By Eric Meliton
Rookie cards are highly coveted in today’s sports card marketplace. Although not every “blue-chip” prospect turns into the next Hall of Famer, there is always a great deal of potential found among rookies. Speculation abounds for the top rookies of the 2008 season for all of the major sports.
With the advent of jersey swatches, autographs, and short printing, collectors purchase rookie cards as short-term and long-term investments. As the sports card industry is volatile, the secondary pricing market is influenced by such factors as player performance, popularity, supply and demand, career potential, longevity, and card brand recognition.
We recently spoke with various industry experts to address the top rookies of the major sports and speculated on which will be the best long-term investments. According to Tuff Stuff’s Sports Collectors Monthly pricing analyst Joe Clemens, and representatives from Donruss, About.com, and regional sports card stores, there are a strong group of rookies per sport that have strong investment potential.
Baseball – 2008 Season
1. Evan Longoria – Tampa Bay Rays
2. Alexei Ramirez – Chicago White Sox
Although the 2008 baseball season represented the debut of a number of promising rookies, there are a couple of standouts that our experts identified as quintessential investment standouts. Baseball rookie card collecting is the most speculative segment of the marketplace as many baseball rookies take a few years to develop. However, it’s only a matter of time when key prospects become future franchise players.
Clemens believes that “there are never any sure things, but Evan Longoria seems destined for stardom. He’s a young player that has the ability to hit for power and average.” The third overall pick from the 2006 draft class has given fans in Tampa Bay something to cheer about, representing a major part of the team’s success in making their first playoff appearance this fall. .
At the time of publication, Longoria’s top 2008 rookie card was the SPx No. 148 Auto RC, priced at $150.
“The best long-term impact will be Longoria. He’s already proven that he can adjust to major league pitching and is also a top-notch defensive player,” Clemens added.
Many believe Longoria will continue to be a household name in the industry and thus, his rookie cards are capable of sustaining long-term value.
Another player that garners some investment attention is Alexei Ramirez. Many collectors cannot ignore the temptation of his fantastic rookie season with the Chicago White Sox. His long-term investment potential will be limited due to his age, but being a prime fixture in a collector friendly market as Chicago has already influenced the pricing of his 2008 SPx No. 152 Auto RC, priced at $120. According to Jeff DeGraw from Matt’s Sports Cards based out of the Chicago area, “seller ability is very much Chicago first and that Ramirez is the hot one now.”
Football – 2008 Season
1. Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders
2. Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons
The expectations of the NFL season are quite high as many rookies are followed from collegiate accomplishments to the NFL draft. All the talent in the world does not always translate into immediate or long-term investment potential.
With the rigors of the NFL and the constant risk of injury, running backs have short-lived careers and thus, experience spikes in secondary demand for their rookie cards. DeGraw believes that “football has the most potential to buy and sell right away, because the rookie cards come out and the football rookies produce right away.” This degree of instant gratification for collectors results in high-end pricing for rookies that become mainstays for their clubs.
During the summer of 2008, almost every rookie card of Darren McFadden was on every hot list. Scott Prusha, Marketing Director for Donruss, expressed that McFadden has a variety of strengths that make his rookie cards highly coveted.
“McFadden has size, speed, and the skills to make him an elite running back. A player like Darren McFadden is set up to be highly collectible, by being the top running back taken in the draft on a collector heavy Oakland Raiders team, Prusha said.“Like Adrian Petersen, McFadden is a guy that people have been waiting to see in the NFL and I think he will deliver.”
Although every McFadden rookie will see a short-term spike in pricing, at time of publication, the 2008 Donruss Threads No. 262 Auto RC saw the most demand, priced at $250.
During the interview with some of the football card pundits, there was debate as to whether or not to include other rookie phenoms such as Felix Jones or Matt Forte. Consensus opinion agreed that the other 2008 rookie to watch as a long-term investment was Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons.
“Ryan’s situation is perfect because he’s with a team that was desperate for a new face,” Tylwalk said. “Also, don’t discount the fact that he just looks the part of the stereotypical franchise quarterback.”
The franchise quarterback moniker has benefited the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, so industry demand will continue to increase for Ryan if in fact he can establish a consistent on-field performance and improve his club’s outlook.
Many fans agree that Ryan has rejuvenated interest in the Falcons and this will only improve his rookie card values.
