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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Player Focus: Erik Bedard

Last season, Erik Bedard had career bests in wins (15), ERA (3.76) and K's (171). His first 5 games this season weren't so memorable; 3-2 record with a 6.11 ERA. Through his next 6 starts, he had 5 ND's & 1 loss. During this winless streak though, he turned his pitching around and was quite impressive (unfortunate that his record couldn't reflect it). Through those 6 games, he had an ERA of 2.70 (2.12 for his 5 May starts) with 52 K's in 40 IP (11.7 K's/9 IP).

Bedard finally got his 4th win last night vs. the Royals. He went 8 innings, allowing 4 hits, 0 runs and had 5 K's. Guess he needs to shut out the opposing team to get a W!

He only has 2 base RC's: 01 Bowman Draft Picks & 01 Donruss Class of 2001 #'d 625. There aren't many listed on auction, but you can readily find his BDP RC for around $3 to $5 TAC. His Donruss RC is much more elusive, with none currently listed on ebay. Many sellers will try to pass off some of his 02 cards as RC cards, but they are not. Especially his 02 Bowman Draft SOTF Auto. It's probably his 1st MLB licensed auto card (and not a bad card to have), but it's not his RC.

I don't think that his BDP RC will appreciate in value that much because of it's lack of scarcity, but if you can find his Donruss Class of 2001 RC at a good price, it might be a nice investment to make.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Follow Up: Lebron James

Right after my last post about how Lebron James wasn't living up the the hype, he goes & scores 32 pts with 9 rebounds & 9 assists, to lead the Cavs to 88-82 game 3 victory. Was this game an exception, or did it just take two loses to bring his heart back into the game? Whatever it is, I hope he keeps it up. It would be a fitting chapter in his storied young career to go to the NBA Finals just after 3 shorts years as a pro. There's also the added bonus of having a new team in the finals to battle on behalf of the Eastern Conf. I'm not a Jazz or Cavs fan, but I think that these two teams would make a fun finals to watch. It would represent a sort of changing of the guard, with Lebron, Deron Williams & Carlos Boozer exciting the fans.
Player Focus: Ken Griffey Jr.'s Comeback; King Felix's Return

Back in the mid 90's, when I restarted collecting cards, Ken Griffey Jr. was the hottest player in the hobby, and his 89 Upper Deck RC was a must have for everyone's collection. I remember finding a store that had mint ungraded versions for $55, and I was so thrilled to pick one up and get it slabbed by PSA (it got a 9).

Over the next decade, he spent a lot of time on the DL, and his hobby status fell off the chart (along with Frank Thomas, who was also in the "top 3" at that time). You can now find his UD RC for less than $20 TAC. A very sad sight to see! In April he only had 1 HR, and had a BA of .254. In May though, he has stepped it up, hitting 10 HR and batting .313 (through 5/27). I would love to see him continue this pace, and hopefully his key RC's will be able to regain some of their previous glory. Griffey was the 6th fastest player to reach 500 HR back in 04, and is a definite future HOFer. I think that at these prices, his RC's are a steal.

Felix Hernandez made his return on 5/15 as planned, and in his 3 starts since, he's gone 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA and allowed 22 hits; a far cry from his first 2 outings in April before his injury when he went 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA & allowed only 4 hits. I'm sure no one expected him to come back & perform exactly where he left off. It'll take a little while to get back into the swing of things. A couple positives for his return are:
  • He still hasn't allowed a HR
  • He hasn't forgotten how to strike out batters; he's actually increased his K's/9IP from 9.53 in his first two outings to 12.21 in his last 3
Since his return, sales for his two key Auto RC's have been quite scarce. I think collectors are holding on to them until he makes a full comeback and boosts prices back up to where they were in April. I saw a Bowman Chrome Auto sell for a TAC of $128 on 5/21 (it peaked out at $220+ right before his injury), and two Bowman's Best Auto RC's sell on 5/19 & 5/26 for $81 & $93 respectively (peaked out at $120+ before his injury). I think that he'll regain his dominant form within the next month or so, and prices will be back on the rise before we know it. In the meantime, I'll be keeping my eye out for some deals to snag!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Breaking News: Upper Deck buying Topps?

By now, everyone has heard about the $385 million ($9.75 a share) offer that the Michael Eisner-led group made to buy The Topps Company. Yesterday it was announced that Upper Deck made a $424 million ($10.75 a share) bid for Topps.

So far, 3 of the 10 Topps board members have opposed the Eisner bid. One member said that it undervalued the company. Topps said that some of the issues that they have with Upper Deck's bid include "financing commitments, a due-diligence review and what Topps said was Upper Deck's insistence on limiting its liability if antitrust regulators don't approve the proposed acquisition." (Source: The Wall Street Journal, 5/25/07).

Can you imagine one huge card company controlling all NBA brands, and nearly all MLB & NFL brands? Personally I think that even if Topps' board approves this sweeter offer, regulators will shoot the deal down. I'm guessing that the two companies together produce over 95% of the cards out there. Especially with Fleer already being absorbed into the Upper Deck family, how could this be allowed? Talk about lack of competition! Upon receiving the news, investors pushed Topps' stock up to a $10.26 close yesterday.

In addition to anti-trust regulators, Major League Baseball must also approve the deal.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

King James Who?

I have to say that with all the hype & expectation of Lebron James, his performance during this Eastern Conf Finals with Detroit has been a little disappointing. In the first game he decides not to take the final shot for the win, and instead dishes to Donyell Marshall to shoot the three. Marshall is an ok 3-pt shooter, but come on! Marshall is averaging 3.8 ppg in 8.5 mpg during these playoffs. That was Lebron's shot to take.

Lebron is only averaging 14.5 ppg this series, opposed to 27.8 ppg vs the offense-only Wizards & 24.7 ppg vs the Nets. Does that mean that when he finally plays against a good defensive team he can't deliver? When I've watched some of his games, I don't feel the same intensity that I do when watching guys like Kobe, Dwayne wade or Steve Nash. I don't doubt that he has the talent & potential, but maybe at this time, he doesn't deserve to be at the top of the hobby value list. I'm sure there are a lot of people out there that don't agree with that, but to me a superstar leaves everything out on the floor, win or lose. That's why my perception of Dirk Nowitzki dropped, after his no-show performance in the GS series.

I'm hoping that Lebron can capture that champion's fire, and that he can become the player that everyone is expecting him to be. At 22 years old, he's got some time. For now though, I would expect that a lot of his key RC's will drop in value (especially since he has SO MANY Auto, GU, & low #'d RC's out there!), creating some investment opportunities for the future.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Phoenix Suns Knocked Out of Playoffs

I was very disappointed to see the Suns ousted by the Spurs. The Suns' great offense & so-so defense couldn't stand up to the Spurs' well-oiled machine. Here's a look at the activity for Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire & Leandro Barbosa's key RC cards.
  • Steve Nash - His Topps Chrome RC (his best base RC) had been increasing in average TAC every month, going from $28.94 in Feb, to $32.79 in Mar, to $36.88 in Apr and to $40.22 in May (thru 5/17, the day before their elimination). That's a 39% gain in roughly 2 1/2 months! His Topps Draft Redemption RC averaged $44.40 in Apr and jumped to $55 in May (up till elimination). Without the MVP award or championship, I wonder if his cards will hold their current high values till next season. I'm guessing that they will come down some, creating opportunities for buyers in the coming months.
  • Amare Stoudemire - His SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 1999 has been a steady seller for around $70 to $77 from Jan to elimination. The next sale that I saw after their exit was for $58; a drop of roughly 20%. This could be a sign of buyers' deals to come. His SPA Auto RC #'d 1500, Bowman Sig Auto/Jsy #'d 999 & Finest Auto RC #'d 999 have been selling in the $45 to $55 range over the past month. Expect these to also come down in price.
  • Leandro Barbosa - His SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 1999 averaged around $23.80 through Feb & Mar, then jumped to $30.11 in Apr (+26%). In May, during the playoffs, demand seemed to drop off, with TAC averaging $24.50, an 18.7% decrease. This is probably due to his drop in production as the playoffs progressed. Sellers must be holding onto these cards now because I've only seen 2 listed since elimination. His Bowman Sig Auto/Jsy #'d 1250 (his only other base RC with full sig) jumped in avg TAC from $15.63 in Mar to $21.92 in Apr (+40%). Then in May, it saw a modest 10% increase to $24.17. Like his SPx RC, there haven't been many listed since elimination (one to be exact, available on auction). He still has a bright future, so take advantage of market softness when it comes.
I'm afraid that we're going have a boring championship series with the Spurs & Pistons. Neither team has players with much hobby interest, so collectors/investors will probably spend the time looking for deals on the players who are already on their long vacations.
NY Yankees: ARod & Jeter

Alex Rodriguez seems to getting his groove back, hitting 3 HR in his last 3 games. His SP RC's are still at depressed price levels, with an average TAC of around $55 to $60. Even after his slump he still leads the MLB in both HR & RBI. Just less than a month ago these same cards were going for $90 to $100+ (the highest sale that I saw was on 4/26 for $140!). His SP Die Cut RC has already started to pick up in demand, averaging around $80 to $90 (although there are still deals out there if you watch the auctions closely). I wouldn't be surprised if both of these cards rebounded back up to the $120+ range if ARod gets back on track.

Yankee teammate Derek Jeter has been hot at the plate, with a BA of .365 (2nd in the AL only to fellow NYY Jorge Posada, who's hitting .374). Jeter's 93 SP RC has been slowly dropping in TAC since March. It's averaging around $45 for the month of May ($40 avg in the past week). Being that Jeter is the Yankees' captain (and heart & soul), I think that his card values are pretty closely tied to the Yankees' success as a team. If they can turn their season around, look for his key RC's to start creeping up as well.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Peavy RC Year Auto Update

That 01 Topps Fusion Jake Peavy Auto that I mentioned in a previous posting that was at $144.38 with 8 hours left finally sold for a whopping $205.50! Currently there are two listed on auction; one that ends in 3 days with a BIN or Best Offer at $247.44, and one with a fixed price of $203.00 (all incl s&h). Just amazing how this card caught fire in just a week or so, jumping in TAC (total acquisition cost) by well over 200%!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Utah Jazz Advance to Conf Title Game

The Jazz, as a team, outplayed the Warriors. They had better ball movement, and killed GS on the offensive boards. GS's 3-pt shooting strategy is great when they're on, but sinks them when they're off. Two players with hobby potential that really contributed to the Jazz's win were Carlos Boozer & Paul Millsap.

Boozer had hobby love at the beginning of the season, but lost it when he got injured and had a hard time regaining it since. With his strong performance in the playoffs I expect him to receive more interest. He was pretty dominant in the paint, averaging 24.2 ppg & 14 rpg for the series (improving on his 20.9 ppg & 11.7 rpg for the season). His SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 1999 increased in average selling price (incl s&h) from $18.90 in April to $25.03 so far in May (+32.5%). If the Jazz can continue their success against the Spurs or Suns (which would be a surprise to me), expect his cards to stay on the rise.

I've been talking about young Millsap for the past few months. Excellent rebounder, and decent scorer in the paint. His coaches say that he works hard and listens, showing that he has the potential to keep improving. Although he only plays around 18 mpg, he puts up quality stats, especially with his offensive boards which result in second chance points. He doesn't have as many auto RC's as other 06-07 classmates, making those that he does have that much more attractive. Currently his Bowman Sterling Auto has become quite popular on auction. Expect to pay between $12 to $20 (incl s&h) for this one. There is also a Gold version #'d 219. This one will cost you over $20. So far, the Bowman Sterling is only Millsap base auto RC that I've seen. There is also the parallel Ovation Auto #'d 99. All others are inserts.

Of course we can't forget the most clutch player on the team, Derek Fisher. I didn't include him because I don't think that his hobby potential is very high. The only time his cards were hot was when he helped the Lakers advance in the playoffs a few years back. If you would like to pick up his 96-97 Topps Chrome RC for your personal collection, you can find it for just a few bucks.
Pitchers Spotlight

Here are some the 25 years or younger pitchers that I've been keeping tabs on:
  • Tom Gorzelanny (PIT, 03 RC) - In 8 starts, he is 5-2 with an impressive 2.36 ERA & 34 K's in 53.1 IP. Gorzelanny has been one of the bright spots for the slumping Pirates so far. His 03 UD Prospect Premieres Auto & Bowman Heritage Auto have been hot sellers, averaging $24 & $16 respectively (although you can definitely find both of these for less with the right timing). As the Pirates' hitters start to finally do their thing, look for their key pitchers to push them to some W's.
  • Ian Snell (PIT, 04 RC) - I think that Snell is the best pitcher the Pirates have right now. If he can keep consistent, he can be quite effective. In 8 starts, he is 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA & 43 K's in 53 IP. I like his 04 SP Authentic Auto #'d 999 or 195 and his Ultimate Collection Auto #'d 75. You can probably find his SPA Auto for around $20, but expect to pay close to $55-60 for the Ultimate Coll Auto.
  • Jake Peavy (SD, 01 RC) - Peavy has been the most dominant pitcher in the majors. He's 5-1 with a 1.52 ERA and 66 K's (MLB lead) in 53.1 IP. His best base RC, 01 Bowman Chrome Ref, has been selling for over $50 in the past month, but has eased some and can now be found in the $40-50 range. A lot of collectors assumed that he didn't have any RC year autos, but as soon as they found out he had ONE, there was a mad frenzy! I'm talking about the elusive 01 Topps Fusion Auto. Pre-discovery (on 4/24) one sold for $67.44. Post-discovery (5/16) one auction is currently at $144.38 (incl s&h), with 8+ hours to go! These are the only two that I've seen on auction recently
  • Oliver Perez (NYM, 02 RC) - Perez has struggled through his first 4 years in the majors, but has shown some bright signs along the way, which the Mets obviously saw when they decided to pick him up last season. In his first 7 starts this year, he's 4-3 with a 3.00 ERA & 43 K's in 42 IP. He has 2 key base Auto RC's from 02, which are SPx Auto #'d 825 & Ultimate Coll Auto #'d 550. Since both are pretty fairly priced, go for the more limited Ultimate Coll, which can typically be found in the mid to high $20's range.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Player Focus: Kobe Bryant & Tyrus Thomas

This post is in response to a comment left by a fellow collector. First I'd like to say congrats on your great Bowman Sig Barbosa buy. That's a terrific price for that card.

Regarding Kobe, I think that his cards are very good investments. Even though his Lakers are out of the playoffs, and not at the same level as the Suns & Spurs (for now), he is still the best player in the game. Over the past 15 years there have been several players who have been dubbed the "heir apparent" (i.e. Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, etc...), but Kobe has emerged as the clear choice. He's got the work ethic, leadership skills, and of course, the talent. All the Lakers need now are a few more years of experience (for their younger players) and a decent point guard. Because Kobe has 3 autograph eras ("Kobe Bryant", "Kobe 8" & "Kobe"), the most coveted is his full signature, which was only featured in the 96 Press Pass set. It'll probably set you back between $200 to $300, but it is by far his rarest sig variation (a BGS 9 just sold on 5/6 for $276.50, incl s&h). I personally don't own any of his full sig autos, but sure wish I did! His Topps Chrome RC has dropped in price by 20% this month, averaging around $136. His 2nd & 3rd best RC's, his E-X2000 & Finest, moved up in price, averaging around $31 & $23.50 respectively (all prices that I write about include s&h costs).

I haven't been following Tyrus Thomas as much as other players, but I do think that he obviously has potential. I read a few articles that compared him to LaMarcus Aldridge during the regular season. Even though Aldridge got more playing time, Thomas is getting world of experience right now in the playoffs, that Aldridge is not. I think that he has a great opportunity to grow with fellow youngsters like Luol Deng & Ben Gordon, and learn from veterans like Ben Wallace, who have been there and won it all. I didn't like the statement that he made right before the dunk contest though, about how he's it it to win the money. Guess that could just be youth & inexperience talking. To answer your question, yes, I do think that all 3 of these players that you mentioned are good investments, as long as you pay the right prices for them.

Good luck with your collecting, and thanks for the comments!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Felix Hernandez Update

As of 5/6, Felix Hernandez's return is expected to come on 5/15 vs the Angels in SEA. I expect that his two key Auto RC's will start picking up steam soon. His Bowman Chrome Auto RC is currently selling in the $130's to $140's, and his Bowman's Best Auto RC in the $50's to $60's range; a long ways off from their highs of $200+ & $100+ respectively, back in mid April, before his injury.

Felix is young, and should bounce back pretty quickly. Pick up his RC's now, since they'll probably pick up steam again when he's back on the mound next week!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Golden State Warriors...Wow!

It was a spectacular thing to watch the Warriors dismantle the Mavs in game 6 last night. The main factor that gave them the edge to win was heart. With Baron Davis playing injured (and playing quite well), Stephen Jackson raining down the threes (7 for 8 to be exact), Matt Barnes (also playing injured) being aggresive at both ends of the court, and Andris Biedrins grabbing boards & scoring in the paint (and hitting 4 of 6 free throws, with his funky shooting form). The whole team played with hearts of winners, while the Mavs, especially their superstar Dirk Nowitzki (only scored 8 pts on 2 for 13 shooting), seemed to almost accept their losing fate earlier on. I think that Nowitzki set the overall tone for the team with his downer attitude. Don't expect to see his cards moving up any time soon, even if he does win the reg season MVP.

Already there is renewed interest in Baron Davis' key RC cards. I'd be surprised if other guys in this line-up don't experience the same. There's a nice 00-01 SP Game Floor Auto/Floor card #'d to 200 of Stephen Jackson on auction right now. It ends on 5/7, and the bid is at $18 (incl s&h).

