by Phoenix Desertsong, Major Sports Nut
This post is sponsored by ThePit.com
Searching online for the best sports cards to invest in for 2020? You're likely bombarded with lists of some of the most expensive cards in baseball, football, and basketball. You’ll also be told to review the 50 most watched sports cards on eBay to know what’s currently hot.
But, there's a quicker way to find the best baseball, football, and basketball cards to buy right now.
What’s Wrong with Watching the Most Watched Cards on eBay?
There are two problems with watching the most watched cards on eBay.
First, just because a card has a lot of people watching it, that doesn’t mean it actually has a huge market. This is especially the case with cards that are 1/1 or have other low serial numbers. While there’s always a market for these cards, they often make poor investments because they rely on a bidding war taking place to get high prices. If only one highly interested party shows up for the auction, the “hammer price” will doubtless be disappointing to the seller.
Yes, there’s always collector demand for these sorts of cards, and it’s cool to own something so truly rare. But, you need to be willing to bet on what a very small demand pool will give you, since so few collectors have the cash to buy unique or greatly limited cards. Or, you need to hold the card for a very long time. For investment purposes, these aren’t the cards you want to focus on.
If you’re serious about sports card investing, you need cards that are both sought after and can be sold at any time for a fair return.
The second problem with cards that often come up on eBay as “most watched” is that they may represent minor league prospects or players currently on a hot streak. These tend to be more speculative buys, and if you’re fine with gambling, they can either pay off or sink you.
Sure, you’ll see names on this list you’ll recognize like Mickey Mantle, Michael Jordan, and Tom Brady. But, many of these iconic players' cards usually have high price tags already, and have much of their market value already baked in due to their popularity.
While eBay is an established marketplace for sports cards, it isn’t a great place to actually track what cards are great investments... unless you already know exactly what you’re looking for!
There’s also the strategy of watching the cards with the most bids on eBay. While this approach is a more direct way of finding the cards that people are not wanting to let get away, it is also likely to lead to bidding wars. That’s not really a sound investment strategy, as you’ll probably pay far more for the card you want than it’s worth in the long-term marketplace.
So, what’s the best source of recommendations for investment-quality players and cards? You’ll want to check out ThePit 50 sports card indices.
What is ThePit.com?
ThePit.com is a bid/ask marketplace where you can trade sports cards online like stocks without transaction fees. The Pit50 indices include hot graded rookie cards. Card prices on ThePit are usually lower than the lowest buy-it-now price on eBay by a significant amount.
When you remove the transaction fees, shipping cost and (increasingly) sales tax associated with trading cards requiring physical delivery (as on eBay), you save 15 percent or more on a card right away!
What are ThePit 50 Indices?
ThePit 50 indices are based on the top graded cards in each of baseball, football, and basketball. It takes the current “Sell Now” price of the card on ThePit multiplied by its graded population - which is publicly available information. The idea behind the indices is to establish a total population value (“market cap” in Wall Street terms) for individual cards in specific grades. This allows sports card collectors and investors the ability to truly treat sports cards like stocks.
Graded cards are more valuable than their raw counterparts in grades PSA 9 and 10 & BGS 9.5 and 10, and collectors only grade cards they feel are valuable. So, knowing which cards have both high populations and high sell prices lets you know what cards have the best market and overall value. Thanks to this index, you can take a lot of the guesswork and hours of research that go into figuring out what’s hot and what’s not.
So, what are some of the best sports cards to buy right now? Let’s see what thePit 50 index tells us in baseball, football, and basketball.
Best Baseball Cards to Buy Right Now in 2020
thePit Baseball 50 takes a unique approach to finding the best baseball rookie cards currently on the market. The index uses Bowman Chrome Refractor Autographs graded BGS 9.5/10 Auto by Beckett Grading Services. Using population multiplied by the current bid price on thePit, every month this list is updated, giving you the top 50 Bowman Chrome Refractor Autos on the market.
Of course, Mike Trout is #1 and in a league of his own. In July 2019, the other members of the top 10 include Ronald Acuna, Jr., Cody Bellinger, Aaron Judge, Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Juan Soto, Mookie Betts, and Carlos Correa. There’s also future Hall of Fame players like Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander, as well as current big stars like Giancarlo (Mike) Stanton, Alex Bregman, and more.
If you follow the game even casually, these names probably all sound familiar. But what’s key to thePit 50 is that it tracks only the key rookie cards of these players. There are so many baseball card products out there today that it’s overwhelming. When choosing what cards are worth putting your money into, Bowman Chrome Refractor Autos tend to hold the best value. In this way. thePit Baseball 50 helps narrow the focus to the top cards you want to own!
Best Football Cards to Buy Right Now in 2020
Quarterbacks dominate the football card market and always have. Occasionally, a running back or wide receiver will have a big game or strong year and see a nice appreciation in their rookie cards. But if you look at the thePit 50 Football index, you’ll see it dominated by the best Quarterbacks in the league - with Tom Brady rookie cards being far and away the most valuable.
Patrick Mahomes II and his 2018 Panini Prizm Rookie Card jumped right in behind Brady's 2000 Bowman Chrome PSA 10 on the index with his Super Bowl win. He's followed by Aaron Rodgers, and other strong, young quarterbacks in Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Baker Mayfield, Dak Prescott, and Lamar Jackson.
