by Lee Richardson
The average fan might take a look at the online price tag and scoff, but collectors are coming to realize that Albert Pujols autographed baseballs, photos, bats and other items might turn out to be a decent investment--and maybe even a bargain in the overall scheme of things. At the very least, you probably won't regret owning something signed by the Cardinals' star, even if he's hit by an asteroid tomorrow.
Pujols has now hit five homers in the last seven games and has 13 for the season. He's in a contract year and despite a decidedly un-Albertlike start to the 2011 season, the last few days may have been the start of his coming out party.
Like there was really any question.
Pujols has been the model of consistency since arriving on the big league scene in rather stunning fashion ten years ago. He's a career .329 hitter--among the best averages of all time. Sunday's second extra-inning walk off homer in as many days gave him 421 for his career. He's also closing in on 2,000 hits. He has the most extra base hits of any player in baseball history through their first 11 seasons. If he can stay healthy, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Pujols will reach 4,000 hits and break the all-time home run record, too.
Unlike many older Hall of Famers, whose autographs may be cheaper, Pujols isn't likely to spend a lot of post-career time doing baseball card shows. There is little motivation for any modern era superstar to spend much time on private signings or autograph appearances when they have made more money than they will ever know what to do with.
Pujols isn't a prolific signer, especially where adults are concerned. That doesn't figure to change.
Still don't think an 8x10 Pujols autographed photo is worth the asking price of less than $250? Don't think a Pujols single-signed baseball is worthy of a few bucks more? The most prolific seller of signed items appears to be SportsMemorabilia.com and a check of the company's website shows 91 different autographed Pujols baseballs, photos, jerseys, bats, gloves and other items and 21 game-used Pujols items, most of which are signed.
Their best seller is the autographed Pujols baseball. The price is $329. However, using their ten percent off online coupon code (AFFX10) brings the price down to under $300. Compared to a signed Derek Jeter ball at $469 or $429 after discount, the ultra-productive Pujols--in his prime--is clearly a better buy. Even Yankee fans would have to agree. The company also offers Pujols signed 2006 World Series baseballs for a few bucks more.
Pujols autographed photos run $249...or $225 with the discount.
Less than five of some of the items remain available, which could indicate that collectors are figuring out that the time to move is now.
You can also give eBay a shot. Consider only items with legitimate certificates of authenticity (see listings below).
The big slugger does sign at the ballpark, but expect a huge crowd around the Cardinals dugout and if you're not a kid, your chances of getting an autograph may be slim. You can also buy a single-signed Pujols baseball through his foundation's website, but it'll cost you more money.
Of course, it's never a good idea to buy a player's autograph based on hype. Plenty of young phenoms have fizzled out after a strong rookie season or steroid-boosted stretch. Many veteran collectors prefer to stick with tried and true Hall of Famers like Mantle and Mays. However, Pujols is now at the stage of his career where he will clearly stand among the game's all-time greats. His flair for the dramatic won't hurt, either. Once his contract situation resolves itself, don't expect any let up as he proceeds through his 30s. The ride should provide more thrills and that Pujols autograph you took a chance on back in 2011 might be looking pretty good.