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91 Days of Stamkos: Day 43, when’s best to buy a Stamkos rookie card?

A look into the recent sales of Stamkos’ rookie card. The answer might be, now.

Honda NHL Superskills
Stamkos at the Upper Deck YoungStars Game in 2009
Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Simple question - Should I buy a Steven Stamkos rookie card right now?

From JustinG personal collection

For the most part, values of hockey cards tend to stay fairly flat. While there might be a ton of fluctuation upon their release, they tend to find a level after a few months. Barring any career ending injuries or absolute overproduction of cards (Jaromir Jagr) a superstar player’s rookie card will slowly increase in value over time.

There are some factors that can bump the value of a highly regarded player’s card:

  1. They achieve a milestone or break a record. There is usually a brief boost in value when a player hits an important career milestone. Case in point - Alex Ovechkin’s rookie card was selling for about $60-$70 at the end of December. On the day he hit 1000 points, an auction closed for over $90. Since then they’ve been consistently selling for $70-$80.
  2. They retire.
  3. The player is inducted to the Hall of Fame.
  4. The player dies. Nostalgia kicks in and collectors scramble for the rookie cards.
  5. The player is in the news for the wrong reasons. Even bad press generates interest among collectors and can drive up prices.*

Generally, anything that gets a player’s name in the news is good for business. The more interest a player draws, especially if it brings in attention from outside of the normal fan base, is good. Interest generates a greater demand for an item where the supply tends to stay the same and the price goes up. Normal fans of the player still want the cards, but now fans of the sport and “flippers” are also bidding on the cards.

Flippers are soulless collectors who only want to make money. They go from sport to sport trying to get in early on a craze and then sell the card at its highest value. They churn out the product and once demand slackens they’re off to the next hot item.

What can drive a card value down? Lack of interest. A career-ending injury (Eric Lindros) or failure to live up to the hype (Alexandre Daigle) are the two main drivers for decreasing value of a rookie card permanently.

Within those extremes value can fluctuate. If a star player is having an off-year it can temporarily drive the cost down, or if a player, say Steven Stamkos, is on the shelf for an extended period of time. While he’s injured and away from the headlines, interest normally dips and there is usually a slight chill in the sell prices of his rookie cards.

Has that happened for Stamkos? Looking at the data shows a bit of a decrease in the final price off his rookie card. Searching the most recent sold auctions on eBay for Steven Stamkos’ 2008-09 Upper Deck Rookie card generated 17 results. Only the ungraded (or raw) copies of the card as different grades can cause wild fluctuations in the pricing. Here are the results:

The auctions with the less than sign are “Make a Best Offer” auctions where the seller accepted an offer less than the price listed. Unfortunately the actual sell price is not posted, but in general they tend to be within 80% of the listed price.

The oldest result posted was the November 20th auction so I’m unable to pull numbers before then. I know that they were closing in the $50+ range because I looked at a few for the post that I did for the 2016-17 Upper Deck Series I release. The $46.87 price was a median price at the time.

As you can see from the results listed above, there was a slight dip in the final prices as the average came down to $39.79. That’s about a 15% decrease in value. The fact that there were so many auctions closed in January can be explained by collectors looking to take advantage of the lower than normal prices.

With the prices creeping back up over $40 on a consistent basis, the best time to buy has probably passed. However, it’s still not a bad time to pick one up. Once he returns to the lineup in March or April and picks his scoring back up, the prices should get back to where they were pre-injury in a hurry.

His career is going to be fine. Next year he should be back to his normal place among the goal-scoring leaders and you’re going to kick yourself when you see the prices.

So to answer the simple question - yes, go buy one now. (And pick up a Brayden Point one while you’re at it).

*Real life example from baseball. Back in 1999 I was selling a lot of baseball cards on the now defunct Yahoo Auctions. It was cheaper than eBay and had enough users that I could usually sell whatever I put up.

I had some success with selling John Rocker cards. He had a big personality and had burst onto the scene during the postseason the year before so people would bid on the auctions and the cards would usually sell for about a quarter. I was buying them at a flea market for 10 cents, so along with a slight mark-up for shipping I was doing alright.

Then he was interviewed by Sports Illustrated and made some unkind remarks about the people on the number 7 train in New York. I figured I was done and would never sell another one. Instead, the cards I was selling for a quarter now started to sell for $2, $3, even up to $10. Meanwhile, I was still picking these cards up for a dime. It lasted for about two weeks and then his career went off the rails and prices fell again. Collectors are weird.