Best Basketball Cards to Buy Right Now in 2020
Michael Jordan has and probably always will be the best player ever to invest in when it comes to basketball cards. For a time, LeBron James rookie cards were surpassing high grade copies of the iconic 1986 Fleer Jordan rookie in price. "The Last Dance" ESPN Documentary helped Jordan's rookie cards to soar to even new heights, however. Current superstars like Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, and Trae Young are also at the top of the list.
Kobe Bryant is another name you can’t go wrong with when investing in basketball cards. Established stars like Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant make appearances in the Top 50, as well as future Hall of Fame players like Dirk Nowitzki. While vintage players have value (such as the 1980 Bird/Erving/Johnson scoring leaders card), the latest stars are the most actively traded.
Why Trade Sports Cards Online at ThePit?
Since 2000, thePit allows you to build a sports card portfolio and trade online. This also saves you from other realized costs such as sales tax. Then, you can cash out your balance to PayPal at any time (with a 10% fee) or have the physical cards listed in your portfolio shipped to you for a reasonable flat rate. It’s safe and secure.
All you have to do is create a free account at ThePit.com, fund your account with a VISA or Mastercard. Then, you’re good to start buying and selling.
Let us know in the comments what you think of the site!
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Fanatic
When Chone Figgins was announced for the 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot, his name immediately trended on Twitter. Of course, Figgins was a popular player for the then Anaheim Angels, who he won the World Series with in 2002. But, no one has really ever thought of Figgins as a Hall of Fame player, and it will be quite funny if he gets even one vote from a Baseball Writers Association of America member.
Still, despite probably not being a so-called “Mariners legend” - outside of the obvious overpay the Seattle Mariners made for his services - Chone Figgins was a good ballplayer. It should be noted that Figgins hit for the cycle on September 16, 2006 - hit a single, double, triple, and home run in the same game - making him forever a part of the PSA “Hit for the Cycle Club” Set Registry.
The Chone Figgins rookie card mentioned in that registry is the key focus of this Rookie Card Review, 2002 Bowman Chrome #249. Considering that a mere 11 examples of the base card and 9 examples of the refractor have been graded by PSA, it’s safe to say that hobbyists didn’t think of him as a future Hall of Fame “hopeful.” But since the announcement of him simply appearing on the ballot, interest has spiked in this rookie card and its refractor. It’s a nice looking card, featuring Figgins in an old style Anaheim Angels uniform in the follow-through of a successful swing, watching the ball likely hitting a gap somewhere.
Chone Figgins’ Angels Success
The 5-foot-8 switch-hitting utility player hit a lot of gaps, hitting .291/.363/.388 for a 99 OPS+ in his 8 years with the Angels, being an above-league average hitter 4 out of 8 seasons. His offensive value was boosted by his stolen base ability, averaging over 40 plus steals a season. Figgins also played second base, third base, shortstop, center field, right field, and left field in his career. Defensive Runs Saved sees Figgins as a disaster in the outfield, below average at second base, and significantly below average at shortstop. But at third base, which became Figgins’ best position, Figgins was above average.
In fact, Figgins had one of the best contract walk years you could imagine in 2009. Not only did he have a solid .298/.395/.393 slash line (110 OPS+) with 42 steals, he had a career high 101 walks and an absurd 29 Defensive Runs Saved at third base. These numbers helped Figgins secure a 4-year, $36 million contract with the Seattle Mariners. That contract would turn out to be a disaster.
The “Mariners Legend” Chone Figgins...
Seattle didn’t treat Figgins well. Not only did he get moved to second base full-time where he was below average (-10 DRS in 2010 alone), but his bat just never really got going. He played in 161 games, but mustered only a pitiful .259/.340/.306 slash line. His only saving grace was 42 stolen bases against only 15 times caught.
The 2011 and 2012 seasons were even worse. Not only did Figgins suddenly become extremely injury prone, but when he did play, he couldn’t even hit .200. After hitting around .180 - .190 in limited action in those years, the Mariners released him after the 2012 season, eating his $8 million salary for 2013.
Figgins wouldn’t even make his way back to the Major Leagues in 2013, although he catch on as a bench player with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014. It wasn’t a great final stint in 38 games, and he was released by the Dodgers in mid-August. He did manage 0.7 WAR though, so he wasn’t a total negative. While Figgins retired a rich man, and did sign a one-day contract to retire as an Angel, I’m sure that’s not the way he wanted to spend the second half of his career.
But, to be fair to Figgins, he was an All-Star caliber player for several years. He could steal bases with the best of them and had great on-base percentages. If there was any knock against him, it was his misadventures in the outfield - not entirely his fault. While Figgins is never going to be more hobby relevant than in the wake of this news, his Angels career and his rookie card are worth remembering.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Red Sox Crazy Fanatic
Unlike fellow Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas, Bobby Dalbec may be close to his Major League debut. In 2019, Dalbec did plenty of damage at Double-A Portland in the Atlantic League. His first 30 game stint was encouraging, hitting 7 home runs without embarrassing himself. Dalbec will be 25 in June 2020, so very soon the Red Sox will want to see what they really have in their top prospect. Like Casas, Dalbec has immense raw power, rated a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Also Like Casas, Dalbec has a below average hit tool, meaning he doesn't really hit for average. Unlike Casas, he may never develop into more than a .250 hitter at the MLB level.
