In case you missed it, the sports card hobby has exploded in popularity (and value) in recent years.
No, I’m not talking about all those Ken Griffey rookie cards you had when you were a kid. And no, I’m not talking about those binders filled with names like Jerry Rice, Barry Bonds, Brett Favre, and Drew Bledsoe from the 90’s that are probably still in your parents’ attic.
I’m talking about the sports card hobby of 2020, where people spend several thousands of dollars a year opening packs of cards, hoping for piece of sports history.
These days you can’t go to your local retail store and buy a $3 pack of baseball cards anymore. In today’s hobby, packs of sports cards cost anywhere from $50 to $500 a piece, nearly all of which contain autographs and jersey memorabilia of athletes at every level of the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL.
Some people “rip and list” the cards on eBay, hoping to capitalize on hot rookie cards and increase their return on investment. Some people simply collect their favorite team or players, just as we all did as kids. And some people are looking to cash in those childhood collections to see what they are worth (spoiler alert: probably not much).
As an example of just how different the sports card collecting world is today from how you might have seen it as a kid, here are the top five highest selling Tennessee Titans sports cards on eBay in recent weeks. (based on sold listings)
Sold for $550 on 10/31
One of the great things about cards featuring player memorabilia is the opportunity to showcase iconic patches. Team logos, league logos, and clothing manufacturer logos are all coveted in the eye of the collector. The Nike “swoosh” remains the most recognizable sports apparel symbol in the world and sports card companies like Panini America aren’t stupid.
Hence, the Nike Swoosh patch.
This Corey Davis rookie patch auto with the Nike logo is a “one of one”, meaning there’s only one card like it in the world. This elevates the collectability, and thus the value, of the card. No doubt Corey Davis’ increased workload and productivity over the first seven games of the year helped improve the value as well.
Sold for $799 on 10/31
Speaking of recognizable logos, what could be more iconic than the NFL shield? Any autographed rookie card with the league’s emblem embedded is going to carry a high price. And this version with the Tennessee Titans’ A.J. Brown is no exception.
I should point out that this seller bought the same card for $1,099 back on September 8th, so he might have sold too quickly. A.J. Brown and former Ole Miss teammate D.K. Metcalf are the two highest selling wide receivers of the 2019 draft class. You can find plenty of Brown’s patch autos and rookie cards on eBay and now might be a good time to buy.
Sold for $2,499 on 10/23
Running backs don’t typically dominate the eBay sports card market. But then again, there are few running backs like Derrick Henry.
Henry is by far the highest selling Tennessee Titans player right now and for good reason. He’s as dominant as they come on the field and he’s continuing to make his case for MVP this season.
When it comes to iconic rookie cards in football, the Contenders Rookie Ticket Auto stands out above the rest. Every serious football collector needs to have at least one of these in his or her collection.
This Derrick Henry Rookie Ticket Auto, the “cracked ice” variation (numbered to 24, with the jagged refractor design) is tough to find and, thus, more expensive. It’s telling that it didn’t even get that high of a grade (BGS has a 10.0 scale that goes down in half point steps… this card was dinged for having rough edges and corners) but still sold for $2,499 on eBay just a couple weeks ago.
Sold for $2,800 on 10/22
In football, National Treasures is the cream of the crop. You will not find a better design in the football card hobby. And at over $1,000 per box, the cards hold their value more than any other set.
There’s a lot to like about this card. It has a nice three color Tennessee Titans patch, it features the top rookie running back from that year (Henry has consistently out-sold Ezekiel Elliott on the secondary market), and it’s a PSA Gem Mint 10, which is a tough grade for a patch auto to get. It also has an “on card” auto (as opposed to a sticker auto) which is usually a selling point for collectors.
Sold for $3,000 on 10/19
In an interesting twist, the highest selling Tennessee Titans card right now doesn’t even feature an autograph. Behold, the Derrick Henry gold prizm rookie:
This gold Select card has several things that increase its value. It’s a rookie, it’s low numbered (only nine other cards like it in the world) and it’s been graded a gem mint (perfect 10 score) by PSA, one of the best grading companies in the industry. It’s also gold in color, which makes it really shiny and aesthetically pleasing.
The fact that this card sold for $3,000 and isn’t even autographed is curious, but shows how much the hobby has changed even in the last few years.
The recent trend in the hobby sees non-autographed, parallel cards going for crazy amounts. This trend began with basketball, most notably with Luka Doncic (one sold for $62K) and Zion Williamson (one sold for $35K), but football took off about the same time Patrick Mahomes did in 2018 (this insane card sold for $112K in August).
These days collectors are less concerned with autographs and memorabilia and more concerned with shiny rare cards that grade well. This bodes well for the future of the hobby as it means manufacturers won’t have to continually hound athletes for autographs and jerseys.
As a final note, I should mention that there are Ryan Tannehill rookie cards that sold for more on eBay than many of these cards listed (quarterbacks reign supreme in the card collecting world, especially their rookie cards). But obviously they feature Tannehill as a Miami Dolphins quarterback from back in 2012, such as this Bowman Sterling one of one and this Contenders rookie ticket auto. These are technically Miami Dolphins cards, not Tennessee Titans cards, so I didn’t include them.
— Featured image via Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports —