AP Sports Writer

OK, so Alex Gordon’s baseball card isn’t as valuable as the 1909 Honus Wagner gem that sold for more than $1.2 million a few years ago.

But Gordon’s card, which was mistakenly released in limited numbers by Topps, sold last week for $7,500 on Internet auction site eBay. Pretty impressive considering Gordon, a top Kansas City Royals prospect, is playing Double-A ball in Wichita, Kan.

“It’s crazy,” Gordon said Thursday. “I’m in shock at the price and still don’t believe it.

“I think sometime soon I should give Topps a call and see if I can get one, just to put it in a frame.”

Under Major League Baseball Players Association rules, Gordon’s card should not be in circulation.

The former University of Nebraska star was the second pick in last year’s Major League draft, and he didn’t sign a contract until September. The rules say cardmakers can put out rookie cards only for players who make the 25-man opening-day roster or for those who played in at least one major league game the year before.

Topps spokesman Clay Luraschi said Gordon’s card was ready to go this year just in case he made the Royals’ 25-man roster. But the third baseman was assigned to Wichita, where he’s batting .310 with seven home runs.

“We were anticipating,” Luraschi said, “because we consider him a big prospect.”

Topps tried to destroy the Gordon cards, cutting out his face from cards and breaking the printing plates. Still, about 100 slipped into circulation, Luraschi said.

“It’s unfortunate it happened. It definitely has caused a lot of talk. But (the talk) is not necessarily a good thing for Topps, because now we have an incomplete set out there,” Luraschi said.

A good number of the Gordon cards, coincidentally, were found at Wal-Mart stores in the Wichita area.

Jeremy Troutman, 30, of Wichita, said he found two of the cards in one pack he bought in March. So he decided to buy as many boxes as he could. A box costs $10 and contains 36 packs with 10 cards in each one.

Troutman bought 500 to 600 boxes. He opened about 100 of them and found five Gordon cards. He’s sold another 100 boxes on eBay – getting $30 to $40 for each one – and has 300 more boxes sitting in his basement.

Troutman, who works for a natural gas company, has netted $5,700 on the five Gordon cards, breaking even on his cash outlay. He figures to be in the black after he sells the remaining boxes of cards.

He said it’s tempting to open some of those boxes to see whether there is another Gordon card among them that could bring him thousands of dollars.

“If only I had X-ray vision,” he said.

Darrell Jolley of Rochester, N.Y., said he paid $1,700 for a Gordon card and almost immediately put it on eBay. As of Thursday, bidding was at $3,000, with the auction closing Sunday.

Jolley, a certified public accountant, said he doubts many of the people looking for Gordon cards plan to keep them.

“People are collecting it just to flip it and make a quick profit,” Jolley said. “You pull it out of a pack you bought for $2 and then you can sell it for $3,000. Obviously, you’re going to put it on there as quick as you can.”

That’s just what Thomas Cutter did. The middle school teacher from Round Rock, Texas, bought a $3 “rack pack” – a pack of cards with a see-through cover – with the Gordon card on top. He sold it Wednesday night for $5,899.

“Whenever I think of Alex Gordon from now on, I’m going to think of all those credit cards I paid off,” Cutter said.

Gordon said he collected baseball cards as a kid and understands there are people who cherish them as collectors’ items.

But $7,500 for his rookie card? That buyer remains anonymous.

“If it was me, I wouldn’t do it,” said Gordon, who got a $4 million signing bonus. “Some people like to collect those things, and it means a lot to them, so I’m glad those people are out there.”

Scott Neal, owner of the Baseball Card Store in Shawnee, Kan., says the card is popular despite the fact Gordon plays in the struggling Royals organization.

“Anything Royals’ is very unpopular,” Neal said. “The fact he’s Alex Gordon and the No. 2 pick, that’s the novelty. If he played for the Yankees, it would be worth three times as much.”

AP-ES-05-11-06 1825EDT