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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kobe, Lakers Ruin Shaq's Phoenix Debut

With great delight, I had the pleasure of watching the 2nd half of the Lakers-Suns game tonight. With so much hype about Shaq's debut with the Suns (and of course because they were playing the Lakers), the game definitely lived up to expectations. I especially enjoyed when Kobe rejected Shaq, except for the mistaken goal-tending call that resulted. The Lakers are the real deal. When Andrew Bynum returns, they'll have the two 7-footers at the 4 & 5 positions, 6-10 Lamar Odom at the 3, and Kobe & Derek Fisher playing the 1 & 2 positions, respectively. I don't think there's another starting line-up in the league that can match up with them. And with their bench greatly improving, I think that hands down they'll be the team to beat when the playoffs come around.

Kobe has shown us time & time again that he is still the best player in the NBA. When he shoots, it's almost a shock when it doesn't go in (seems like his teammates are surprised too since half of them are already heading down court when the balls released!). I'm glad that Kobe didn't come into the league when most players had way too many rookie-year autos, but if he had one or two it would be nice. You can expect to pay around $145-155 TAC for his 96-97 Topps Chrome RC, and around $20-25 for his 96-97 Finest RC (his top two base rookie cards). As for his 96-97 Topps Draft Redemption insert, people have been dishing out around $65 in the past week.

Odom is finally starting to live up to previous expectations. His card values, much like his play, have remained underwhelming for years. He has 7 double-doubles in his last 10 games, helping the Lakers to a 9-1 record during that time. His 99-00 Skybox Autographics Auto has been selling in the $13-19 TAC range this month, up from around $11 a couple of months ago. He doesn't have any base auto rookies, so inserts will have to do. The most limited is his 99-00 E-X E-Xplosive Auto #'d 99, which is pretty hard to find, but was selling the $30's range back in December.

I was reading an article in the March 2008 Beckett (pgs 6-9) about Kobe signing Upper Deck products and noticed that he's signing his full name again. Wonder what impact that's gonna have on his previous autos? It went from "Kobe Bryant" to "Kobe 8" to "Kobe", and now back to "Kobe Bryant". Maybe the "Kobe 8" will emerge as the most valuable one, especially since the bulk of his early autos have this sig, and he no longer wears number 8. Hard to tell how the market will react.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

MLB '08 Is Right Around the Corner

The MLB off-season feels so short. It seems like I was just reading about the '07 post-season! One potentially big transaction was Seattle picking up pitcher Erik Bedard. Bedard was on his way to a career-best season in '07 before his early exit in late August due to injury. He ended up with a 13-5 record (not bad considering his team finished 69-93), a 3.16 ERA and 221 K's in 182 IP (10.93 K's/9IP). He also tossed a 2-hit shutout against the Rangers on 7/7, with 0 BB's & 15 K's! The big question mark that's been looming over his head is his health, but if he can remain injury-free, you can expect his cards to jump a couple of notches in hobby stature. His 01 Donruss Class of 2001 RC #'d 625 is his only serial #'d rookie card (although many sellers put his 02 cards up on auction, and list them as his "RC" cards). In August, before he got hurt, this card was selling in the $60's range. Thereafter, it's been fluctuating in the $25-32 range, through January. I haven't seen any sell so far this month, but I wouldn't be surprised if it starts to rise again with the prospect of him pitching in a better rotation, and for a better team overall.

Another player on the move that I'm very excited to see is Andruw Jones. Jones signed a 2-year deal with the Dodgers, after spending his first 12 major league seasons with the Braves. It was reported that Jones has put back the 15 lbs that he lost with the hope to regain his strength at the plate (Agent Boras had previously advised him to lose the weight, to make him more attractive as a free agent). Jones is hoping for a longer-term contract extension in L.A. before putting down permanent roots in his new city. In the meantime, he'll be renting a house in Calabasas (a suburb about 45 minutes northwest of Dodger Stadium). Over the past couple of months, Jones' 95 Bowman's Best RC has been selling in the $20-22 range, and his 95 Bowman RC in the $11-13 range. I haven't seen any Bowman's Best sold this month, but his Bowman RC has been averaging $14.62, possibly signaling an increasing level of hobby interest. Despite hitting only 22 HR in '07, we need to remember that he hit 41 & 51 HR in '06 & '05, respectively, and he could do it again for the Dodgers. I believe that Jones has the potential, from a hobby standpoint, to match the values of Vladimir Guerrero's rookie cards, which have been selling for about 50% more on the Bowman's Best, and 100% more on the Bowman.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Player Focus: Tyson Chandler

