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Monday, April 30, 2007

Baron Davis & the Warriors

What an exciting game 4 last night, between the Mavs & Warriors! I was so impressed with Baron Davis' clutch performance. He hit a 40'+ 3-point buzzer beater to tie the game at the half. To close out the 3rd quarter he hits a three, teams up with Mickael Pietrus to block Jerry Stackhouse's jumper, then steals the inbound pass & takes it down court for the dunk, just before the buzzer (again to tie the game). It got kind of scary there in the last 15 seconds of the 4th when Dirk Nowitzki dropped in back to back threes, but when Pietrus stole the inbound pass with just a few seconds left, it was in the bag. This GS team probably isn't a true #8 seed. Their reg season record wasn't that hot largely due to injuries & line-up reshuffles. If they'd had this team healthy all season, they probably would've been a #6 or #7.

Baron Davis' top base RC, hands down, is his 99-00 SPx Auto #'d 500 ($80 BV). This is the 1st set to have autographed base RC cards ever for basketball. Another hot Auto RC year card is his 99-00 Skybox Autographics Century Marks Auto #'d 50 ($80 BV). Problem is that there are very few of either of these cards listed on auction, so if you find one, the bidding action might be quite fierce (especially now!).

I wrote about him before, and I still think that Pietrus is a hobby sleeper. In addition to his skill potential, his level of athleticism is also very high. He has the ability to score from anywhere, block shots & create turnovers. His RC's from 03-04 have been steals. I think that he might start to receive some hobby attention soon though, so don't wait too long to pick up his key RC's.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Player Focus: Vladimir Guerrero

Vladimir Guerrero has quickly become the core of this LA Angels team. The Angels are 9-9 overall this season. With Guerrero they're 9-6; without 0-3. He's battting .400 (1st in MLB) with 5 HR (T4 in AL) and 16 RBI (T3 in AL). There's been so much attention on ARod & Bonds, with their countdowns to their respective milestones (& ARod's season HR count), that a lot of other high achieving players have fallen off of collectors' radars.
Guerrero, as long he stays healthy, will be a member of the 500 HR club within 5 years and 3000 hits club within 7. This .325 career BA slugger is a future HOF'er and only has TWO MLB RC's: 1995 Bowman ($40 BV) & Bowman's Best ($60 BV) (with a refractor parallel-$300 BV). He also has a red hot minor league card from 95 in his SP Top Prospects Auto ($250 BV). All of these cards can be had for under BV. Over the past month, his Bowman has been selling for an average price (incl s&h) of $22.94, and Bowman's Best for $45.96. I saw one of his SP T.P. Auto's sell for $174.49 earlier this month. If you look hard enough, you can probably still find his Bowman for under $20, and his Bowman's Best in the $30 something range. These are investments worth making!
NBA Playoffs - Potential Impact Players in the West

