Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Rookie Card Dilemma

I am not a big fan of high end prospects.  I've not been burned very often on high-end prospects mainly because I just simply will not cross that bridge.  Rather than buy the latest and greatest rookie sensation at some obscene price, I will take my time and end up with the same card a few years later at a much better price.  I remember during my junior year of college there was a huge rush over J.D. Drew cards.  People couldn't decide whether he was going to be Mickey Mantle or Stan Musial.  Everyone needed a J.D. Drew rookie card.  Drew got called up at the end of the 1998 season and hit .417 with 5 home runs in 41 at-bats.  Which of course started some insanity with his cards.

1999 SPX J.D. Drew Autograph

My favorite J.D. Drew rookie card was his 1999 SPX card which was autographed.  There was a really high end card shop a few minutes from my parents house that sold these for triple digits for a year and could not keep them in stock.  I did not buy one.  Instead, I picked up a Fleer Update set and a few nice Pacific cards.  However, I recently did manage to pick up this card and I paid a little more than $5 with shipping.  J.D. had a nice career, but nothing in the neighborhood of the Mick or Stan the Man.  

2001 Fleer Premium Albert Pujols

Even players with Hall of Fame careers have trouble living up to the hype of their rookie card prices.  During the summer of 2001, I made a dash to pick up as many Pujols rookie cards as I could get my hands on.  The base cards from products like Upper Deck, Topps, and others were not difficult.  However, higher end products with short printed, serial numbered rookie cards were quite difficult.  One of those Pujols rookies that I actually pulled from the pack was the 2001 Fleer Premium rookie, which actually came as a redemption for an unnamed rookie.  I got my Pujols card and saw the value of the card rise into the triple digits during the first few years of his career.  Of course, Pujols has diminished as a player on the field and the value of this card has slid south of $50.  Honestly, if I did not own one I would still not buy one for another year or two.  Albert still has a little bit more sliding to do over the next few years.  

My point?  Between the success of the Cardinals minor league system and the Rays minor league system I find myself at a point where many of the cards for players on the two teams are steep beyond their value.  Certainly that statement does not apply to established players like Adam Wainwright, Evan Longoria, Matt Holliday, or others that have been in the majors several years.  No, I am talking about players like Wil Myers, Oscar Taveras, Hak Ju Lee, Trevor Rosenthal, and others.  I picked up a Bowman Taveras autograph last summer for under $50.  The card now regularly sells for $110-$120.  That's a nice profit, but I can almost guarantee that at some point the card will come back down from that perch.  So, I've decided to take a little bit of a stand with this years group of rookie cards. 

2011 In The Game Heroes and Prosepcts Wil Myers

I recently saw the roster for the Durham Bulls and noticed that there were a few Top 100 prospects on the list of players.  Chris Archer, Wil Myers, and Hak Ju Lee should make this summer fun in the Bull City, but might make assembling a collection of Bulls cards a bit of a challenge.  However, rather then paying $100 for a copy of a Myers Bowman rookie, I was able to snag this In The Game autograph for around $25-$30 worth of cards in trade.  Archer has a few steep autographs, but also has several that are affordable and can be found for less than $10.  So, I am going to assemble my collection of Durham Bulls players this summer and pick up my new Cardinals cards too, but I am not going to over stretch on cards that I will be able to pick up at a fraction of the cost in a few years.  


  1. I totally agree. It's amazing how much money I've dumped on rookie cards in my lifetime, only to see them worth a fraction of what I paid. That's why I started my sports card busts project. It's a positive way for me to look at all of the money I wasted ;-)

    1. I am glad you are turning them into a positive Fuji. I should sort through my cards and figure out a few myself. I know that one is the 1998 Leaf Troy Glaus which I got after the 2002 WS. The card still has some value because it is scarce, but it's also got Troy Glaus on it.

  2. That's one of the reasons I stick to Twins FC/RC AUs. Instead of chasing hot prospects for insane amounts of money, I chase my favorite team, the Twins, who JUST so happen to be a pretty bad team--keeping many of their prospect cards nice and cheap and/or easy to snatch up in a trade.

    1. The Twins farm system seems like it is up and coming, but they are all just in the lower minors at the moment. Keith Law had them pretty high in his organizational ratings. I agree that collecting one team does cut down on the cost, even if you shell out for a good rookie occasionally.