In the baseball card business, big money often goes to unproven prospects simply because of their seemingly boundless potential. However, collectors often overlook the players who have already proven their worth over a long career and have already entered the Hall of Fame. These are players who will never be forgotten by baseball. They have finished their careers already, so there is no possible decline in performance to worry about.
The best bargains for Hall of Famers tend to be for players who played a long time ago but are still alive and well. These players tend to have a large number of autographs on the market, and still have the potential to sign more.
So I scoured Check Out My Cards for low-priced (mostly under $10) Hall of Fame autographs and bought nine of them. Here they are ranked according to “Cost per All-Star Years” (C/ASY). That is, I divided the price I paid for the card by the number of seasons the player was an All-Star. It should be noted that when I calculate the C/ASY numbers, I use the lowest price I can find for an authenticated autograph. It is a crude metric for how much of a bargain the card was.
- Frank Robinson ($0.70 C/ASY)
- Harmon Killebrew ($0.74 C/ASY)
- Red Schoendienst ($0.90 C/ASY)
- Catfish Hunter ($1.16 C/ASY)
- Bobby Doerr ($1.36 C/ASY)
- Orlando Cepeda ($1.38 C/ASY)
- Rollie Fingers ($1.41 C/ASY)
- Gaylord Perry ($1.81 C/ASY)
- Bob Feller ($1.92 C/ASY)
These players’ autographs are all good bargains at less than $2 C/ASY. However, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, and Red Schoendienst stand out as great deals at less than $1 C/ASY. Compare that with some of the more popular Hall of Famers like Nolan Ryan ($9.41 C/ASY), George Brett ($9.65 C/ASY), and Rickey Henderson ($5.63 C/ASY). For some even more crazy numbers, compared with some of the hyped players at the time I made these purchases. In December 2014, these players had some of the most expensive autographs: Mike Trout ($70.15 C/ASY), Bryce Harper ($92.63 C/ASY), and Yasiel Puig ($309.20 C/ASY).
It goes to show that if you’re an autograph collector and the autographs you want are too expensive, it often pays to wait out the hype.