We've just seen an exciting wave of 1st round game 1's this weekend, and here are a few players that I think could make an impact for their respective teams' successes, which could possibly affect their RC demand.
  • Linas Kleiza (DEN, 05-06 RC) - Kleiza showed potential throughout the year, and really stepped up his game toward the end of the season. He provides benefits at both ends of the court, with solid rebounding and a three-point threat. I like his SPA Limited Rookies #'d 100 ($25 BV) and Exquisite Coll Auto/Patch #'d 225 ($80 BV). You can still pick these up for low % of BV prices (if you can find them).
  • Nene (DEN, 02-03 RC) - Nene has struggled with various challenges since his RC year, but he looks to be in top shape going into the playoffs. His scoring & rebounding are good complements to support the Melo-AI offense & Camby defense. In game 1, he posted 13 pts & 12 boards (8 offensive). His SPA Auto #'d 1500 ($15 BV) and SPX Auto/Jsy #'d 999 ($25 BV) are relative good buys.
  • Baron Davis (GS, 99-00 RC) - The Warriors pulled off one of the greatest upsets in this series of game 1's, beating the top seeded Mavs. This was largely possible because of Baron Davis, who posted 33 pts, 14 rebounds & 8 assists. His RC's have been depressed for a long time, and now have a chance to rebound. His best RC is his SPx Auto #'d 500 ($80 BV). I also like his Skybox Autographics ($40 BV) and E-X E-xplosive Auto #'d 1-99/1999 ($50 BV). If you want an inexpensive auto from his RC year, take a look at his Ultra Fresh Ink (print run to 475) which books at $15.
  • Mickael Pietrus (GS, 03-04 RC) - An x-factor for GS could be Pietrus. This young, dynamic player can shoot the three or take it strong to the hole. Look for him to provide the added support to Davis & Richardson in upcoming games. All of his RC's are bargains, most of the time listed as commons, so I would go after his best ones.
  • Leandro Barbosa (Pho, 03-04 RC) - Barbosa has emerged as the best 6th man in the league. He's arguably the fastest player dribbling in the NBA, and he can score from anywhere. In game 1, he led the Suns' sluggish offense with 26 pts coming off the bench. His RC cards have been creeping up in value each month, but I think they definitely still have room to grow. His only base Auto RC's that show his full signature are his SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 1999 ($30 BV) and Bowman Sig Auto/Jsy #'d 1250 ($20 BV). All of his other base Auto RC's show either his "LB" or LB #10" signature.
  • Luke Walton (LAL, 03-04 RC) - Kobe & Odom are two well-rounded veteran players that can do it all, but a third will be needed if the Lakers want to succeed in the postseason. Walton is the top candidate to be that third. He can score, rebound, dish and he has the BB IQ. Most of the other Lakers are niche players, providing 1 or 2 skills to compliment the stars. I like Walton's SPA Auto #'d 1250 ($25 BV), SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 1999 ($30 BV) and Topps Rookie Photo Shoot Auto (print run of 56) ($80 BV).
  • Maurice Evans (LAL, 04-05) - Mo Evans is another player to watch. During the regular season there were several occasions where he was able to spark the Lakers offense. His RC's are commons, so I'm not sure what sets included him. On eBay, the selection is very sparse at best. Keep an eye out for some of his key RC's to come up on auction.
  • Jason Terry (DAL, 99-00) - The Mavs suffered a great blow yesterday losing game 1 to GS. When Nowitzki & Howard are off their game, Terry has the potential to be the one to step pick up their shooting slack (He's a very decent 3-pt shooter - .438 this season). His best RC is SPx Auto ($20 BV).
  • Rafer Alston (HOU, 99-00 RC) - Yao & T-Mac are great players, but they can't do it all themselves. I've been hoping that Shane Battier would step up to be their supporting star, but he's been a disappointment. Alston, the former NY streetball legend, on the other hand has picked up the slack. In game 1, he posted 9 pts, 11 boards, 8 assists & 2 steals. The only RCs that I found in the Beckett were E-X #'d 3499 ($2.50 BV), Fleer Mystique #'d 2999 ($2.50 BV), UD ($2 BV) and UD Bronze #'d 100 ($6 BV). There may be others not listed.
  • Paul Millsap (UTA, 06-07) - This young F has shown us glimpses of what he's capable of during the regular season, especially when Boozer was injured. If he can come off the bench provide support in the paint on both sides of the court, it would really help out the Jazz's big three (Williams, Boozer & Okur). His RC's have been on the rise. He doesn't have as many Auto's from his RC year as other players do, but the ones he does have are hot sellers. His Fleer Autographics ($15 BV) sold for an average $38.91 in March. The only other set that I've seen containing his autos is SP Sig.
Look for my East player list soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Breaking News: Felix Hernandez Hurt; RC Prices Drop!

As soon as the red hot Felix Hernandez was taken out of his 3rd start yesterday, the prices of his RC's for sale on auction plummeted. His Bowman Chrome Auto RC sold on 4/16 for $227. The two that sold on 4/18 (after he was taken out of the game) and 4/19 sold for $172.50 & $170.50 respectively. That's a 25% drop! Same went for his Bowman's Best Auto RC. On 4/18 (before the game), one sold for $122. Another one sold today for $76.01. A 38% drop!

Such extreme skepticism is very disturbing. It's not like they announced he's out for the season or anything (knock on wood)! He had tightness in his elbow, and would be reevaluated today. Let's hope there's nothing seriously wrong with Felix. I'd like to see him back in action, dazzling AL hitters again soon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

MLB Stat Milestones - Do They Make An Impact on RC Values?

It's very difficult to predict the impact a stat milestone will have on a player's RC values. You'd think it would push their cards up, but look at Rafael Palmeiro; he had 569 HR & 3020 Hits, yet his RC cards never budged (87 Donruss $5, 87 Topps Tiffany $15). Maybe it had something to do with the steroid accusations he faced at the end of his career? Will that mean that Barry Bonds & Sammy Sosa RC cards will also endure a similar stagnant status when they reach their milestones? Greg Maddux, who has 334 Wins & 3179 K's, hasn't received a boost in his RC cards either. His prices have been pretty flat for as long as I can remember.