However, Dalbec has other things going for him. Dalbec has much more advanced plate discipline and tons of walks at Double-A. He has also been trimming his strikeout rate Which is another good sign. The only troubling thing so far is he walked very little on his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket. That can partially be explained away by Dalbec potentially trying to prove himself at the minors most advanced level. He did show the power and didn't strike out more than he did at Portland.
The other plus with Dalbec perhaps is what will make him a much better real life player than may be ever reflected in his card prices. Casas may be a passable third baseman with his above average arm, but his future is likely as a slightly better than average first baseman on defense. On the other hand, Dalbec projects to be a better than average fielder with an excellent arm at the hot corner. Because he is likely much more versatile on defense, the Red Sox may be happy to just have him for his fielding ability and take any power he offers as a binus.
Obviously, Dalbec looks to be a nice useful player. But being on the doorstep of the major leagues with really only raw power, walk, and nice fielding skills to his credit, is there much potential for the hobby to embrace him?
Bobby Dalbec's key rookie card is 2016 Bowman Chrome Draft. While his auto is popular, it still sells for less than that of Single-A slugger Triston Casas. Is Dalbec undervalued, especially being so close to the majors? Or are hobby prospectors more intrigued by Casas' ceiling? Both have plenty of prospect hype, but Dalbec can likely help very soon at the MLB level. Considering you can find his base Chrome - and even the refractor - very recently in the dollar bin, he could be a nice player to hoard and flip very soon if that's what you'd like to do.
The big question is Dalbec ready for regular MLB duty. Many prospect evaluators Believe he has more room to grow. His Autos aren't super cheap, and there still is some prospect hype baked into thatorice. A lot has to do with how the Red Sox front office handles him. The red sox may not be the team he starts for in the near future, as the Red Sox may need to evaluate whether Dalbec is better off as a trade chip as they try to creatively rework their roster.
Of course, staying with the Red Sox may be good for his future, but if he can become a starter somewhere else and succeed, that’s even better for both Dalbec and his rookie cards. In any case, Dalbec seems to be very close to Major League action. Whether he becomes a backup corner infielder, a second-division starter (that is, for a below-average team), or an all-star is all up to how he fares once thrown into the MLB fire. His base Chrome would be my choice, although his auto is still cheap enough that if you believe he can carry his power, arm, and glove to a starting job somewhere, it’s worth a look.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Big Huge Red Sox Crazy Fan
Triston Casas is the type of baseball prospect that hobby prospectors salivate over. Many scouts believe that the Red Sox top prospect could develop into a middle of the batting order hitter. His Raw Power scouting grade from FanGraphs is a 70 with 80 potential - 80 being the top grade. His current in-game power grade is a 35 with a 65 potential.
As for results, his 137 wRC+ mostly at A-ball is fine, and just turning 20 and graduated to High-A ball, he still projects as at least an average Major League player. The big question with him is if his hit tool - ability to hit for average - will rise from the current 25 to the potential 50. The good news is he doesn’t strike-out a ton for a young power hitter and he does take some walks, so his profile is actually pretty good.
His key rookie card is the 2018 Bowman Chrome Draft Auto. The last raw one that sold on eBay was mid October 2019 for $49.99 plus $3.50 shipping. We’ll call it a $50 to $55 card. The cheapest you’ll find on eBay the night of this writing is $60.
There are a couple of other Bowman Chrome Draft autos of Casas that are selling, however, that include the Class of 2018 auto (the refractor numbered to 250) and the Draft Night auto (refractors numbered to 99 and gold refractors numbered to 50). These are attractive targets because there are simply so few of them. The class of 2018 refractor auto you can find for about $40 plus shipping. The draft night auto you’ll be lucky to find for $85 - that comp is already graded PSA 10.
As a collector, I actually favor the serial numbered autos, but my opinion is that the refractors of the 2018 Bowman Chrome Draft auto are the best investment for ROI. That’s because it’s his official 1st Bowman card and the card with the biggest market. That being said, having already graded copies of extremely limited edition cards is a nice “go for broke” strategy. If you want to play it safe, there’s the non-auto 2018 Bowman Chrome Draft which you can find in high grade for $15-20.
Personally, I’d play it safe with Casas for the time being. Yes, he is the #1 Red Sox prospect, but he just hit .254 at A-ball. Yes, his batting eye is decent and he made noise when he did make contact. I need to see more progress before I would invest in his future, outside of maybe some raw Chrome 1st Bowman cards or colored parallels of his base Bowman Draft card.
All of these points about buying and selling sports cards are just my own informed opinions. They should NOT be taken as professional investment advice. Always do your own research, as the card market can shift drastically without much notice. Remember, this is a hobby, so you must be prepared to be stuck holding any cards you collect.
Transparency notice: As of this writing, I currently own no Triston Casas cards, but may purchase some Chrome base cards or colored parallels purely for Personal Collection purposes.
Pedro Martinez has two cards in the 32-card 1991 Cal League set, and they are #1 and #32. The first card is the more commonly available of the two. It’s a typical minor league card that doesn’t appear to have the greatest printing quality. Also, Pedro didn’t look too happy in the portrait. However, Pedro very much enjoyed his time in the Cal League, which he dominated.
