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91 Days of Stamkos: Day 5, What Steven Stamkos rookie card should I buy?

A look into the best pieces of Stamkos cardboard to buy

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Honda NHL Superskills Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images

There is a certain generation of sports fans that are rapidly approaching (or are firmly in the grip of) middle age. One of the shared characteristics of this demographic is that they were raised with the belief that sports cards could be an investment instead of something you flip against the wall, put in your bike spokes or wrap in rubber bands and stuff in a shoe box (oh the horror). *

Kids weren’t trading their 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey, Jr. or their 1985-86 Mario Lemieux Topps. They were putting them in plastic holders and safety deposit boxes while their parents told them it would pay for their college education. Sadly, this turned out not to be the case.

With the belief that “if some is good, more must be better,” the major card manufacturers (Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Upper Deck) flooded the market in the late 1980s and 1990s with product. That drove down the card values and almost killed off the entire industry. Also it didn’t help that the computer and video game revolution was exploding and static, physical cards lost some of the interest.

These days the industry has stabilized a bit. Topps and Upper Deck survived the purge by buying up the other companies and negotiating exclusive deals with the professional sports leagues. For instance only Topps can make licensed Major League Baseball cards and only Upper Deck can make licensed National Hockey League cards.

While both companies have dipped their toes into virtual cards (Upper Deck has their e-packs while Topps has their Skate app) the bulk of their business is still in 2x3” pieces of cardboard. So if you’re looking for Steven Stamkos hockey cards, where should you start? The rookie card, of course!

According to the The Cardboard Connection, there are 21 different Steven Stamkos certified rookie cards. That figure doesn’t include unlicensed cards or regional releases or cards you could print out on your computer (oh yes, St. Pete Times you are getting your own post!).

Twenty-one is not an unreasonable amount. It’s obtainable. Yes, it would cost you roughly $3500 to do it if you’re thrifty, but that’s nothing compared to what you would spend if you wanted all of Sidney Crosby’s or Connor McDavid’s rookie cards.

Owning all of them is nice, but not necessary. Let’s take a look at the cards you should own if you’re starting a Steven Stamkos collection.

The Penny Stocks:

These rookie cards are his cheapest ones to own. They are easy to pick up and smart shoppers could get them less than $10.

2008-09 Collector's Choice #242 Steven Stamkos RC

From JustinG. personal collection

Collector’s Choice was Upper Deck’s attempt at a low-cost product aimed at kids and folks with tight budgets. A lot of the big “hits” you find in other products like autographs, pieces of equipment, and printing plates were taken out and replaced by stickers. Not the most dynamic-looking card ever created, but hey it’s a rookie card. Since it was released in February of 2009 the back of the card mentions his two-goal performance in Buffalo.

2008-09 Upper Deck Victory #350 Steven Stamkos RC

JustinG. personal collection

Upper Deck Victory is another low-cost product with minimal frills. It used to also be the first hockey set of the year usually released in August. Unfortunately you won’t find Stamkos’ rookie in any of those boxes. This card was released as an insert in Upper Deck’s second series of it’s flagship product. Why yes, collecting cards can be confusing. You get a nice Stamkos smile on the front (with random Ranger in the background) and the back again mentions his game in Buffalo.

The 401k

401Ks are not sexy. They’re not fun. They are, however, stable for the most part. Quietly stashed away and forgotten about, they steadily grow in value (hopefully). So the same goes for these next few cards.

2008-09 Upper Deck #245 Steven Stamkos YG RC ($60)

From JustinG personal collection

If there was just one card to buy, this is the one I would recommend. When it comes to collecting, the Upper Deck Young Gun rookie card is the cornerstone around which all collections are built. Don’t overthink it. Just find one with a good price, buy it and go from there.

Stamkos is definitely the go-to card for the 2008-09 rookie class, but if you buy the whole set you’ll also see some familiar names such as Claude Giroux, Drew Doughty, and Wayne Simmons. Future Stamkos teammates Teddy Purcell, Brian Boyle, Ben Bishop, and Jason Garrison also have their rookie cards in this set. There’s a nice picture of Stamkos on the ice while his teammates on the bench look in the complete opposite direction that he’s looking. The back mentions his 58-goal season with Sarnia.

