It's been more than 20 years since we saw the first Derek Jeter baseball card. A confluence of factors relating to the player--and the man--make his rookie cards nothing to sneeze at.
When it comes to talking about the most popular baseball players of all time, certain names always come into the conversation for card collectors. For many who watched him in his prime, Mickey Mantle remains the gold standard--especially for Yankee fans. Even today, Mantle cards command higher prices than virtually all post-World War II players.
Baseball cards are more common these days, with more issues available and collectors owning various elite rookie cards. Still, there is one athlete who came onto the scene just before the explosion of high dollar one-of-one rookie cards. Derek Jeter is that player and he's following in the Yankee tradition of popularity for both the public and the card collecting community.
Jeter holds a special place for many card collectors and they haven't been shy about investing in his cards. His situation has been one of the last "perfect storms" for collectors. Since his first mainstream cards showed up in 1993, just before the expanson of brands, there remain relative few quality Jeter rookie cards on the market and most all are attainable. There is no ultra high-end Jeter rookie autograph patch card or series of 'parallels' to confuse collectors and fans who don't know the hobby very well. He has a few different cards that are widely considered rookies, most issued before his first big league game and before the decrees that an 'official' rookie card couldn't be designated until a player reached the major leagues. Collectors. ultimately, determine a player's most desirable early cards anyway.
Jeter's popularity is enhanced by the fact that he has played his entire career in New York and will play his last game for the Yankees in late September of 2014. His career is untainted by scandal and he carries the same type of princely persona of a Joe DiMaggio, though not quite as mysterious.
As the captain of a Yankee team that has claimed numerous World Series titles, Jeter has established quite a legacy. Some of his best games have come in the postseason and he's been a player that has always risen to the challenge in tough situations. Jeter is the all-time Yankee hits leader, which is no small feat considering some of the great players who have played for that franchise. Likewise, he is the all-time postseason hits leader, securing his place in baseball history. He has even drawn high, uncommon praise from baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
Jeter has also had a couple of signature defensive plays that defined his career, both captured on tape for all time. The dive into the stands that has launched thousands of signed photos and the "flip" to home that remains one of the post-season's most jaw-dropping moments. They reveal the essence of a player who is willing to risk his health to win and plays with an intelligence level most don't possess.
Few players have their history almost cemented while they are still in their prime. It usually takes a few years for us to realize just how great he was. That's not the case for Jeter and it's something that card collectors have been taking note of. He'll be a Hall of Famer in 2020 and his role in Yankee lore puts him among the greatest to ever wear pinstripes. Just like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mantle and so many others, Jeter has staying power. It's one of the reasons why his cards are so valuable, climbing again as the Yankees rose to another World Series title.
The Jeter rookie cards that have proven most popular and rare are the 1993 Upper Deck SP, Stadium Club 'Murphy' and the 1993 Pinnacle Jeter rookie. They represent but a small handful of true Jeter rookie cards. Had he arrived several years later, there would have been dozens from which to choose, including autographed copies likely worth a few thousand dollars. In short, he's still an affordable investment for many collectors.
Overall, Jeter sits high on the list of most popular players for collectors of modern era players and for good reason. His cards are seen as much more a sure-fire investment, both because of his accomplishments on the field, his reputation off of the field, his history of success and the accessability and relative simplicity of his rookie cards.
Click here to see Jeter rookie cards on eBay.