Pedro pitched to 8 wins and no losses with 10 starts at Bakersfield. He enjoyed a 2.05 ERA in 61 ⅓ innings, as well as a 12.2 strikeout rate per 9 innings against only a 2.8 walk rate per 9. It was definitely a sign of things to come, huh? Anyway, Pedro dominated the league so much that the Dodgers called him up to Double-A San Antonio, where he also pitched well. He finished at Triple-A Albuquerque, where he pitched OK, although not great.
Pedro’s other 1991 Cal League card, #32, is a much nicer looking card. It’s also apparently extremely difficult to find, especially in top condition. Even raw, they can sell for $15 or more. What makes it a nicer card is the photo, which is a shot of Pedro throwing a warm-up pitch from the mound, while smiling.
Both cards also list his Dominican League (Santo Domingo) stats on the back, which is awesome. Good luck finding anything better than a PSA 8 of #32, though.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Pedro Martinez Fan for Life
The first ever Pedro Martinez rookie card is pretty much where you have to start with any serious Pedro Martinez rookie card collection. For a minor league card, it’s not bad. The design is a bit bland, but the portrait isn’t bad - albeit dark. It’s a piece of history in any case, hearkening back to when Pedro played in Montana.
Pedro didn’t pitch too badly at his first minor league stop in the Pioneer League. He compiled an 8-3 win loss record with a 3.82 ERA in 14 starts. He had a decent strikeout rate with 82 strikeouts in 77 innings. Pedro was still honing his control, though, as he walked 40 in those 77 innings. It’s not a bad performance, in any case. However, he was actually out-pitched by lefty Mark Mimbs. Who? Yeah, exactly. (Although, Mimbs actually did pitch for the Pawtucket Red Sox in 1997, so that is an interesting Red Sox connection, I guess…)
There was a time where these 1990 Sport Pro Great Falls cards held a lot more value. But, in June 2019, one PSA 10 example of the Great Falls Pedro Martinez card sold for just $25. You can grab a PSA 9 copy for under $15, but why wouldn’t you just want a 10? There are 901 PSA 9 copies VS 545 PSA 10 copies. They aren’t exceptionally rare. Still, this is a must have card for any Pedro Martinez rookie card collection.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Pedro Martinez Fans for Life
While not one of Pedro Martinez’s premier rookie cards, the 1992 Donruss card from their “The Rookies” subset has a few things going for it. First off, this card does feature Pedro in a major league uniform, in Dodger Blue wearing his familiar number #45. Secondly, unlike previous editions of “The Rookies,” Donruss actually released this set in packs rather than in a boxed set. Why is that good? It means that gem mint copies of this card are much harder to find than you’d expect.
There are 2075 graded examples of the 1992 Donruss Rookies Pedro Martinez card, yet only 275 of those have graded out as a PSA 10 Gem Mint. There are 1295 PSA 9 examples, which is why that’s what you’ll much more commonly find for sale.
As a serious Pedro Martinez collector, you’ll most likely want the PSA 10. In late 2019, you can find PSA 9 copies for about $15-20, but the PSA 10 copies tend to be $30 or more. You’ll find a similar case for Pedro’s former teammate, Manny Ramirez, who actually has a whopping 2500 graded examples of his card in the set, yet only 270 graded PSA 10. That card, interestingly has similar price points. So, it’s pretty cool to have these two in the same set.
(It’s worth noting that Tim Wakefield also has a rookie card in the set, as well as all-star second baseman Jeff Kent. Of course, Wakefield doesn’t have many graded examples, although neither does Kent, interestingly enough.)
Of course, this card also depicts Pedro on the mound. Many of his early cards do not. I’ve also always preferred rookie cards with players in Major League uniforms, which is something I know many collectors prefer. All in all, this is a pretty nice and affordable Pedro Martinez rookie card that still holds some value from the Junk Wax era when graded PSA 9 or better.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Baseball Stat Freak
Justin Smoak was one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball in 2019. According to StatCast, he was the 9th unluckiest hitter in terms of xwOBA minus actual wOBA. That 9th place is misleading as a bunch of the guys ahead of him are backup catchers or utility type players. There are only a couple of guys we'd even care about as far as fantasy or rookie cards are concerned. Those two are Marcell Ozuna and Kendrys Morales.
As for Smoak, his quality of contact suggests his .208 batting average and .406 slugging percentage are much too low. StatCast expected a .245 batting average, which is also his career average. For slugging, StatCast expected a .476 mark, also not far off of his career average. With his career high 15.8 percent walk rate in 2019, Smoak should've had a .367 wOBA. That's a whopping 40 points higher than his actual wOBA.
To put that in perspective, his expected rates put him in the neighborhood of the actual results of Bryce Harper and Joc Pederson. But his surface numbers put him more in the production range of big disappointments like Paul DeJong and Dexter Fowler. Sure, they're about league average. But, Smoak is a well above league average hitter. As he has since been signed by the Milwaukee Brewers, apparently their front office feels the same way.
Going into his age 33 season and free agency, Smoak could be a really nice bargain. Of course, Smoak is also the exact type of player that teams are shying away from. With all the young talent Toronto is stockpiling, it was a foregone conclusion he wouldn't be back with the Blue Jays in 2020. The Brewers, on the other hand, are happy to guarantee him just $4 million for 2020, plus an option for 2021 at $5.5 million with a $1 million buyout.