2008-09 Ultra #251 Steven Stamkos RC ($50)

From JustinG. personal collection

This is the first redemption card of the bunch. Ultra is another product that releases early in the season, in this case October. Since they can’t be sure which of the big rookie names will actually stick in the NHL, they issue redemption cards. In your pack you get a piece of cardboard that says, “Congratulations, you won a fancy rookie card. Go to our website and enter a code to redeem.” Then 6-8 weeks later (if you’re lucky) you get the card in the mail.

Redemptions are one of the major pains in the collecting business. Rookie redemptions usually ship pretty quickly, but redemptions for autograph and memorabilia cards can drag on for months and in some cases even years.

There’s a nice picture of Stammer in the all-black uniform on the front. On the back it mentions his slow start to the season, but mistakenly says he had a goal and two assists on the 30th of October instead of the two goals and assist that he had. This would be what we call an “uncorrected error” in the business.

2008-09 Upper Deck Champ's #200 Steven Stamkos RC ($40)

From JustinG. collection

Champs is a product that comes and goes with Upper Deck. It’s a throwback set printed on all cardboard (as opposed to the glossy photo stock most cards seem to have) and the pictures on front have a simulated painted feel to them. Great cards to look at and to get autographed.

Upper Deck billed this release as “The Ice Meeting the Ice Age,” and one of the gimmicks was to have natural history and endangered species insert sets. If you bought a box there was a chance (albeit quite small) that you could pull a card with a freaking Wooly Mammoth femur fossil. There are few sets that are fun to collect, this was one of them.

Stamkos was part of the short printed rookie set that was inserted one every two packs. The front has a nice profile shot with a patented Stamkos smile. The back mentions his 105 point season with Sarnia

The Blue Chips.

For these two cards, break out the checkbooks and the credit cards. These are big money cards that will set you back and should the player fall off the face of the earth could make you cry when you see the value crash. However, if they make the Hall of Fame you might actually pay off one of your college loans.

As I do not own these cards I have hyperlinked an eBay auction with a photo. Enjoy (and bid if you have some spare holiday cash left over).

2008-09 Upper Deck Ice#184 Steven Stamkos RC /99

Honestly, this is the only card on the list that I have never seen in real life. Upper Deck Ice is one of these weird products that exists in an, “I have cards in my collection, but I have no idea how I got them,” way. I’ve never bought a box or a pack and I’ve never seen them in the store.

This card gets its value from being serial numbered to 99. That means there are only 99 copies of it in the world. The only copies I can find on the internet have been “graded,” which means a company has rated the card on several factors to see how perfect it is. The closer to 10 a grade is, the more perfect it is, therefore the higher in value it is. The example above is a 9.5 which is one step away from perfect and has increased a card that has a raw (straight out of the pack and ungraded) value of about $400 and catapulted it up to about $1500.

2008-09 The Cup #150 Steven Stamkos JSY AU RC/ 99

This card is the Holy Grail. The Mona Lisa. The “I just hit the Powerball and my wife is letting me spend $2000 any way I want to.”

The Cup is the highest end product that is released by Upper Deck. Released at the end of the year, boxes of The Cup start at $699. How many cards do you get in a box? Six. That’s right, just six. There are limited amount of boxes released, so in a year with a lot of good rookies they could actually sell out. The insert cards in The Cup are pretty cool (they have to be to justify the price tag), but that doesn’t mean every card is a winner.

Imagine spending $700 for six cards and pulling a Tim Ramholt rookie? You’re not getting your money back. If you beat the odds and pull a Stamkos, then you’re probably looking at anywhere between $1500 and $3000 depending on the number of colors on the jersey swatch (the more colors the more expensive).

The thing about this card is that it’s not really a great looking card. The image is nice, Stamkos is super happy, but it is a small image so that Upper Deck can cram the signature and the piece of jersey on it.

So there ya go. In my opinion the seven best rookie cards to own for Steven Stamkos. If you happen to have any laying around that you don’t want, feel free to send them my way.

*Speaking of rubber bands, check out why an ordinary card of an average outfielder is one of the most sought after baseball cards in the business.