As an investment though, I would only pick the guys that I think could have hobby appeal, which are Baron Davis, Jason Richardson & Mickael Pietrus. I could be wrong, but I just don't see the others, even if they play terrifically, hitting it big with collectors (kind of like most of the Detroit Pistons players).

One young player that I mentioned about in a previous post is the young Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap (06-07 RC). This kid is really looking good. While at Louisiana Tech, he led the nation in rebounding three straight years (Freshman through Junior year). There was some concern about him being too short to compete in the NBA as a Power Forward, but I think that he's proven the doubters to be wrong. He has also shown that he can score too. Look for him to emerge in coming years as a star for this newly reborn Jazz team. Millsap doesn't have as many RC year Autos, as a lot of players do, so expect the ones that he does have to be hot items.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

MLB April Wrap-Up

With April now behind us, let's take a look at how some of the players faired on the card market.
  • Alex Rodriguez (1994 RC) - ARod's SP RC has been a hot seller since the beginning of the season, when he began his HR onslaught. It peaked around 4/26, a few days after he hit his 14th HR. Since then, ARod has hit a small HR drought, and his SP RC has been slowly dropping in price. Below are some average selling prices so far this season:
    • 3/10 to 4/1 - $56.33
    • 4/2 to 4/26 - $83.68 (+48.5%)
    • 4/27 to 4/30 - $74.68 (-10.8%)
  • Vladimir Guerrero (1995) - Vlady has had a great start this season. He's batting .366 with 7 HR & 23 RBI. Surprisingly his Bowman's Best RC card went south on the market, despite his strong production. It averaged $51.70 in March, then dropped to $45.94 in April (-11.1%).
  • Jake Peavy (2001) - Peavy has been an impressive pitcher from day one in the majors. Now that he's getting more consistent, his RC cards are starting to pick up the steam that they once had a few years ago. His Bowman Chrome Ref RC has been a strong seller, averaging around $52 in April. I saw one of his Topps Fusion Autos (the only RC year auto he has) sell for $67.44 about a week ago. Definitely a card worth investing in.
  • David Wright (2001 & 2002) - Unfortunately Wright hasn't been able to pick up where he left off last season. Despite having a 14 game hitting streak, which began on game 1, he's hitting a disappointing .244, with 0 HR & 6 RBI. His RC card prices have been a reflection of his level of play. Below is a comparison of average selling prices from March to April:
    • 01 UD Prospect Premieres XRC - $25.53 --> $21.77 (-14.7%)
    • 02 Bowman Chrome Auto RC - $419 --> $357 (-14.8%)
  • Ryan Howard (2001 & 2003) - Basically the same story as David Wright; a disappointing April, and falling RC prices to show for it. See March to April comps below:
    • 01 UD Prospect Premieres XRC - $33.33 --> $29.33 (-12%)
    • 03 Bowman Chrome Draft RC - $50.51 --> $40.66 (-19.5%)
    • 03 Bowman's Best Auto RC - $580.83 --> $473.87 (-18.4%)
  • Felix Pie (2003) - Pie made his long awaited MLB debut in April for the Cubs. He's only batting .233, but it seems like collectors are keeping in mind the upside potential of this 22 y.o. centerfielder, more than his current stats. His Bowman's Best Auto RC has averaged in the mid $80's, and his Bowman Heritage SOG Auto has been right around $30.
  • Felix Hernandez (2004) - Felix was the hottest pitcher in the majors, with his back to back shutouts, then nearly fell off the radar when he went onto the 15-day DL. As of 4/28, his status showed that his elbow is recovering well, and that he was able to throw a 35-pitch bullpen session. Below is a chronological pricing average for his Bowman Chrome Auto & Bowman's Best Auto RCs.
    • Mid March to 4/1 - BC $101.92, BB $51.25
    • 4/2 to 4/10 (after 1st shutout) - BC $175.76 (+72.4%), BB $80.66 (+57.4%)
    • 4/11 to 4/18 (after 2nd shutout) - BC $205.65 (+17%), BB $110.73 (+37.3%)
    • 4/18 to 4/30 (after injury) - BC $156.42 (-24%), BB $76.70 (-30.7%)
Now might be a good time to pick up some of these guys' RC cards, while prices have temporarily cooled. A good price for ARod's SP RC would be in the $70's to $80's (Although the first one sold today on 5/1 that I saw went for $105.50; his SP RC has one of the widest selling price ranges of any cards that I track!). For Hernandez's Chrome & Bowman's Best Autos, $120's & $50's respectively. For Vlady's Bowman's Best RC, high $30's to low $40's. And for Howard's Chrome & Bowman's Best Auto, $30's & $300's respectively.

More to come!