It's likely no surprise that people aren't too excited about Justin Smoak rookie cards. He also doesn't have a Bowman Chrome Auto, which makes his card market a little harder to gauge relative to his peers. His top rookie autos are several 2008 Razor cards and 2008 Upper Deck Team USA. Of course, the Upper Deck cards are more sought after. For base rookie cards, there are the serial numbered 2010 eTopps and 2011 Topps rookie cards.
Because of his poor surface numbers, particular Smoak rookie cards don't sell that consistently. But if you are looking for one card to target, it would be colored refractors of his 2011 Topps rookie card, as those are the cards targeted most consistently.
A strong 30 HR and 100 RBI could still be in Smoak's future. While Milwaukee isn't a big market, a strong season from both him and the Brew Crew could help the value of Justin Smoak cards. What do you see in the cards (pun intended) for Justin Smoak's future?
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
J.D. Drew hit .278/.384/.489 with 242 home runs over a 14-year career. His glove was worth 69 runs in the outfield according to TotalZone. For his solid bat and above-average glove, Drew was worth a substantial 44.9 WAR. That’s comparable to Hall of Famer Edd Roush and Indians & Tigers legend Rocky Colavito. He has more career WAR than early 20th-century hall of famers Hugh Duffy and Roger Bresnahan. I’m not saying that J.D. Drew belongs in the Hall of Fame. But, at one time, there is a possibility that he could’ve gotten there.
Drew’s 1998 Fleer Update Rookie Card is a really nice looking piece. His card #U100 in the set got plenty of attention from prospectors in the baseball card hobby. As a can’t miss prospect, over six thousand J.D. Drew Fleer Update cards were sent in to PSA. As of May 2019, there are 819 PSA 8, 3477 PSA 9, and 2066 PSA 10 copies in existence. Today, you can buy a copy of a PSA 10 graded J.D. Drew rookie card for $4 to $5 plus shipping. What happened?
J.D. Drew and the St. Louis Cardinals Years
Actually, J.D. Drew turned out to be extremely good. After murdering AA and AAA in 1998, Drew had a torrid 14 game introduction to the major leagues, hitting .417/.463/.972. But, in 1999, after hitting well in AAA, his first rookie season was actually pretty mediocre with the bat (91 OPS+) but exceptional with the glove in center field (17 runs above average). So, in real life, he was worth 2.7 WAR, but that had to be a let down for everyone who had invested in his rookie card.
The 2000 season was a good one, though, for Drew. He’d hit 18 HR, steal 17 bases, and have a .880 OPS, good for a 121 OPS+. 2001 was a monster year, as he hit for a 160+ OPS. But even then, he started missing games here and there with nagging injuries. This would be a theme throughout his career. He would only play more than 140 games in a season three times. Even so, he racked up 18.1 WAR in 6 seasons with St. Louis.
J.D. Drew and His Career Year With the Atlanta Braves
After the 2003 season, Drew was traded along with Eli Marrero for Ray King, Jason Marquis, and Adam Wainwright. It would be a good trade in the end for the Cardinals as Wainwright blossomed into an ace pitcher. But it was also good for the Braves, who got Drew’s biggest season and the only season in which he hit more than 30 HR - .305/.436/.569 with 31 HR and 12 steals for 8.3 WAR.
Drew was looking pretty good at this point with 26.4 WAR in 7 seasons Interestingly, though, Drew had zero All-Star game appearances, despite being an All-Star level player in all but 2003, and he only played 100 games that year and still collected 2.5 WAR. That’s because his power numbers were good, but not great, and he missed a lot of games with nagging injuries.
J.D. Drew, the Dodgers, and the Red Sox
A two-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers proved fruitful as he posted 3.2 and 4 WAR seasons. What’s most impressive is that his 3.2 WAR season was in an injury-marred 2005 campaign in which he played only 72 games. The Red Sox really liked what they saw in 2006 and gave Drew a five-year, $80 million contract.
While many Red Sox fans seem to remember only the beginning and end of that contract ,Drew actually was pretty good with the Red Sox. After an injury-marred 2007 in which he still managed to play 140 games but diminished at both the plate and the field, he was actually an important piece of the Red Sox’s run to winning the 2007 World Series. In 2008, Drew played very well and earned his first All-Star game appearance, and then he got hurt again...
Fortunately, Drew managed to be just as good in 2009 and actually played 140 games. But in 2010, despite playing 139 games, his nagging injuries were clearly eroding his ability at the plate, although he was still a 3 WAR player thanks to still being above league average and very good on defense. In his first four seasons with the Red Sox, he collected 12.2 WAR. That’s not a horrible return on investment for $64 million over four years.
Unfortunately, at age 35 in 2011, the wheels just fell off for Drew. He would actually be “worth” -0.9 WAR for the Red Sox in 81 games, a season in which the wheels fell off for the Red Sox in general. Had he not been hurt, Drew could’ve helped save that 90-win season. But, he was clearly a washed-up player at that point. A lot of people remember the broken down Drew, and it’s too bad because he actually was a pretty good player.
Could J.D. Drew Have Ever Gotten Into the Baseball Hall of Fame?