In his 7th year in the NBA, Tyson Chandler seems to finally be on the verge of fulfilling his potential (and people's expectations). For the first time, he's averaging double digit points, in addition to double digit rebounds (12.2 ppg & 12.3 rpg). His fouls per game have also improved, to 2.89 (previous 3 seasons it's been 3.3, 3.8 & 3.4 fpg), which helps to keep him in the game & defending. Obviously the change in environment has done him good. Playing under fellow previous L.A.-high-school star Byron Scott, and alongside players like Chris Paul have transformed him into a multi-dimensional contributor.

Collectors have definitely taken notice. Chandler's two most popular Auto rookies, his 01-02 SPx Auto/Jsy #'d 250 (x 3 versions) & SP Authentic Auto #'d 1525, have been increasing in value every month this season. His SPx RC averaged $13.26 in November, $16.89 in December and $30.83 (a little too inflated) in January. His SPA RC averaged $8.33 in November, $10.38 in December and $12 in January. His premium 01-02 Ultimate Collecton Auto RC #'d 250 has been a hot seller recently, averaging $50.58 in January.

The Hornets have a bright future, and Chandler's key rookies have room to grow.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

MLB Market Movements
  • 99 Ultimate Victory Josh Beckett RC - During the fourth quarter '07, Beckett's top base rookie was selling in the $25-30 TAC range. Then in January it jumped to an average of $47.65. During the first of week of February, I saw one sell for $39.95. His 00 SPx Auto #'d 1500 also got a boost last month to $76.50, from $63.25 in December.
  • 00 Bowman Grady Sizemore Auto - This card has been slowly sliding in value since the end of the season. It averaged $228.72 in December, and $210.81 in January. Pretty soon, you might be able to find them for $200, or less.
  • 02 Bowman Chrome Draft Cole Hamels RC - It averaged in the low $20's range through August, then experienced a drop, and stayed in the $16-19 range for the next 4 months. Finally, it's edged back up over $20, averaging $22.06 in January, it's highest since June '07.
  • 03 Bowman's Best Ryan Howard Auto RC - After peaking out at an average of $400 in August, this card dropped into a full free-fall. It averaged $261.09 in November, then $247.26 in December and $225.50 in January. Sales seem to be finally leveling off in February, with prices at around $230.
  • 03 Bowman's Best Dan Haren Auto RC - After a great start in '07, Haren's performance started faltering mid-season, and his card values followed. His BB Auto RC peaked in June at around $40, then fell to $35 in July, $27 in August, $23 in September, then bottomed out at $17 in October. It then jumped to $34.99 in November (probably due to trade speculation), and again in December to $36.02, when Haren joined the D-Backs' rotation. The hype then died down pretty quickly, with an average price of $24.35 in January. One sold for $30.01 on 2/7.
  • 05 Bowman Chrome Draft Clay Buchholz RC - This card went from obscurity to hobby standout after Buchholz tossed a no-hitter against the Orioles on 9/1. It averaged $21.25 in that month. Then, at the end of September, he got hurt and missed the rest of the season. His BCD RC dropped by about 50%, to the $11-12 range the next month, and held steady at that price level through January. There hasn't been much change so far in February, with the average sales price at $12.24 through 2/9. Over the past few months, his BCD Refractor has been selling in the $45-55 range, and his BCD X-fractor #'d 250 in the $75-95 range. With Curt Schilling projected to be out most of the season, you can expect Buchholz to get more opportunities on the mound in '08.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Impact of Gasol Trade

