Collecting Baseball Cards – Collecting MLB’s 2019 Hall of Fame Class

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NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 10: Topps' baseball cards from the 2016 season are on display during the "Open Topps Baseball Series 1 Cards " event at the Topps' offices on February 10, 2016 in New York City. (Kris Connor/Getty Images)

Collecting baseball cards is a hobby nearly as old as the game itself. Collectors differ from casual fans and hobbyists to serious, dedicated collectors. Regardless of which group one falls into, the announcement of a new Hall of Fame class traditional shifts the market of cards for a little while.

In the short term, there will be a bump as evidenced with Harold Baines‘ and Lee Smith‘s rookie cards whose announcement to the Hall of Fame came before the BBWAA’s picks. Many collectors rush to buy the cards in the lead up or shortly after the announcement, causing the remaining cards to be priced higher. By the time of the following year’s announcement, the previous year’s inductees cards are usually back to their pre-induction values as the market corrects itself. Prices given are from completed eBay sales (a noted hobby practice) and compared with COMC.com.

Collecting Baseball Cards – Collecting MLB’s 2019 Hall of Fame Class

Harold Baines

One of the more debated inductees in recent years, Baines was inducted into the Hall via the Today’s Game Era Committee. Baines spent two years on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot following his retirement before falling off of the ballot. The six-time All-Star, as well as a silver slugger award winner, will likely go in wearing a Chicago White Sox cap. His number has been retired by the White Sox and is a member of the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame.

A rookie of the 1981 season, Baines’ first cards carry more of a premium than a player whose rookie year was in the late 1980s and early 1990s period of overproduction. Baines’ Topps 1981 #347 rookie card can be had for only $2 or $3. Baines’ Fleer 1981 #346 rookie card can be found a little cheaper for only $1 or $2. Memorabilia cards containing game used jersey and bat relics can be had for $3-$6 and also feature Baines on either the White Sox or Orioles. Most autograph issues are in the range of $10-$15 and feature him on either the White Sox or Orioles.

Lee Smith

Another Today’s Game Era Committee inductee, Smith garnered 100% of the vote from the committee. Smith spent his entire 15-year career spread across several MLB clubs. Smith hopes to and will likely go in as a Chicago Cub, where he spent his first seven years, but the final decision is made by the Hall itself. A seven-time All-Star, Smith also led the league in saves four times and finished his career with 478 saves, a record that has since been broken.

Another rookie of the early 1980s, Smith’s cards carry a slight premium over their later counterparts. Smith’s Topps 1982 #452 rookie card can be had for under $2. Smith’s Fleer 1982 #603 rookie card is the most expensive of the group and can be found for little more at around $3. Smith’s Donruss 1982 #252 can be had for around $2. Most autograph issues are around $20 and feature him on either the Cubs or more commonly the St. Louis Cardinals. Memorabilia cards containing game used jersey and bat relics can be had for under $10 but almost exclusively feature Smith with the Cardinals.

Roy Halladay

Halladay has a number of accolades to his name, being named an eight-time All-Star, winning two Cy Young awards, pitching a perfect game, and twice leading the league in wins. Halladay has already had a fair share of recognition with his number being retired by the Toronto Blue Jays. He is also on the Philadelphia Phillies Wall of Fame and is a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. In his 16-year career, he only played for those two aforementioned teams. Halladay’s cards have the highest likelihood of price increase due to his untimely death in 2017. 

In 1989, Topps resurrected the Bowman brand and gave the set a rookie and prospect heavy checklist. Since the 1990s, and particularly today, a player’s Bowman rookie card is likely one of the most expensive cards. Bowman has a series of “parallels,” cards which have slight physical variations and different print runs. 1997 Bowman base set #308 is one of the sets more valuable often going for the higher end of the $5-$10 range. The 1997 #212 Bowman Chrome has been going for double that, $15-$20 again closer to the higher end. 1997 Bowman Best’s Best #134 is the cheapest, going for around $5.

For a player of his stature, Halladay has few autograph offerings. With rare exceptions, autographs from either team start at $30. Memorabilia cards, on the other hand, are plentiful and can easily be had for $5.

Edgar Martinez

Seattle Mariners legend, seven-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, and the eponymous designated hitter award are just a few of Martinez’s career accolades. Martinez spent his entire 18-year career with Seattle from 1987-2004.

Martinez’s career from 1987-89 was spent alternating between the minor and major leagues. For this reason, Fleer was the only company to issue a 1988 rookie card in their flagship set. However, he was included in a rookie specific 1988 Donruss set and not included on any Topps products at all in 1988. 1988 Fleer and Donruss rookie cards can both be had for under $2. Memorabilia collectors have a myriad of options available at under $5. Autographs can easily be had for around $20.

Mike Mussina

Known as the Moose, Mussina spent 19 seasons in MLB split between the Orioles and the New York Yankees. Mussina pitched several near-perfect games but never successfully finished a complete perfect game. His 82.9 WAR puts him 23rd all-time among pitchers. Mussina was a five-time All-Star with the Orioles and would split his seven Gold Gloves between his tenures with Baltimore and New York.

Mussina’s 1991 Score and Upper Deck rookie cards can be had for under $1, while his 1991 Bowman #97 can be had for under $2. Memorabilia cards from both teams can be had for under $5. Autograph cards are more limited and can be had for around $30 with exceptions.

Mariano Rivera

Receiving 100% of the vote,  Rivera’s story needs no introduction. Long feared as one of baseball’s most dominant closers, Rivera spent his 17 seasons in pinstripes playing for the Yankees. Rivera sports an MLB record 652 saves as well as over 1,100 strikeouts and a career WHIP of a flat 1.00. Rivera is also a 13-time All-Star and has five World Series rings to his name, along with a long list of other accolades.

Rivera’s 1992 #302 Bowman rookie card is already recognized as one of the hobby’s most iconic to emerge from that era. It is also his only true rookie card offering. This card goes for well north of $40 while graded versions can go for ten times that amount. Memorabilia cards can be had for under $10. Autograph cards are fairly scarce and usually command $100 and up.

Totals

A rookie card from every inductee would cost: $52

A memorabilia card from every inductee: $35

An autograph from every inductee: $210

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