For those of us still valuing what players achieve over the long haul, here's a list of players who are on the verge of reaching career milestones this season. Next to their name is their milestone, current stat (as of 4/17) and their magic number.
  • Barry Bonds (756 HR) - 737 HR --> 19
  • Sammy Sosa (600 HR) - 591 HR --> 9
  • Ken Griffey Jr. (600 HR) - 563 HR --> 37
  • Frank Thomas (500 HR) - 488 HR --> 12
  • Jim Thome (500 HR) - 474 HR --> 26
  • Alex Rodriguez (500 HR) - 471 HR --> 29
  • Manny Ramirez (500 HR) - 470 HR --> 30
  • Todd Helton (300 HR) - 287 HR --> 13
  • Ivan Rodriguez (300 HR) - 280 HR --> 20
  • Craig Biggio (3000 Hits) - 2944 Hits --> 56
Of these players, the ones that I like as investments are ARod & Manny Ramirez. In addition to reaching this great milestone, both players are still young, they have career BA over .300, and they have a good chance of reaching the 3000 hits mark.

On the broader market, what seems to drive prices up is a player's performance in the shorter term. David Ortiz has hit so many key HR's in the past couple of years, and his RC values have increased to extraordinary heights, even though he probably won't reach 500 HRs in his career. I guess its just all about personal collecting preference.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mid April MLB Outlook

We're now into our 3rd week of the season, and there are some early standouts that have been attracting attention in the hobby. To name a few, there's Alex Rodriguez, who began the season hitting 6 HR's in his first 7 games. Grady Sizemore, in his first 3 games of the season, had 3 HR's (rare for a lead off hitter), and went 6 for 14 (.429 BA). Felix Hernandez, who's the hottest of them all, has gone 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 18 K's through his first 17 IP.

ARod's 1994 SP RC was averaging $54.11 during the 2nd half of March leading up to the start of the season. Through the 1st half of April, it has jumped to $71.57, a +32.3% increase. That doesn't mean you still can't find deals out there though. Selling prices this month have ranged from $51 to $103.99. His SP Die-Cut RC averaged $64.94 in late March, and increased to $78.20 so far in April (a +32% change).

Grady Sizemore's hottest RC issue is his 2000 Bowman Draft Picks Autograph. So far in April, it's averaged $431.18; 172.5% of it's $250 BV! The selling price range has been $384.58 to $489.99.

Felix Hernandez's two hot Auto RC's are his 2004 Bowman Chrome & Bowman's Best. The Chrome averaged $141.69 in late March, then jumped to $175.76 (+24%) after his 1st shutout, and then to $205.65 (+17%) after his 2nd shutout. Expect to pay in the $215-230 range for this card now. His Bowman's Best averaged $50.33 in late March, then jumped to $80.66 (+60%) after his 1st shutout, then to $107.71 (+33.5%) after his 2nd shutout. Expect to pay $110-125 for this card now. One sale of his Chrome X-Fractor Auto RC in late March went for $182. Another sold on 4/12 (one day after his 2nd shutout) for $422.99 (+132%)!

A few other pitchers to keep an eye on are Jake Peavy (2-0, 0.90 ERA, 12 K's in 20 IP), C.C. Sabathia (3-0, 2.14 ERA, 19 K's in 21 IP), and Ian Snell (1-1, 1.80 ERA, 20 K's in 20 IP). These players are still young, and have a chance to reach various career milestones if they stay healthy & consistent.

A few other hitters to watch are Vladimir Guerrero (.364 BA, 3 HR, 12 RBI), Ian Kinsler (.343, 5 HR, 10 RBI) and Elijah Dukes (.171, 2 HR, 2 RBI). I've included the 22 year old Dukes because of his 5-tool potential, and the bet that he's put his personal troubles behind him. We'll see if he can pick up his production as the season moves forward.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Pittsburgh Pirates: Possible Sleeper Team?

The Pirates have been a non-contender for as long as I can remember, with a very unexciting roster of players. Today, they finally have a strong group of young veterans, both in their line-up & rotation. Guys like Freddy Sanchez (last season's NL Batting Champ), Jason Bay (hit 30+ HR in each of his last two seasons), Adam LaRoche (had 32 HR for the Braves last season) and Xavier Nady bolster their offense, while starting pitchers Ian Snell, Zach Duke, Paul Maholm & Tom Gorzelanny have combined so far this season for a not-so-bad 2.93 ERA over 43 IP (through 4/10). Look for their RC cards to heat up on the marketplace. Already Ian Snell's RCs are starting to attract attention, after his 2.08 ERA & 14 K's in his first 13 IP this season.

