The more they score, the higher the prices

A hot start generates high demand for Tampa Bay Lightning hockey cards.

The more the Tampa Bay Lightning win, the more excited fans get. That’s simple, right? It’s good news if you’re a ticket broker or an owner. It is bad news if you’re a collector.

As the Lightning keep riding the backs of their prolific offense to the top of the division, more and more fans are buying merchandise, including their trading cards. With that success, and the limited amount of cards that are produced, comes a spike in value.

Back in February, during the middle of his recovery from knee surgery, Steven Stamkos saw his rookie card value drop into the low $40 range.  He was out for the season, out of the limelight and getting outshadowed by younger players like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.  It was a good time to pick up his signature rookie card.  As he’s continued to rack up the points, the value of his card keeps rising.

Here are the closing prices of the last five ungraded rookie cards sold on eBay:

October 30th - $59.99

October 29th - $57.16

October 29th - $61.00

October 27th - $86.06

October 23rd - $79.99

Unless he continues to go crazy the pricing is probably going to be leveling out in the $60 range

That’s still a pretty hefty increase for a piece of cardboard that is nine years old.

His running mate, Nikita Kucherov, is seeing a similar spike in prices.  A card that would have set a collector back $20.00 just two years ago [writer’s note: that’s when I picked mine up] is going for between $45 and $60 on eBay.  As a younger player who got his first taste of national exposure last year, there is a more dramatic fluctuation in his prices. That also means his cards will most likely top out at a higher plateau than Stamkos’, especially if he nabs his first Rocket Richard trophy this season.

It isn’t just Stamkos and Kucherov that are seeing prices in their trading cards rise. Overall, the successful start to the season has resulted in interest for most of the current team with the main exception of Mikhail Sergachev.  Despite the historic start to his season, overall demand for his cards remains low.  Why?  Because his rookie cards feature him in a Montreal uniform.

Casual collectors usually want to collect cards of players in their favorite team uniforms. One of the unique aspects of this current Lightning team is that a vast majority of their stars are home grown players.  Stamkos, Kucherov, Ondrej Palat and Vlad Namestnikov among others have never worn a uniform other than the Tampa Bay Lightning. If a person wants to start collecting Brayden Point, they know that every card available (with the exception of a handful of junior or Team Canada cards) will feature him in the blue and white. That is attractive to some collectors.

In Sergachev’s case it kind of hinders his value a bit.  With his trade happening as late as it did in the summer, and the possibility of his spending the season in juniors, led to the season opening sets (MVP, O-Pee-Chee and Artifacts) to exclude him from the checklist.  That will most likely continue with the flagship product set to release next week.  For Lightning fans, they most likely won’t see him on a card in a Bolts uniform until after the new year.

His position will also keep his prices somewhat reasonable. Despite being one of the most popular members of the team and entering the phase of his career where he can be considered a Norris candidate on a yearly basis, Victor Hedman’s rookie card can be picked up for a reasonable $15-$20 online. Sergachev’s card is currently going for a third of that cost and most likely won’t climb much higher than that. The demand for his cards, at least locally, will most likely be when he’s featured in a Lightning uniform for a premium set such as The Cup, Trilogy, or Black Diamond.

In the Tampa area, hockey and the Lightning are still the third most popular team when it comes to collectibles according to Parry Solomon, President of Wonder Water Sports Cards Comics and Games in Clearwater.

“Baseball is still the king,” said Mr. Solomon. He noted that football sales are down and that hockey is closing the gap. Over the last few years, since the surprising cup run of 2014-15, he’s seen an increase in interest in the Lightning.

According to Mr. Solomon, Kucherov garners the most interest from people coming into his shop followed by Stamkos, Hedman, Brayden Point and then Tyler Johnson. The demand for Kucherov is so great that he has trouble keeping his rookie cards in stock at his store.  That scarcity is echoed when looking up his cards online. Check Out My Cards, one of the leading internet sellers of single cards, as of the time of writing, only has three Kucherov cards for sale and the lowest price is $100.45.

He does admit that there was a little cool off last season as the team struggled, “which can be expected when the season ends in March instead of June,” he said over the phone. That slow down has more than recovered with the success that the Lightning have experienced this year.

The organization’s focus on their 25th anniversary and some of the attention paid to the inaugural team has also sparked some sales from some forgotten names of Lightning passed. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had people ask about [Chris] Kontos cards” he said with a chuckle when talking about fans’ interest in general.

The Lightning are likely to slow down a bit in the next couple of months and it’s unlikely that Stamkos and Kucherov are going to continue to score in every single game that they play. When that happens the prices of their cards are going to stabilize a bit.  Barring any major injury they are unlikely to come down in value much so it’s not the greatest time to think about investing in their rookie cards. For the people who might have picked up a couple of extra Stamkos rookie cards last winter when he was on the shelf, now might be a good time to think about unloading them.

Nothing breeds interest and raises prices quite like winning does.