If this were the fall of 1991 Topps Stadium Club Football and you were opening freshly minted boxes of cards and pulled a somewhat obscure second round quarterback, you probably would have been a little disappointed.
Where was Dan McGwire? No Chris Zorich? For the love of Al Davis, give me a Todd Marinovich! This dude on the Atlanta Falcons — what’s his name — Fav-ray? He just seems like kind of a screw off but here he is with a football card.
Oh, but if you had resisted the urge to immediately dump them to an unsuspecting Falcons fan or sell off the boxes full of draft disappointments, you would have been rewarded as the last decade of the 20th century played out.
Brett Favre was traded to Green Bay and became a Hall of Famer.
These days, the rip it and flip it mentality is alive and well. If there’s a buck to be made on a card you pull from a pack, many people are willing to part with just about anything. Sometimes, if an unheralded player suddenly gets hot, it’s the right call. Much of the time, though, it’s better to hold. Let others be engulfed by FOMO (fear of missing out).
Sports are full of guys who didn’t become really big until a couple of years into their pro careers and rewarded collectors’ patience. Back in 2013, Giannis was not a hot commodity. Neither was Steph Curry just after the 2009 draft. Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter, Jan Vesely, Brandon Knight, Tristan Thompson, Jimmer Fredette and Alec Burks were all drafted in front of Kawhi Leonard. If you gave up on the 2011 draft too early, you missed some nice profits.
It’s the nature of every draft. Some top picks won’t pan out. Some lower picks will become stars. The makeup of one year’s “best rookies” can change quickly.
The fortunes of unopened boxes can rise and fall, too. Collectors love to rip. The lure of serial-numbered cards and rookie autographs is real. But as more of the hobby’s better products are opened, the fewer cases and unripped boxes remain — and when player performance dictates an increase in interest, demand for those boxes goes up.
Often, boxes that were once seen as dead come back to life. As long as you’re not in desperate need of cash, it makes no sense to sell a product at or slightly above cost if there’s still hope that it could find its footing in a year or two.
During the 2019-20 NBA season, early rips of National Treasures Basketball put a crimp on prices — even with the attraction of Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and the rest of the much heralded rookie class members whose cards could be found inside. After a while though, with a new season starting with a rookie class that wasn’t nearly as ballyhooed, Zion’s biggest 1/1 card still undiscovered and a crushing demand for unopened, those prices have gone up.
Being patient is boring. Sometimes boring is good.