I doubt they'll be winning the world series this year, but they could be fighting for a top 3 spot in the NL Central.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Still Neglected: Hakim Warrick

I've written about Hakim Warrick and the potential he has a few times now, but he still hasn't caught much hobby love, at least not for his mid-range Auto RC cards. His high end RC's have been selling for for decent $'s. His SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 99 (Exchange card) has sold for around $105-130; well over its $80 BV. Also, in mid March, his SPA Auto/Logo Patch RC #'d 1/1 sold for $478.99.

So far in April (through 4/7), Warrick has averaged 16.5 ppg & 9.3 rpg in 34.3 mpg (vs his season averages of 12.7 ppg & 5.1 rpg in 26.2 mpg). He's been starting since 3/6 and his performance has been increasing along with his playing time. Unfortunately, he plays for a small market team that has the worst record in the league.

His SPA Auto RC #'d 1299 is still a steal. The month to date avg selling price is $9.78, down almost 23% from its March avg, and 29% from its January avg.

His Ultimate Collection Auto RC #'d 250 is also a bargain, averaging $12.20 MTD. That's down 14.4% from its March avg and a whopping 46.7% from its January avg!

Warrick still shows a lot of signs of inexperience on the court, but is just bursting with great athleticism & potential. He still remains one of my top "sleeper" picks for the NBA.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Two More Pitchers to Watch

Two other pitchers made strong season starts yesterday. Ian Snell (Pit, '04 RC), who was one of the pitchers that I've been watching from last season when he went 14-11 with a 4.74 ERA, pitched 6 innings and allowed 4 hits & 2 runs, striking out 11. Even though his ERA wasn't that good last year, he averaged over 8 K's per 9 IP, and showed very strong potential (Also, he did have a winning record for a team that went 67-95 last season). Snell has quite a few RC cards (incl many Auto RC's). They all book for pretty affordable prices still, with his Ultimate Collection Auto RC #'d 75 being one of his best ($40 BV).

The other pitcher is Jake Peavy (SD, '01 RC), who yesterday threw 6 shutout innings, allowing 3 hits & 2 walks, with 6 K's. Peavy came off two strong seasons in '04 (15-6, 2.27 ERA) & '05 (13-7, 2.88 ERA) before hitting a slump in '06 (11-14, 4.09 ERA). He's now looking more like the ace from before, and his key RC's should definitely get a long awaited boost. Even through his slump last season, he has remained a strong strike-out pitcher, averaging close to 9 K's per 9 IP throughout his 5 year pro career. Most of Peavy's RC's are under Topps' brands. His Bowman Chrome RC's are probably his most popular, while Topps Fusion put out his only RC year Auto ($80 BV).

A few others on my watch list from last season are Paul Maholm (Pit), Ricky Nolasco (FLA) & Ervin Santana (LAA). These guys remain quite affordable (unlike young pitchers Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, Francisco Liriano & Felix Hernandez), and I think that they have a lot of potential to grow in value.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Opening Day Ace! All Hail the King!

Today Felix Hernandez gave the M's one heck of an opening day gift: a three hit shutout through 8 innings, and a career-high 12 K's! This was the player that everyone was waiting for last season to emerge.

During the 2nd half of last month (Mar), sales were quite brisk for this two key Auto RC's from 2004: Bowman Chrome & Bowman's Best. His Bowman Chrome averaged $101.92 ($125 BV), and Bowman's Best $51.25 ($60 BV).

Today, while the game was going on, one of his Bowman's Best RCs sold for $71.33! I'm guessing that this is just a preview of the rejuvenated hype that this guy's cards are going to experience, at least in the near term. I'm definitely kicking myself for not picking one of these up a month ago. On 3/19, a Bowman's Best RC sold for $36, almost half of today's sale.

