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Sunday Morning Card Show: The 2008-09 Upper Deck Set and Steven Stamkos’ Rookie Card

Is this the iconic Lightning rookie card?

Honda NHL Superskills Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome to a new, semi-regular feature here at Raw Charge. It’s the Sunday Morning Card Show. From time to time we’ll look at some hockey cards, either individual or sets that relate to the Tampa Bay Lightning or hockey news in general.

Today, I figure we might as well start at the top. It’s the card that I personally consider the iconic Lightning rookie card - the 2008-09 Upper Deck Series 1 Steven Stamkos Young Guns #245. The Captain’s totemic rookie card features the young Stamkos in the road whites (during the 2007-10 OK Hockey redesign). If you look at his right shoulder you will notice a patch which indicates that the photo was taken while the Lightning were overseas opening the season in Prague against the New York Rangers.

JustinG. personal collection
JustinG. personal collection

As the number one pick in the 2008 Draft Upper Deck was quite certain that Stamkos was going to make the roster so they had his card in the first series of the product which was released on November 12th of 2008, a pretty quick turnaround considering the photo was taken at the end of September or beginning of October. Well done.

When the product was released, Stamkos was one of the driver of the set, the rookie everyone was chasing. Not only was his status as a franchise savior (Seen Stamkos?) enough to create demand in the Tampa market, the numbers he put up in Sarnia gave him generational talent buzz among the rest of the league.

As time has marched on, there have been quite a few other names that constitute a solid rookie set for that series. Along with Stamkos, Claude Giroux and Drew Doughty are the headliners. However, Wayne Simmonds, TJ Oshie, Blake Wheeler, and James Neal are some names you may recognize that also have rookie cards in this set.

Two other Lightning players also had their Young Guns rookie included in this set, both defensemen: Vladimir Mihalik and Janne Niskala. As you can imagine, both of those cards can be picked up for quite a lot less than Stamkos’ card. Stamkos was also featured on another card, the Young Guns checklist that also featured Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo.

There were a total of 15 non-rookie Lightning cards featured in the Series 1 and 2 release:

Series 1:

22 - Paul Ranger

23 - Marin St. Louis

24 - Jussi Jokinen

25 - Mike Smith

26 - Jeff Halpern

27 - Mike Lundin

Series 2:

420 - Mark Recchi

421 - Radim Vrbata

422 - Ryan Malone

423 - Vaclav Prospal

424 - Vincent Lecavalier

425 - Andrej Meszaros

426 - Evgeny Artyukhin

427 - Gary Roberts

428 - Olaf Kolzig

Now that is a collection of classic Lightning names.

So what is a Steven Stamkos Young Guns rookie card going to set you back? According to the latest copy of Beckett Hockey (featuring Matty Berniers on the cover) your cost for a raw copy will range from a low of $60 to a high of $100. For full transparency, the card you see above was purchased for $65 via eBay back in September of 2020. A quick flip through recent eBay sales shows it ranging anywhere from $65 to $100 for raw copies. Surprisingly affordable for a future hall of famer.

Now you always run the risk that there are devious sellers out there on the interwebs and they might be selling you fake Stamkos rookies or ones in poor quality. So why not get something that is authenticated. For that we enter the graded card market. The industry standard is from PSA and the cards are graded scales of 1 to 10. A PSA 10 is a perfect or “Gem Mint” card. PSA 10s of star players can fetch thousands on thousands of dollars. Or if it’s a PSA 10 Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card - $3.75 Million.

The thing about PSA 10s is that there aren’t many of them. On initial glance the card I have seems pretty clean, but once you start looking closer there are some small flaws that would keep it from gemming. Currently, out of the 757 Stamkos Young Guns cards that have been submitted to PSA for grading, only 350 have received a perfect 10 grade.

According to Card Ladder (a price tracking app) the average cost of a PSA 10 Steven Stamkos Upper Deck Series One rookie card is about $398. While the price has fluctuated over the last year, it has pretty much remained stable. For a superstar of his caliber it’s actually a reasonable price point. Stamkos gets lost a bit among the superstars because he’s sandwiched between Sidney Crosby/Alex Ovechkin and Connor McDavid/Auston Matthews.

However, the stability is unlikely to continue. One thing that helps drive up the cost of cards is a player reaching a career milestone. Stamkos is well on his way to two of them. First there is the 500 goal mark (he’s at 488) and the 1,000 point mark (981). Oddly enough, the fact that he’s going to hit both of them right around the same time will probably hurt the value of the card since sellers will only see one bump from the interest generated by his pursuit.

In my opinion it’s still a good time to get in on the card. Hockey cards overall are just starting to see an overall rise in their market and Stamkos has a couple of bumps left in his career (the milestones, retirement, hall of fame). It’s doubtful you’ll a sharp spike up in value if you invest now, but an overall gradual climb.

If you’re a true gambling sort, you can try your hand at buying a sealed hobby box of 2008-09 Upper Deck Series 1 and see if one of the six Young Guns card included is Stamkos. You’ll also have the chance to pull a parallel (Exclusives is limited to 100 copies and High Gloss just has 10) or insert featuring the rookie (Rookie Memorabilia, Rookie Playmakers, Biography of a Season, etc). There aren’t many boxes for sale and if you do find one it’ll likely set you back about $250. But the chase is part of the fun, right?

As for the argument that this is THE ICONIC LIGHTNING CARD, it has several things going for it. First of all, the pedigree of the player. Steven Stamkos was an overall first round draft pick. That distinction carries weight in the collecting world (unless your Nail Yakupov). He’s lived up the hype. Stamkos is going to be a first ballot hall of famer when he retires and he will own all of the Lightning offensive records. He’s pictured in a Lightning uniform (sorry Marty St. Louis and Ben Bishop). The Young Guns subset is the recognized rookie card of the hockey world. It’s also affordable. The same can’t be said of products like The Cup or SP.

Some of the other current stars may give it a run for its money over time, but as of today, I’m pretty confident in saying it is the card that every Tampa Bay Lightning card collector should have in their collection.

Let me know if you have any questions about collecting, or want to see some other sets or cards featured in the future. Please note that any advice on buying or selling is just a personal opinion and should be construed as guaranteeing anything. Always spend within your means.