Hobby Musings: Guerrero Jr., Franco making their marks in hobby market – Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s already hot card market had the fires stoked even more with the news of his call-up to the major leagues. The debut for the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, this is one MLB debut that has been anticipated for quite some time by baseball fans and hobbyists. The latter, collectors and sellers alike, will be intently watching to see how the card market reacts to his performances on a nightly basis.
Guerrero Jr. hasn’t been the only recent hot prospect on the hobby rollercoaster. Rays youngster Wander Franco has also been making his mark with a slew of impressive sales and heightened hobby notoriety. His cards in 2019 Bowman Baseball in particular have been a popular pull.
Blowout Cards’ Matt Thomas weighed in on the demand of both players by saying, “Both Vlad and Wander have been incredibly popular over the course of the past few weeks! As the anticipation for baseball season builds, collectors are always trying to find the next “Mike Trout” type player. Wander Franco heads the prospecting class of 2019 Bowman Baseball and collectors are paying top dollar for his first prospect autograph. Vlad’s first prospect autograph can be found in 2016 Bowman Chrome Baseball. Collectors have been stashing these away in anticipation of him bursting onto the scene and having early and sustained success at the major league level. I know personally that a Blowout TV customer has dozens of his chrome autographs and has referenced this as his “401k.”
Asked for his take on the market for both players, Beckett’s Ryan Cracknell commented ,” Guerrero has been hot for quite some time. His stuff really started spiking a year ago and hasn’t let up since. Franco was the big prospect collectors seemed to be anticipating for from 2019 Bowman. I shouldn’t be surprised at how high his cards are going for right now, but they’re definitely setting a strong tone.”
Paying big money for hot rookies is nothing new. Whether it was Mark Fidrych in the 1970s (credit to Rich Klein for regaling me with stories about this) or Ron Kittle in the 1980s, hobbyists have long wanted the next hot prospect. The difference now though is the higher stakes and costs of the hobby world. A card that had people scoffing at $20 back then is seemingly nothing when compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars for cards paid for top prospect and rookie cards now.
As we’ve seen though in recent years with prospects like Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani, buyers are willing to make that gamble for a long or short-term investment. The soaring prices for desirable modern cards, especially prime examples of Mike Trout, have undoubtedly also played a part in the decision to buy into newer cards. A long prevalent opinion that modern cards couldn’t compete with their vintage counterparts on the auction block doesn’t seem so certain now as more and more recent cards generate big sales.
Talking with Thomas about how Guerrero’s card hype stacks up to other top recent baseball prospects, he responded, “The names that immediately come to mind would be Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani. While the addition of the Japanese market helped to influence the hype surrounding these two talents, I see similarities in inflated eBay prices and the demand for product. I think you’re seeing a trend now where prospecting collectors/investors are spending a lot more money on “hype” and “potential.” It’s different for a guy like Ronald Acuna Jr. who wasn’t even the highest selling Braves prospect in 2017. Acuna’s prices didn’t start to explode until he reached the big leagues and proved his talents on the field.
Guerrero Jr.’s Toronto and Franco’s Tampa Bay markets don’t often inspire high cards sales. Even though both teams have been home to talented players in the last decade, they’re not akin to a Los Angeles or New York in terms of spurring card demand. Cracknell dismissed this concern for both their card markets, explaining, “I don’t think it matters as much in the prospecting realm. It’s already a niche unto itself but I think it’s more about the player at that point, especially since they’re not in their respective MLB cities yet.”
To that point, Guerrero Jr. and Franco still have to prove then can perform in Major League Baseball. While Franco has to wait a little while longer, Guerrero Jr. will shortly have the chance to show what he can do. If he can get off to a hot start like Aaron Judge did a few years ago, there’s no telling just how high his card market will go.
Asked to forecast what a successful rookie campaign would mean for the younger Guerrero’s card market, Cracknell responded, “Every player and situation is going to be different. It’s going to be tough for Guerrero to follow in Judge’s footsteps card-wise. While teams don’t matter quite as much when players are working their way through the minors, I think there’s a big impact once you get to the majors, especially when you’re looking at prolonged growth. Judge’s success was somewhat of a surprise. Combine that with the Yankee pinstripes and a rookie home run record and you’ve got something huge. For Guerrero’s key cards, they’re already so high that I wonder how much more room there is for them to grow? That said, now we get a whole new wave of MLB stuff with his Rookie Cards, which should give baseball a big jolt.”
In terms of a larger hobby view, it will be interesting to see if Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will even be the hottest rookie of 2019. With Zion Williamson set to take the NBA by storm, there’s a good chance we’ll have a rookie market unlike any we’ve ever seen before.
Asked how he thinks the trading card anticipation for Zion measures to all prospects in the last 10-20 years, Thomas said, “I think Zion Williamson is the most hyped and anticipated player to enter the NBA since LeBron James. With the advancements of social media and non-stop television exposure on every sports network, Williamson’s exposure far exceeds what James had to endure coming out of high school in 2003. Zion will be the “it factor” when it comes to collecting basketball rookies in 2019-2020. When you think about what Luka Doncic cards sell for on the secondary market, you have to figure Zion will eclipse this mark and set the new standard for high end rookies. Personally, I can’t wait, as this coming draft class looks phenomenal and should be one of the best rookie classes we’ve seen in years!”
For more from Kelsey Schroyer, follow him on Twitter @KelSchroy75.
Hobby Musings: Guerrero Jr., Franco making their marks in hobby market
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