“There’s something special about a franchise quarterback, and he’ll get every chance to fill that role since Atlanta is trying to put the Michael Vick era behind it,” according to Tylwalk, “Ryan’s position and situation give him a higher ceiling than most of the other rookies.” If other collectors follow suit, Ryan’s 2008 Donruss Threads No. 262 Auto RC, priced at $200, will continue to rise in the long-term.
Basketball – 2007-08 Season
1. Kevin Durant –Supersonics
2. Greg Oden – Portland Trail Blazers
Kevin Durant has proven that he can score at the NBA level and he should continue to improve. Nick Tylwalk, Sports Card Guide Editor for About.com, expressed that “scoring is Durant’s specialty, and that always resonates with basketball collectors. Durant’s team is building around him and it starts a new era.” Being the cornerstone of the franchise and one of the emerging superstars of NBA popularity will improve the demand for Durant’s 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Jersey/Auto RC, priced at $1200. Although demand during the off-season for this card has leveled off, the early results of the 2008-09 season should further enhance demand for this key Durant rookie card.
Collectors are giving Greg Oden a rare second chance as his early career has been riddled with injuries. DeGraw opines, “Oden is the real steal right now. Oden’s cards are out there and you can find them cheap.” This represents a tremendous investment opportunity for the majority of Oden’s cards, which have traversed the secondary market under the radar.
Industry opinions differ on the long-term potential of Oden, as being oft injured has affected the buying habits of rookie card investors. Tylwalk claims, “Oden’s offensive game is a work in progress and he runs the risk of being overshadowed by other good players on his own team.” Clemens has a similar opinion, stating that “Oden hasn’t played an NBA game yet, it’s difficult to judge him.” This keeps Oden in the running for a potential short-term investment, but his longevity and his ability to stay healthy will drive his rookie card values.
On-court performance influences a player’s overall popularity and market potential, so if Oden can perform to what fans witnessed during his dream season with Ohio State, Oden’s key rookie cards will rise in demand. The card to watch is the 2007-08 Bowman Chrome No. 152 Auto RC, priced at affordable $250.
Hockey – 2007-08 Season
1. Carey Price – Montreal Canadiens
2. Jonathan Toews / Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks
Hockey collectors have enjoyed the past few seasons with strong influxes of rookie superstars. The dream season of Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby created a strong fan base for new collectors. In recent seasons, high-end products like Upper Deck’s The Cup have created astronomical secondary sales values for rookie products.
Playing in the hockey mecca of Montreal combined with a constant comparison with franchise heroes Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy, Carey Price had a wonderful rookie campaign. Price excelled through the AHL to become the No. 1 goalie for the Habs midway through the 2007-08 season.
Many collectors are investing in Price, hoping that he will have the longevity to garner a steady increase in demand. Tylwalk stated, “Price plays in an important hockey market … he’ll enjoy some extra attention just because of the position he plays, and he’ll be a good bet to have a long career.” Canadian storeowner, Wayne Frazier Jr. of Ice Box Cards & Collectibles agrees that Price rookie cards are a strong investment.
“There are a number of high-end collectors in Quebec who are more than happy to pick up premium Price cards and pay a big number for them,” Frazier Jr. said.
Limited to only 99 copies, Price’s 2007-08 Upper Deck The Cup No. 189 Jersey/Auto RC is priced at $2,000 and could exceed this value if Price continues to improve. At only 21 years of age, he has yet to hit his prime and $2,000, may become a low-end value for this card investment with tremendous long-term stability.
The dynamic duo of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will forever be linked due to their high-end offensive capabilities being displayed for the Chicago Blackhawks.
“If they can bring the Blackhawks back to respectability, that’s a huge marketplace,” Frazier said.
“Toews is a born leader … his solid all-around game is a good compliment to Kane, who has flashier offensive skills,” according to Tylwalk.
Both players will be relied upon to represent a solid short-term investment opportunity, with Toews’ 2007-08 Upper Deck The Cup No. 190 Jersey/Auto RC priced at $1,200 and Kane’s 2007-08 Upper Deck The Cup No. 185 Jersey/Auto RC priced at $1,000 respectively.
Rookie card prognostication is not an exact science and many factors will continue to influence pricing and investment potential. Every season in each sport will bring along another group of talented young athletes to watch, and in turn, allow us to speculate on a new set of rookie cards to follow. SCM