by William Lloyd
Albert Pujols began his career with little attention. Passed over by every team several times in the 1999 MLB Draft, he was eventually picked in the 13th round by the St. Louis Cardinals with the 402nd pick. Considering what’s happened since, he might be one of the greatest draft steals of all-time and his rookie cards the first of the new millennium to score big.
He began the 2001 season on the Cardinals’ roster and from the start, had little trouble adjusting to major league pitching. Now 10 seasons into his big-league career, Pujols has an astonishing .331 career batting average with 408 home runs.
He continues to pile up a list of records and achievements that look like the front of a Cooperstown plaque: Rookie of the Year Award, nine All-Star appearances, three MVP awards, two gold gloves, a Roberto Clemente Award, and a World Series Championship with the Cardinals in 2006.
The most impressive thing about Pujols' game is that of consistency. Each year since entering the big leagues, he has hit at least 30 homers, had at least 100 RBI, and achieved at least a .300 average. If Pujols continues to play at his current pace, he will break many storied MLB records. With all the success, this once looked-over community college baseball player has become one of the most prominent athletes of all-time.
The Cardinals recently opened contract talks with Pujols, a potential free agent who is likely to command one of the largest deals ever.
Pujols’ most sought after baseball cards have been driving the market for much of the last ten years. 2011 marks a bit of a milestone since it’s the tenth anniversary of his cardboard debut.
Pujols' rookie cards remain a magnet for collectors and investors. Because of his quick rise through the minors, many of the major card companies did not originally include Pujols' rookie cards in their 2001 sets. While many hyped minor league stars would have scores of different cards produced, the little known Pujols was almost an afterthought. A hot start sent the designers and presses into motion and in 2001, there were more than 40 different first-year Pujols cards on the market by late winter.
Many Pujols rookie cards were produced to go along with updates to the companies' 2001 regular sets, such as the 2001 Topps Traded #247. The complete Topps traded set from 2001 will cost around $150-175. Graded rookie cards vary greatly in price with heavy premiums for gem mint type grades. A BGS 9.5 Bowman Pujols sold recently on eBay for $201. A PSA 10 Upper Deck rookie went for nearly the same price.
By far, though, the autographed rookie cards of Albert Pujols get the most collector attention. The 2001 Bowman Chrome Auto #340 is probably the most famous Pujols rookie. This card is numbered to 500, so while it is very pricey, it is somewhat attainable. Mint, graded autographed Pujols Bowman rookie cards sell for several thousand dollars. A PSA 10 2001 Fleer Platinum sold recently for $5000.
Other autographed Pujols rookies include SPX #206 which is numbered to 1500 (recent sales included a BGS 9.5 at $1700), SP Authentic, Leaf Rookies and Stars and others.
While novice collectors may not know which Pujols to buy, the simple answer might be...any of them. Even brands no longer in production still attract bidders if the cards are high grade.
As Pujols continues to put up big numbers, the prices of his cards should continue to rise. Pujols continues to be a fan favorite driving more collectors into the market, even those who don’t normally “invest” in baseball cards.
Pujols, just now entering his 30s, has many productive seasons ahead and could be one of the greatest ballplayers ever to play the game by the time his career is over. Pujols has also been able to stay away from much of the steroid rumors that have tainted players like Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez.
His consistency, athletic ability, character, and accomplishments have made Pujols rookie cards one of the few shining examples of modern era product that seem to stand the test of time.