Good luck finding Ken Caminiti's first baseball card
For the 1985 Osceola Astros, few fans meant few copies of Ken's team issue baseball card.
One of Ken Caminiti's most meaningful cards is one of his hardest to find.
In 1985, Ken made his pro debut with the Florida State League's Osceola Astros, batting .284 and driving in 73 runs as he guided the team to the playoffs. It was a new beginning that year for the team in Kissimmee, too, following a move from Daytona Beach.
Osceola averaged fewer than 500 fans a game. And that meant not too many people ended up getting copies of Ken's first baseball card, which was included in a team set.
The card fronts feature black and white photos of the players set against an orange background. The plain card backs include biographical text and not much else.
Ken is card number 17 in the set. His card notes his 1984 club as "USA Olympic," reflecting his participation on the nationwide Team USA tour the year before (he teamed with Mark McGwire, Will Clark, Barry Larkin and other college stars but was in the last round of cuts ahead of the Olympics).
Ken is the biggest name in the Osceola Astros set, followed by his eventual Houston Astros teammates Gerald Young and Rob Mallicoat. Other Osceola players who became close friends of Ken’s include fellow third baseman Clarke Lange and second baseman Bobby Parker.
Manager Dave Cripe and pitching coach Charley Taylor lead off the 30-card set, which is organized in alphabetical order by position: pitchers, catchers infielders and outfielders, with staff and personnel on the final cards.
Trainer Larry Lasky and clubhouse attendant David Rosen got cards, as did bat boys Kevin and Kirk Jones (their parents, Roger and Betty Ann, served as unofficial team parents/chaperones for players like Ken who were away from home for the first time).
During the summer of 1985, Ken signed a number of the cards in simple cursive using a ballpoint pen. Over time, his signature would become looping and bold.
And while the team's players and a handful of fans still have the cards in their collections, finding them on the secondary market is next to impossible. I spent half a decade searching for this card, to no avail, before finally picking up most of a team set, including card number 17, a few years ago.
I paid a lot of money for Ken's first card. And it was well worth the price.
My 1985 Osceola Astros team issue card of Ken was graded by Beckett -- the card received a grade of 9.5 out of 10, gem mint, with an autograph grade of 9. It's the only copy of the card that was graded by Beckett, and fellow grading company PSA also only graded one of the cards (it received a grade of 8).
The scarcity of Ken's 1985 card makes it stand out. There might be a few hundred of the cards in existence, if that, with most of those cards stored away in private collections, and only two graded professionally. Compare that to Ken's 1988 cards by Donruss, Fleer, O-Pee-Chee, Score and Topps, considered his major league rookie cards, that were generally mass produced, and you can buy many of them for around $1 each.
Card collecting is all about supply and demand. And where Ken's 1985 team issue is concerned, few fans meant few cards. But even if fans weren’t showing up or buying the team set, it was the start of a special pro baseball career.