought two artist proofs, one of Wang and one of Daisuke. I am probably upload scans to cardboard connection when I get the chance.

  10. Of these 3 I think it’s Peter Max, hands down. My favorite sports artist by far is Ron Lewis. Check out his amazing artwork, especially his stuff featuring the Negro Leagues.

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