Sunday, May 28, 2017

What is going on with base rookie cards?

Clayton Kershaw didn't have a great outing against the Cubs today. He didn't have much command, he gave up three home runs, and you could tell that the Cubs were bent on making him work.

Fortunately, the Dodgers' offense showed up big time. But whether Kershaw won or lost this game wasn't going to affect the price of my $80 rookie card of him.

That's right, I said "$80 rookie card."

I seem to be the only person who hasn't come to terms with this already (or the only one who cares), but I remain stunned by the prices of certain base rookie cards of star players. I've mentioned it already with 2011 Update's Mike Trout and 2015 flagship's Kris Bryant. These are very attainable cards going for crazy prices.

Now it's happening with Kershaw.

Maybe it's the recent statement by Buster Olney that Kershaw could never throw another pitch again and make the Hall of Fame, but I am suddenly aware of how much his rookie card is selling for right now. Earlier today, there was a tweet from Eric of Those Back Pages/The Diabetic Card & Comic Geek, saying:

"Just a head's up, if you don't have a Kershaw Flagship RC, and want one, don't wait much longer."

OK, that peaked my curiosity. I headed over to COMC and tracked the only Kershaw flagship rookie card being sold (it's actually from the Updates & Highlights set, card #UH240).

This is what I found:

Holy smokes.

There was also a gold parallel version of the card:


Now, I know how COMC sellers like to inflate their prices, so I hopped onto ebay to scan through some prices there. Leaving out the graded cards -- because dammit why are we grading cards from 2008 -- I made a list of the BIN prices and averaged them.

It came to $88.97.

This is for an Update card that you could have pulled out of a pack as often as any other card in 2008.

This blows my mind.

What is the reason for this? Why are cards of Trout and Bryant and Kershaw selling for so much when they are not exclusive? They aren't autographed, rare, or the coveted Bowman Chrome rookie version.

Well, speaking of that BoChro version, I think the answer can be found in Eric's tweet thread.

He says, smartly, that rookie card collectors, seeing the in-demand Bowman Chrome autographed card traveling far out of the reach of their wallet, are looking to flagship rookie cards.

This seems like a significant shift in the hobby to me, and while I pay virtually no attention to the rookie card market, it makes me want to hang on to rookie cards a little more than I once did.

I happen to have an extra Kershaw Update rookie card. Here is the back to prove it's not one of those dumb Berger's Best inserts:

It's amazing that I am holding this flimsy card in my hand from not even 10 years ago and people are paying $100 for it.

It makes me -- a non-seller -- think.

I have lots of different Kershaw rookie cards. I not only have the Update card, but the gold parallel Update card and the gold-letter parallel Update card. And I have a few extra Kershaw rookie cards. Dupes.

None of them go for nearly as much as the Update card, but they are commanding some decent prices.

A quick ebay average shows the Stadium Club card hovers around $26, the Heritage High Numbers card around $16, the Allen & Ginter card around $14, the Timeline card around $13.50 and the Goudey around 9 bucks.

Such demand for something I pulled out of packs so easily a mere nine years ago.

That's bizarre.

I think people are realizing that Kershaw could very well be the best pitcher they see in their lifetime -- or at least believing the people who are saying that.

But it still amazes me what a wild, west show this hobby can be.


  1. Yikes! I think my Topps Update Kershaw is still in my 2008 commons box.

  2. Great post. I'm not a baseball guy and had no idea about this on Kershaw. I knew the Trouts were ridiculous but Bryant and Kershaw are news to me. I'm not even really sure what to say.

  3. I've got a whole box of 2008 Update sitting in my office that I bought on clearance a few years ago. I'm sitting on a gold mine!!! Woohoo! Pack up the kids baby, we're going on vacation!

  4. Idk what's more insane, the fact that those Kershaws are commanding triple digit figures, or that it's still only one fourth of what Kershaw's first Bowman Chrome autographs from 2006 are going for.

  5. ouch, and I need it for the set build and the PC

  6. it's a bit like the olden days when base cards were all we had.

  7. It makes me wonder how many dealers have monster boxes full of Kershaw rookies that they're sitting on... but that's just my cynical take on things.

  8. I liked that 'faux '59 rookie' Heritage so much I bought it a couple years ago to put in my fantasy bb binder. If I could go back and do it over again I's still choose that one.

  9. This trend started in basketball last year when Steph Curry's Topps rookie card started going for big money. IMO, even base Topps cards are produced in much smaller numbers that cards from the junk wax years. When a player gets hot and a lot of casual card collectors all want the same Topps' rookie card, there isn't enough supply out there to meet the demand.

  10. I've seen the inflated Trout prices (I partially funded an entire card show by selling my 2011 Update RC of his), but Kershaw's uptick is news to me. I actually own Kershaw's base and gold foil variation rookies from '08 Update, as well as a handful of his other rookies that I probably traded for back during my forum days at the time. Crazy that I bought a Reggie Jackson rookie earlier this year for less than a quarter of the AVERAGE Update Kershaw RC's going rate.

  11. I've been on a tight cardboard budget lately. To inflate that budget, I just sent five Bryant rookies (4 base, 1 Chrome) to PSA with every intention of selling them when I get them back. Part of me feels dirty about it, but the other 99% of me sees a bunch of cards that I can add to various PCs with those funds. I suppose I can sleep at night.

  12. Ummm Woah. Well, I just found out where next year's card budget is coming from... jeez.

  13. If there's one thing about these crazy prices that I think is cool... it's the fact that there's a lot more people collecting cards than we might think. Sure there's a chance that it's the same 20 Kershaw fans buying up all of these 2008 Update cards for insane prices. But I choose to believe that more and more people are coming back to the hobby.

    Everything else about these prices suck for me. I've always been a huge fan of the 2008 design... and I kept telling myself that I'd one day grab the Update set to go along with my regular set. I guess that's not going to happen anymore.

  14. I still need to collect the 2008 Update set as 2008 is top 2 Topps sets in my book. I wonder if the Kershaw rookie has all of a sudden seen this jump or if it's been gradual. I think my card shop has some 08 Update boxes so maybe I'll need a box or two to work on my set.

  15. 2008 is close to 10 years ago now. These cards were roughly one per box. To get one of these cards in a pack you would have to buy close to $50-60 in packs so the pricing is not ridiculous. Look at LeBron RCs, Mantle RCs, and Jordan RCs. All of those were massed produced but still hold tremendous hobby value. Time creates value.

    1. I haven't seen anything like this since the 1980s. It reminds me very much of the '80s.

  16. Whew! Just checked my want list, then double-checked my set-in-progress, and I have one.