With Pau Gasol moving to the Lakers, we can expect some movement in at least a couple of players' hobby stature. In Memphis, Rudy Gay had already begun to emerge as the star there this season, averaging a team-high 19.7 ppg; about 9 ppg more than when he was a rookie last year. He's improved in all of his shooting%'s, and also leads the team in steals (1.48 spg). Gay's 06-07 SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 1199 averaged $33.25 TAC in Jan, up from $28.30 in Dec. His SP Authentic Auto RC #'d 299 experienced an even bigger jump, going from $30.07 in Dec to $41.25 in Jan. If you don't mind spending triple digits, his Exquisite Collection Auto/Patch #'d 99 has been selling for around $300 for the past couple of months. I like his unique Chronology Letter Patch Auto RC #'d 99, which has been selling in the $45-65 range over the past month.

The trade also opens up the opportunity for Darko Milicic to finally get a REAL full-time starting role, with the minutes to go with it. After being drafted in the #2 spot after Lebron James in '03, Milicic has received increasing, but limited time on the floor. In his last two games, where he played 40 & 36 minutes per, he posted 14 pts, 16 reb & 5 blk and 12 pts, 12 reb & 2 blk, respectively. His 03-04 SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 750 has been hovering around $15-17 TAC over the past two months. His SP Authentic Auto RC #'d 500 could be found for around $20. Expect to dish out $300+ for his Exquisite Collection Auto/Patch #'d 99. Hobby attention should start to increase for Milicic's key rookie issues, as he becomes more of a contributor to this young, up-and-coming Grizzlies line-up.

As for Gasol himself, he isn't one of the players that I watch, so I don't know what the market was like for his rookies before the trade. I do know that there aren't too many of his cards on auction, and that, if I'm not mistaken, he doesn't have any rookie-year Auto's. According to Beckett, his book values are very high, but as we all know, that doesn't necessarily reflect the actual market. I'm sure that playing for the Lakers will inherently raise collectors' awareness level of Gasol, which should in turn raise his values. It's just a question of by how much those values will be affected, which should be driven by his performance.

I'm still shocked about Andrew Bynum's values. He goes down with injury and isn't expected to return for 8 weeks, and sales prices of his key rookies skyrocket! So far in February, there doesn't seem to be any slowdown. I saw one of his 05-06 SP Authentic Auto RC's #'d 1299 sell for $103.95 TAC on 2/2 (the highest sale that I saw in Jan was for $79 on 1/17). Just goes to show the high level of confidence collectors have in Bynum's future.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

No Break for Kobe

With the continuously improving Andrew Bynum in the line-up, Kobe Bryant seemed to be on the verge of finally having a chance to take a little breather from carrying the Lakers on his shoulders. Kobe averaged 26.5 ppg & 6.0 rpg in Nov, 26.6 ppg & 6.3 rpg in Dec, and 24.4 ppg & 4.6 rpg in Jan (through 1/13). Since Bynum went down on 1/13, Kobe has kicked his production into overdrive, averaging 34.3 ppg & 7.6 rpg. Unfortunately, the one-man-show doesn't work for the Lakers (they're 4-5 since 1/13), and none of the other players seem to be stepping up.

Kobe's 96-97 Topps Chrome RC averaged $128.05 in Jan, up from $109.46 in Dec. His Finest Bronze RC averaged $17.03 in Jan, slightly up from $16.59 in Dec. His Topps Draft Picks insert experienced a pretty decent lift to $67.14 in Jan, up from $54.42 in Dec.

I guess the Lakers ownership also recognized the lack of support after Bynum went down, so they decided drop some of their excess (I was sad to see Crittenton go) and pick up Memphis' star-center Pau Gasol this past week. I think it was a good move to acquire Gasol, who can slide over to PF when Bynum returns, giving the Lakers a very formidable duo to contend with.

Kobe's values have been pretty depressed for a while, despite his awesome play. There are quite a few deals to be found on auction for his key base rookie cards. One of his most collectible, and hardest to find, rookie-year cards is his 96 SB Auto, which may be the only card out there with his full sig. This card, along with his Topps Chrome Ref & Finest Ref, seem to maintain the highest level of hobby stature out of all of his rookie-year issues.