Just when you thought it was safe to invest in the sports memorabilia industry again, the three most-dreaded words in the English language (for a pitcher that is) entered the mix: Tommy John Surgery.
Baseball and the sports memorabilia business have been reaping the financial rewards of Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg for more than a year now, and now, just 68 innings into his pro career, the phenom is out indefinitely and facing a long rehab stint after a likely impending Tommy John surgery.
The 22-year-old took the hobby and the MLB by storm after debuting in June, posting a 5-3 record with a 2.91 ERA that included 92 strikeouts. He had been highly touted for years and after his call-up to the big leagues, he dominated the collectibles hobby much the same way he and his 100-mph fastball did for his first two months in the majors. His base cards sent collectors scrambling to their local card shops and his signature and non-signature limited-edition cards sent the online auction world into a tizzy. And now, less than two full months after his debut, his projected Hall of Fame career might never be the same.
Modern-day medicine is outstanding and Tommy John surgery isn’t the death sentence it was 20 years ago, but who knows what the future will hold for the guy who had put the hobby back on the map the last few months.
While collectors and investors of Strasburg are likely crying into cardboard right about now, Topps might be feeling worse than any of them. The company took a calculated risk by holding back several releases featuring Strasburg, including popular brands like Tribute and Triple Threads, in what appears to be a way to milk StrasburgMania throughout the duration of the season. The idea to spread out the releases probably seemed like a great idea at the time it was made but with Strasburg now out indefinitely the move will likely cost Topps hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales.
Vintage memorabilia of established stars is, and always be a safer investment than putting your collectible dollars into an unproven rookie with a ton of upside. Prospecting with high-ceiling rookies will likely be around forever but my money remains in proven commodities like Pujols and Favre and I would suggest you put your money into similar players, too.