The problem is that being “pretty good” doesn’t get you in the Hall of Fame, nor does it help you do well in the baseball card market. Drew was a very calm and quiet player and many people had the impression that he refused to play unless he felt one hundred percent. But, as someone who watched Drew a great deal, I can say that when he did play, he played very hard. He had a great batting eye and a great swing that could do a lot of damage when he was locked in.
Drew was also a very underrated fielder, I feel. His power numbers such as home runs and RBI weren’t eye-popping, but he made up for those with his on-base skills and overall ability to hit for extra bases. He was a perennial All-Star level player that just missed too much time and never really became beloved by any fan base.
Had Drew not missed substantial time in several seasons, it’s quite likely that he would be on the Hall of Fame bubble, right? It’s more likely that Drew’s quiet demeanor and unimpressive power numbers would’ve pretty much eliminated any chance of people seriously considering him for the Hall. Drew actually had a great career, considering how many injuries he suffered.
Still, he suffered his injuries playing hard and he stuck with the game he loved for nearly a decade and a half in the Major Leagues. That’s worth remembering. So, his rookie card being worth only $5 in top condition is actually quite a shame, although as far is the card market is concerned, it’s probably correct.
Still, J.D. Drew is a better baseball player than you may remember. I know he was better now than I realized back then. But, from a sports card investment standpoint, wow, did he let a lot of people down. Of course, it’s not Drew’s fault that over 6000 copies of a piece of cardboard were submitted to PSA for grading. (Plus who knows how many more to Beckett?) He just played the game he loved hard, and made the Cardinals look pretty good for choosing him fifth overall in the draft.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
Many baseball card collectors consider the 1963 Topps #553 Rookie Stars card to be a Willie Stargell rookie card. While that is absolutely true, the legendary Pittsburgh Pirate shares his rookie card with three other outfielders. As is the case with many early rookie cards, Hall of Fame ballplayers share their cards with lesser names. But, since these guys share a Rookie Card with a Hall of Famer, why not see how their careers turned out?
Brock Davis was certainly never a star at the MLB level. In fact, he’d only get into 242 games over parts of 6 seasons, amassing a whopping 0.2 WAR over that time. He carried a decent .331 OBP in his career, but had only one home run and not much else.
Jim Gosger never had much of an MLB career, although he hung around for parts of ten seasons. His 1963 debut with the Red Sox was a dreadful 19 plate appearance cup of coffee. Gosger actually wouldn’t resurface in the Majors until 1965, when he wasn’t a star but instead a league average hitter who gave the Red Sox 1.4 WAR in only 81 games. He would be perfectly acceptable in 1966 as well, but he’d be traded midseason to the Kansas City A’s with a couple other players for three players, including Jose Tartabull, who would be awful for the ‘66 and ‘67 Red Sox. (Tartabull’s son Danny would be a decent player, though). Gosger would carve out a basically replacement level career as a reserve outfielder. He was definitely NOT a star, with a career total of 2.3 WAR!
John Hernnstein is the worst player here, amassing NEGATIVE -2.0 WAR in his short career, 239 games over parts of 5 seasons. Not much to say about him other than he hit 6 home runs in 1964 for a Phillies team that had no business playing him in 125 games.
Meanwhile, this Willie Stargell fellow would amass 57.5 WAR over 21 seasons all for Pittsburgh. He’d hit .282/.360/.529 for an .889 career OPS (147 OPS+). He also hit 475 home runs. While he was a below average defensive outfielder and first baseman according to TotalZone, Stargell was easily a Hall of Fame player.
Considering the other three guys COMBINED for 0.5 WAR, I think it’s safe to say this is a Willie Stargell rookie card with three random guys. (Although, one is a Red Sox player so it counts for my Red Sox collection, which is funny to say!)
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
While 1960 Topps is rightly better known for a much more valuable Red Sox rookie card in Carl Yastrzemski, another Boston rookie card also deserves attention: starting pitcher Earl Wilson. The right-handed Wilson actually didn't start off that well in his early two stints in 1959 and 1960. In fact, he returned to the minors in 1961. However, when he came back in 1962, he stayed in the Majors for quite some time.
Earl Wilson had a decent first full season in the Majors in 1962, with a 3.90 ERA in 31 games and 28 starts. Also, since pitchers still had to bat in the American League for most of his career, Wilson added 3 home runs at the plate in 1962. Throughout his career, Wilson hit .195/.265/.369 with 35 home runs, not at all shabby for a pitcher.
In his first couple of seasons, Wilson was rather wild, walking 111 in 1962 and 105 in 1963. But his control vastly improved in 1964, which was actually one of his worst seasons in the Majors. From 1959 to 1966, Wilson was worth 8.2 WAR on the mound and 3.9 WAR at the plate, with a 4.10 ERA (95 ERA+) in 156 starts and 174 total appearances.
From these numbers, it would seem Earl Wilson was a solid but unexceptional pitcher for the Red Sox. That much is true. But, as with many decent players that the Red Sox had throughout the 20th century, they traded him away before he delivered on his promise.
In mid-1966, Wilson was traded to the Detroit Tigers for utility player Don Demeter. While Demeter was a decent player in parts of 1966 and 1967 for the Red Sox, Wilson was exceptional for the rest of 1966. He'd produce 12 WAR for the Tigers over 5 seasons with a 3.51 ERA in 145 starts (149 total appearances).
