Bernie Madoff on a baseball card

Topps will issue trading cards featuring the 'world's biggest hoaxes, hoodwinks and bamboozles' this summer.

By Yuval Rosenberg

topps_hoaxes_madoff.03.jpg

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- "I'll trade you two Bernie Madoffs for a Derek Jeter and David Wright."

Baseball card collectors could soon be saying something along those lines as the Topps Company will be issuing a trading card of confessed swindler Bernard Madoff as part of a product due out early this summer.

The Topps 2009 Allen & Ginter release will include cards of some 260 baseball players along with cards of historic figures and "world champions" from realms outside baseball. This year's product, though, will also nod to Madoff's financial chicanery as part of a group of cards featuring the "world's biggest hoaxes, hoodwinks and bamboozles." Among the other do-badders in the subset are Charles Ponzi, The Runaway Bride, and Enron.

"These cards feature 20 perpetrators of some of the most notorious pranks, dubious claims, and outright frauds of the last 2 centuries," boasts a Topps sell-sheet for the collection.

That means collectors who open a pack of the cards at their local hobby shop could find Madoff right alongside notable sluggers like Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols. Packs of the cards will sell for $3 apiece at retailers including Target (TGT, Fortune 500) and Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500). The odds of finding a Madoff will be one in 12 packs on average.

The hoaxes subset, originally inspired by the case of 1970's skyjacker D.B. Cooper, was in the works even before the Madoff scandal hit the headlines, according to Topps spokesman Clay Luraschi. Madoff, in fact, was a late addition to the checklist, Luraschi says. "Ironically, the economy takes a dive and all these characters start washing out, like Bernie Madoff. We thought, hey, if anyone should be in this set it should be him."

The Madoff card is not the only gimmick included in the set. Topps will again be issuing so-called DNA relics, cards featuring actual hairs of historical subjects including Napoleon, King George III, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Edgar Allen Poe, George Washington, Jefferson Davis, Geronimo, Abraham Lincoln and Beethoven. But the Madoff card is the one most directly linked to current headlines.

"I think it will add some interest to the hobby in terms of non-collectors, more mainstream people getting into it just because of those cards," says Chris Olds, editor of Beckett Baseball, a publication for collectors. "They try to touch on unusual things that people would latch onto -- stuff that's out of the ordinary, especially stuff you wouldn't expect to find in a pack of baseball cards."

Some collectors on one popular trading-card blog seemed less than eager to see Madoff captured on cardboard.

"I think if I pull a Bernie Madoff card it will be getting burned or shredded," one poster noted.

Another collector noted that Madoff isn't the first infamous criminal to be featured on a trading card.

"I was pretty appalled when I found out about the Bernie Madoff card too," that blogger wrote, "but they've had Jesse James and Jack the Ripper in previous sets so I guess Bernie is the designated scumbag criminal for this year's set." To top of page

More Galleries