Maybe you can still find a deal on an auction ending late at night or early in the morning, but don't bet on it! Collectors will surely be scooping these up whenever & wherever they're available.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Basketball Market Watch - March

To see what's driving RC prices up or down, I'm comparing March vs February player performance & team performance (monthly record), and then showing how some of their key RCs have performed as a result.
  • Phoenix Suns - Feb 8-5, Mar 10-4
    • Steve Nash - Feb 15.8 ppg & 11.2 apg --> Mar 18.4 ppg & 10.2 apg
      • Topps Chrome RC - Feb $28.94 --> Mar $32.79 = +13.3%
    • The Suns & Nash improved in Mar; so did his key RC sales
    • Leandro Barbosa - Feb 19.3 ppg --> Mar 20.6 ppg
      • Bowman Sig Auto/Jsy #'d 1250 - Feb $15.50 --> Mar $15.63 = +0.9%
      • SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 1999 - Feb $23.80 --> Mar $23.82 = +0.1%
    • Suns & Barbosa improved in Mar; his key RC's were pretty much flat
    • Amare Stoudemire - Feb 28.5 ppg & 13.2 rpg --> Mar 19.6 ppg & 9.6 rpg
      • SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 1999 - Feb $77.88 --> Mar $73.71 = -5.4%
    • Suns improved, Stoudemire didn't; his key RC sales reflected his personal performance drop
  • LA Lakers - Feb 5-7, Mar 5-9
    • Kobe Bryant - Feb 29.7 ppg --> Mar 40.3 ppg
      • Topps Chrome - Feb $154.15 --> Mar $168.49 = +9.3%
      • E-X2000 - Feb $30.77 --> Mar $27.50 = -10.6%
      • Fleer Lucky 13 - Feb $18.03 --> Mar $17.14 = -4.9%
      • Finest - Feb $17.79 --> Mar $18.01 = +1.3%
      • Topps Draft Picks - Feb $106.60 --> Mar $92.53 = -13.2%
    • Lakers did worse, but Kobe was outstanding in Mar; RC sales were mixed
    • Andrew Bynum - Feb 8.7 ppg & 7.1 rpg in 28.8 mpg --> Mar 5.4 ppg & 4.7 rpg in 20.2 mpg
      • SPA Auto #'d 1299 - Feb $38.48 --> Mar $32.42 = -15.8%
      • SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 1499 - Feb $42.25 --> Mar $39.08 = -7.5%
    • Lakers did worse & Bynum's production dropped as a result of less playing time (Kwame returned from injury); his RCs also dropped
  • Utah Jazz - Feb 8-2, Mar 9-6
    • Deron Williams - Feb 18 ppg & 11 apg --> Mar 15.7 ppg & 9.9 apg
      • SPA Auto #'d 1299 - Feb $35.45 --> Mar $33.79 = -4.7%
      • SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 750 - Feb $50.58 --> Mar $47.23 = -6.6%
    • Jazz did worse in Mar & so did Williams; his RC's refected this drop in performance
  • Denver Nuggets - Feb 6-7, Mar 7-8
    • Carmelo Anthony - Feb 28.5 ppg & 6.7 rpg --> Mar 24.9 ppg & 5.8 rpg
      • Bowman Sig Auto/Jsy #'d 1170 - Feb $79.29 --> Mar $62.02 = -21.8%
      • SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 750 - Feb $151.54 --> Mar $170.10 = +12.2%
    • Nuggets were about the same in Mar & Melo dropped in performance; his key RC's were mixed
  • Orlando Magic - Feb 4-9, Mar 6-8
    • Dwight Howard - Feb 22.8 ppg & 12.5 rpg --> Mar 15.4 ppg & 11.9 rpg
      • SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 750 - Feb $143.17 --> Mar $123.38 = -13.8%
    • Magic improved slightly in Mar, but Howard's stats dropped; his SPx RC also fell
  • Washington Wizards - Feb 4-7, Mar 7-8
    • Gilbert Arenas - Feb 26.5 ppg --> Mar 28.9 ppg (2nd best month this season)
      • Ultimate Coll #'d 750 - Feb $27.70 --> Mar $25.13 = -9.3%
      • SPA Auto #'d 1525 - Feb $112.88 --> Mar $113.80 = +0.8%
      • UD Inspirations Auto #'d 1149 - Feb $33.24 --> Mar $33.06 = -0.5%
    • Wizards improved in Mar & so did Arenas, but his RC's were either falling or flat
  • Milwaukee Bucks - Feb 2-3 with Redd (1-9 without), Mar 4-9
    • Michael Redd - Feb 24.8 ppg --> Mar 25.1 ppg
      • E-X Auto #'d 1-500/1500 - Feb $29.23 --> Mar $33.11 = +13.3%
      • Fleer Autographics Auto - Feb $11.21 --> Mar $11.71 = +4.4%
    • Bucks improved in Mar & Redd was consistent as usual; his 2 key RC year autos increased as usual also