Wilson's career would end in 1970 with the San Diego Padres, but he ended his career with 27.6 WAR in 11 seasons. The Red Sox would've been happy to have him from late 1966 to 1969, missing out on 3 of his best seasons in the Major Leagues. Had that trade not happened, Wilson would’ve been part of the 1967 Impossible Dream team. Who knows what he may have brought to that team’s starting rotation?
It always seemed like the Red Sox were one or two pieces away from winning championships, and Earl Wilson could've been one, just like so many others the Red Sox gave up on too soon.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
Super Bowl 53 belonged to the New England Patriots and Tom Brady, but a major part of the Patriots success came from Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman. The wide receiver joined the New England Patriots in the 7th round of the NFL draft after playing quarterback in college. Since then, he’s become one of Brady’s favorite targets and his talent was on full display in Atlanta as the Patriots beat the Rams 13-3.
Obviously, being Super Bowl MVP is a big deal, so Julian Edelman rookie cards became a hot commodity right away as his MVP award was announced. Cardboard Connection has a great list of the top Julian Edelman rookie cards. But, if I had to pick one, I would certainly pick the 2009 Topps Platinum #159.
With only 8 PSA 10 copies in existence, the Julian Edelman Topps Platinum Rookie Card has room to grow. The day after the Super Bowl, raw copies of this card were receiving bids exceeding $40. It’s a nice-looking rookie card and the Topps Platinum Edelman RC has a refractor version, as well as a white refractor, and a platinum refractor numbered to 1549.
But, while not a “true” rookie card, the 2010 Topps #325 Julian Edelman also saw quite a jump in demand after Super Bowl 53. Bids exceeding $10 were being seen on eBay for this base card. By late August 2019, they were still selling for $10! As of this writing, only a couple of PSA 10 copies exist. One was listed for $199 right after the Super Bowl. There's also a Gold version of this card that sold graded PSA 10 for $40!
The 2010 Topps is still a nice “budget” option and a great card for Julian Edelman card collectors to own. Of course, because the 2010 Topps card is far more common, the 2009 Topps Platinum likely remains the better investment, along with the other serial-numbered and autographed Edelman cards on the market.
What’s your favorite Julian Edelman Rookie Card?
The Best Michael Young Baseball Cards - Rookie Cards, Autograph, and Memorabilia Cards
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
Michael Young may never reach the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he did have a memorable career, the majority which was spent with the Texas Rangers. Despite strong fielding percentages and high batting averages, though, Young is seen by many analytically-inclined baseball fans as an overrated player. Still, the career .300 hitter was overall a slightly above-average hitter and while he was below average defensively at second base, he wasn’t that bad at his natural position.
For me, what really hurt Young’s overall value was being forced over to shortstop, where he was far below average, and later to third base where he was comparatively even worse. To be fair, the one year Young won the Gold Glove at shortstop, he was actually 9 runs above average by TotalZone’s measure, although he was -4 runs below average by Defensive Runs Saved metrics.
But in the baseball card hobby, we don’t really care about defensive statistics unless your name is Ozzie Smith. But, Smith also added considerable value on the basepaths with stolen bases. To be fair to Young, he only stole 90 bases in his career, but was only caught 30 times. Sure, that doesn’t touch Ozzie’s 580 SB, against only 148 times caught. Ozzie also spent most of his career with the Cardinals, a team that’s always done very well in the card collecting world.
While Michael Young isn’t a player with expensive cards, he’s still an interesting, inexpensive target for baseball card collectors. In fact, he shares some high-end targets with a Hall of Famer and a future Hall of Famer. Let’s take a look at the best Michael Young baseball cards, from his rookie cards, autograph cards, and other memorabilia cards.
Michael Young Rookie Cards
2000 Topps Traded #T46 Michael Young
Michael Young’s first rookie card is the 2000 Topps Traded #T46. It’s often available for $2 or less and shows him with his first team, the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays would trade Young in July of 2000 along with Darwin Cubillan for pitcher Esteban Loaiza. It wasn’t a horrible trade, but the Jays would probably regret it.
Graded examples of this card are extremely rare, with only about 60 of each in PSA 9 and PSA 10 condition. Despite many being listed, they don’t sell that often. This set is mostly known for the Miguel Cabrera rookie card, of which there are 1677 graded PSA 10 copies. Interestingly, it’s a set full of decent rookie cards, including Adam Wainwright and Adrian Gonzalez.
The Chrome versions of 2000 Topps Traded, however, are much more plentiful for Michael Young, with about 125 of each PSA 9 and PSA 10 available. Like the base Traded graded copies, they simply don’t sell very often, despite being listed plenty often.
Michael Young Autograph and Memorabilia Cards2006 Topps Co-Signers Ozzie Smith / Michael Young Dual Autograph Card #CS-83
Prices range from $7.50 to $17.50 for this card! Michael Young also features on a couple other of Co-Signers cards with Nolan Ryan and Kevin Millwood.
2005 Topps Pristine Power Core Game Used BAT KNOB #MY Michael Young #’d to 5
Easily the best memorabilia card of Michael Young out there is the Game-Used Bat Knob from 2005 Topps Pristine. Only 5 copies were ever printed, and one sold for over $30 in January 2019.
