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Nikita Kucherov’s success on the ice boosts value of his rookie cards

For hockey card collectors, the 2013-14 releases were supposed to be a  boon for rookie cards. The lockout during the previous season resulted in a few of the normal releases being shelved, most notably the second series of the flagship product for Upper Deck. Series 2 is usually a big deal for collectors looking for rookie cards of players that debuted in that season. However, the NHLPA decided that due to the lockout, the only rookies that would appear in licensed sets would have had to make their debut between the 2012 All-Star Game and the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. Any player debuting in the 2012-13 season would be pushed back to the 2013-14 products. That led to the infamous “Double Rookie Class” of 2013-14.

All of the early release products that year were able to feature the rookie cards of not only the normal high draft picks that would be playing in their first season, but also all of the rookies that made their debuts in the 2012-13 season. The biggest name at the time was Nail Yakupov. Drafted number one in 2012, he would have headlined all of the 2012-13 releases. But due to the agreement he was pushed back to 2013-14 where he joined Nathan MacKinnon, the top draft pick of the 2013 draft.

While Yakupov faded from the radar of collectors over the past five years, MacKinnon has kept going strong and his “Young Guns” card has continued to climb in value. He’s emerged as the signature player from that crop of rookie cards that also includes Jonathan Huberdeau, Morgan Rielly, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Tom Wilson. Alex Killorn, Richard Panik and J.T. Miller (as a Ranger) were also featured in the Double Rookie class.

With a full season underway collectors were treated to the normal release of products in February and March. That allowed players that had made their debuts in the early parts of the 2013-14 season to see their rookie cards included. For the Lightning, that meant The Triplets finally had officially licensed pieces of cardboard with their faces on it. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and most importantly, Nikita Kucherov all were featured “Young Guns” in Series 2 of Upper Deck’s flagship product.

Since their release, they have all done fairly well. However, Nikita Kucherov has emerged as the card to have from that class of rookies. If he keeps up what he’s doing, he’ll soon eclipse MacKinnon as the rookie card to have from the entire 2013-14 season.

At the beginning of last season, Raw Charge highlighted the rising cost of his rookie card as part of the early season success of the Lightning. At the time, a raw, or ungraded, version of his Upper Deck card had risen from about $20 to the $45-$60 range. Since then, the only thing that has risen faster is Kucherov’s own bank account.

As he tears up the league this year and his national exposure continues to escalate to the point of GEICO commercials, the price to obtain a 2 ½ inch by 3 ½ inch piece of cardboard has grown as well.  Since the new year began, five eBay auctions have closed for ungraded copies of his 2013-14 Upper Deck rookie card. The closing bid has ranged from $88 to $102. For his graded cards (cards that have been examined to determine their condition on a 10 point scale with 10 being considered a flawless Gem Mint card), sales have consistently exceeded $150. Not bad for a player from a small market hockey team.

With no sign of him slowing down on the ice, it’s unlikely the cost of his cards will be going anytime this season.  There could be a lull in the summer, but it will be minimal at best. As he keeps putting up points and the national media continues to talk about him, the cost of his card should steadily keep rising.

Is there a ceiling for his cards? Theoretically no, that’s the beauty of the free market system. The maximum price is whatever someone is willing to pay. However, it is unlikely a raw version will exceed $150 anytime soon unless he goes absolutely bonkers over the second half of the season. For comparison, Connor McDavid’s 2015-16 Young Gun is selling for about $275 on a regular basis on eBay while Auston Matthews’ 2016-17 is going for about $175. Both of those players get a bump for playing in bigger hockey markets.

Racking up a lot of points in a successful Stanley Cup run would most likely be the one thing that could provide a significant boost to the value of his card. Playoff success always generates an increased interest in rookie cards. With 59 points in 62 career postseason games, a long run this spring would make him a leading contender for a Conn Smythe.

In fact, if you happen to be holding on to a couple of extra ones, it might not be a bad time to sell. The market isn’t exactly flooded with them. Between January 1st and 9th, there have only been 16 closed auctions on eBay and leading online retailer Check Out My Cards only has two listed (at $134). There’s a good chance that you would get close to top dollar at this point for selling them.

If you were thinking of picking up some boxes of 2013-14 Upper Deck Series 2 and hoping you find it in a pack, think again. There are virtually no boxes or packs for sale for Series 2. There are plenty of Series 1 boxes so maybe you can strike it lucky with a MacKinnon card and then trade it for a Kucherov, but that seems complicated.

Nikita Kucherov’s success on the ice over the past three seasons has propelled him into the upper echelon of stars in the NHL. For better or worse, that also means the cost of his hockey cards have skyrocketed as well. He has eclipsed Stamkos as the most prized member of the Lightning in the collecting world.

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