By Patrick Gordon
Michael Vick is easily identifiable as one of the most tantalizing athletes in professional sports.
Drafted with the No. 1 pick in 2001, he was a three-time Pro Bowler and was once recognized as the premier quarterback in the National Football League with the Atlanta Falcons. In 2006 he rushed for 1,039 yards, the most by a quarterback in a single season in NFL history.
His stock among collectors took a nose dive in 2007 though when he was arrested and convicted for conspiracy and running a dogfighting ring. He served 23 months in federal prison and was suspended indefinitely by the NFL.
He’s since been reinstated and has signed with Philadelphia, but some collectors aren’t willing to forgive and forget – at least not yet.
“It really goes both ways right now,” said Ted Rumpkins, a longtime Eagles season ticket holder and collector. “Sitting in (Lincoln Financial Field) you hear the cheers, but the talk still exists about what he did and why we signed him. Fans are split and it will probably take some time before they warm up to him.”
Dog lover or not, the crimes Vick committed were heinous. His collectibles, once regarded as a hot commodity, dropped exponentially following his arrest. Autographed and game-used memorabilia dropped by almost 50 percent across the board. Card companies pulled his name from sets and collectors sold what they had because they didn’t want to hold on to a product that was diminishing in value.
“People love their dogs, so Vick will always have that hanging over him, that he killed ‘man’s best friend,’’ said Keith Wildenmiler, a New Jersey based animal rights activist. “It won’t matter how many games he wins, or yards he runs for, people will never forget the acts he committed.”
After being released from home confinement July 20, NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell granted Vick a conditional reinstatement. Two weeks later, the Philadelphia Eagles signed the 29-year-old to a two-year deal.
Vick was the No. 1 draft pick in 2001 by the Falcons and was at one point the highest-paid player in football.
His collectibles peaked during the 2005 season when his 2001 SP Authentic No. 91 rookie booked for $1,600. Following word of his arrest, his values plummeted, with several card manufacturers removing him and his memorabilia from sets and online stores.
“No doubt, his stuff took a major hit,” said J.B. Jackson, of Jackson Collectibles in Decatur, Ga. “It was weird, because people wanted to distance themselves from his cards. I had several people come in here that were so disgusted, they just wanted to get rid of them and they weren’t concerned about the value or long term.
“His stuff can slowly climb, but it will never reach the sales of 2004-2006. The public demand just isn’t there.”
Vick’s autographed/patch SP rookie card is currently fetching $400 to $600 on the secondary market. His non-autographed rookie card from the same set commands $30.
Other Vick certified autographed cards can be had for as low as $30.
“His stuff sold extremely well before this whole dog-fighting incident, but we definitely noticed a drop off in sales when the story blew up,” said Andrew Neffer, a Philadelphia-based memorabilia dealer. “People didn’t know if he was ever going to play again, so they stayed away. Sales have picked up a bit since his reinstatement, but I think it will take a while before anything reaches the value it had before.”
Topps and Upper Deck have both produced Vick cards for 2009. Upper Deck has included a short-printed card of him in 2009 SPx and Topps has featured him in 2009 Topps Finest. Both companies removed him from their 2007 products after word surfaced of his involvement with a dog-fighting ring.
“Out of the gate, people will eat these cards up,” Jackson said. “But things will cool, and the values will eventually drop.”
Vick saw his first action after reinstatement with the Eagles in Week 3 and received a standing ovation when he took the field. He finished the afternoon with a pair of incomplete passes and rushed once for seven yards on 11 plays from scrimmage.
Philadelphia fans appear to be split by the signing.
“They didn’t need to take the PR hit in signing Vick,” said Kate Driscol, an Eagles season ticket holder. “Fans in this city have been unhappy for a while with management because they never seem to go all in and now they add an ex-convict. How do I root now? If I’m a dog person, how can I cheer him on Sundays?”
Chris Simmons views the signing of Vick a bit differently.
“Yeah, he may not win any awards for being a great person, but the point is to win on Sunday,” Simmons said. “If he gets us to the promised land, I can look past what he did.”
It’s far too early to tell how Vick will perform with the Eagles. Right now, he’s on the depth chart as a backup to Donovan McNabb, and head coach Andy Reid has made it extremely clear that McNabb, for better or worse, will remain the Eagles’ starter.
“It’s been a long process,” said Vick’s agent Joel Segal. “He’s just thrilled for the opportunity to resume his playing career. He understands he has a lot to prove.”
Regardless of how much he proves, its doubtful Vick will ever regain the prominence he once had in the memorabilia market. SCM