Other Interesting Michael Young Baseball Cards
2003 Donruss Team Heroes #525 Michael Young
As a set full of some decent autograph cards, 2003 Donruss Team Heroes is a fairly valuable baseball card set. The Michael Young base card #525 is worth around $1 but the glossy version is worth $2 or more, as are most glossy base cards in the set. There’s also a version numbered to 20 which is valued at over $15. Overall, it’s a set you should be looking into, even if not specifically for Michael Young cards.
2006 Topps Changing Faces - Michael Young w/ Hank Blalock, Kevin Millwork, Mark Teixeira, and Nolan Ryan
If you’re a big Texas Rangers fan, this is a particularly interesting subset of the Co-Signers set. None of them are worth much over $10, but they are cool looking cards. They are also serial-numbered to various amounts, including some #’d to 25. The Nolan Ryan would be my favorite here, as the Ryan Express is a huge hobby favorite.
2008 Topps Update Black #UH127 Michael Young / Derek Jeter #’d to 57
While not a memorabilia card, this card numbered to only 57 copies features Jeter, a future Hall of Famer. For that reason alone, this card can fetch north of $10. In the same set is a Black parallel base card of Michael Young #635 also numbered to 57 copies that can command about $2. The card he shares with Jeter seems like an easy investment to me.
Investing in Michael Young Baseball Cards
While Michael Young was a pretty good player who had some truly All-Star seasons, and is remembered fondly by many Texas Rangers fans, Michael Young baseball cards are among the coldest in the hobby. While there are many graded examples of his Topps Traded rookie cards, they simply don’t find buyers often. Even cards that he shares with Hall of Fame or future Hall of Fame talents tend to sell on the low side.
If you’re looking to make money on your investment in Michael Young cards, the best way to go is to buy one of those cards he shares with Derek Jeter, Nolan Ryan, or Ozzie Smith - all hobby favorites. Numbered relic cards are also a nice investment, since they can be had for cheap, and they can later be sold as part of a player collection.
As with any hobby, you should invest in what you like. If you’re a Rangers fan, or believe Michael Young is a player worth collecting, he’s not a bad choice. He’s just not going to bring much return on your investment in the future.
by Phoenix Desertsong
On May 24th, 2018, card collector Adrian Proietti bought a PSA 10 Derek Jeter rookie card from PWCC through eBay for $99,100. This Derek Jeter card is from the highly sought-after 1993 Upper Deck SP set. Ironically, Adrian was offered a similar card, also PSA 10, ten years ago for $25,000, which he turned down. While that price sounds extremely high, it came only a week after another Derek Jeter rookie card sold for $54,576. At nearly $100,000, Adrian’s purchase was the highest price ever paid for a modern baseball card. With Derek Jeter a likely shoo-in for the 2020 Hall of Fame class, just how high will Derek Jeter rookie card prices go?
Sure, other modern-era sport cards have fetched higher prices, but they’re in basketball and football. You may have heard of LeBron James rookie cards and Tom Brady rookie cards selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They, too, are graded by PSA/DNA, the leading card grading company in the world. Beckett Media also has a highly-regarded grading system, known as BGS. There are a few other grading companies, but none are as highly regarded. When graded and authenticated by PSA or Beckett, cards always fetch a higher price than ungraded "raw" cards.
For those unfamiliar with card grading, a PSA Gem Mint 10 or BGS Pristine 10 is the best you can get, a perfect example of a card in perfect condition. There are very few 10’s of any given card. At the time of the $99,100 sale, there were only 22 PSA 10 Derek Jeter rookie cards in existence. PSA said that they had graded 560 as a 9, or mint, and over 8000 graded as an 8, or near-mint. The SP foil rookie card of Derek Jeter is particularly tough to get in high grade as foil cards tend to show wear and/or damage far more easily than nonfoil cards.
While the differences between PSA 8, PSA 9, and PSA 10 may not be obvious to casual observers, they make a huge difference when it comes to collectible value. This makes sense because, of course, who doesn’t want their collectibles to be in perfect condition? There are also just so few cards worthy of a PSA 10, which is what makes them so rare. Even cards pulled straight from packs and immediately stored in a soft sleeve then hard plastic sleeve (also known as a top-loader) often grade as an 8 and sometimes a 9.
The only things that determine the price of graded cards are the scarcity of a given graded card and how much someone is willing to pay for it. Graded vintage baseball cards have been selling for big numbers for years, even those PSA 7 and below. But with how many cards are being printed today, grading is really the way to distinguish one card from another. Grading has always made cards valuable, and now they’re more valuable than ever.
So, just how high will the prices go on graded rookie cards? Even rookie cards from the “junk wax” era of baseball cards from the late 80’s to early 90’s are worth a few bucks if they’re graded highly. But the 1993 Upper Deck Baseball SP set is far from being a junk wax set. Sets since then have continued to have lower print runs on purpose to make the cards purposely more scarce. With a resurgence in baseball card collecting and sports card collecting in general, we could be seeing rookie cards of other stars start selling for six figures.
Unsurprisingly, there was a bit of a run on this particular card, but there are still fine examples out there for sale if you have the cash. You can find similar Derek Jeter rookie cards, graded and otherwise, for sale on Amazon, eBay, and the like.
Who do you think will have the next high priced rookie card?
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