by Shane Elsberry
While it is probably not as likely to cause a noticeable spike in values as it once did, being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame is still the ultimate career milestone and can provide a boost in a player's card prices. There are about a dozen players who will likely be enshrined over the next several years. Some high end cards of certain players, like Greg Maddux, often go for a premium on eBay and at card shows, but you can still collect several without breaking the bank now before they get in. Our criteria here is that we're not covering the players with the suspicion of steroid use likely keeping them out of the Hall, at least for now (Clemens, Sosa, Palmeiro, Bonds, McGwire, etc.).
1) Craig Biggio
Biggio might be the one player among the current crop of future HOFers who built his Cooperstown resume the most quietly and anonymously. Without eclipsing the 3,000 hit plateau, he would probably be a borderline candidate, which might explain why his cards remain the least expensive among the future crop of enshrinees. Biggio's 1989 Upper Deck RC has gone for as low as $1.49 (shipping included). A 2007 UD Masterpieces “Captured on Canvas” jersey card actually sold cheaper than the rookie at $1.27 (shipping included). Even a Biggio auto is relatively inexpensive, with a 2004 Leaf Limited Monikers 13/25 going for $20.
2) Jim Thome
To put the era in which Thome has played (and is still playing) in perspective, consider this: Thome has smashed 609 career home runs (and counting) and led his league in that category a grand total of once (47 in 2003 with the Phillies). As with Biggio's career hit total, Thome's homer total is probably the one stat that will get him into Cooperstown. Thome came up just as it became difficult to establish what was, and is, a “true” rookie card, so for our purposes, we went with a 1992 Fleer Ultra that just went for a mere 64 cents! Thome's bat relic cards, like this this 2001 Fleer Authority are often $1-4. A 2003 Fleer All-Star Lineup /260 auto was only $17.66 ($20.16 with shipping). Once again, for less than $25 you can get a rookie, relic, and auto of a surefire Hall of Famer.
One of what might likely prove to be the last wave of 300-game winners among starting pitchers, Glavine is far and away the most affordable of the current group of future Cooperstown-bound hurlers. A 1988 Fleer Glavine rookie card often sells for $1-2. A 2002 Upper Deck “Game Worn Gems” jersey relic card went for $1.50 at auction. A 2007 Upper Deck Artifacts 2/25 auto also moved cheaply, selling for $18. Yet another example of $20 going a long way in grabbing a nice trio of cards from a future Hall of Famer.
Despite a very impressive Cooperstown resume (512 HR, .301 career BA, 2-time AL MVP), timing might work against The Big Hurt in getting in on the first ballot. Two more surefire first year picks, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, will also be on the ballot for the first time. Since he might be a second ballot Hall of Famer, now would be a great time to load up on Thomas cards. Start with a 1990 Score rookie card, which went for the low, low price of 47 cents on May 26! A 2001 Upper Deck SP Authentic jersey card was only $1.50 with shipping. A 1996 Leaf Signature jumbo (5x7) on card auto would have only set you back $17.50. For less than $20, you could own 3 key Thomas cards before he is enshrined.
While Pedro's stats don't quite measure up to another pitcher eligible for Cooperstown for the first time in 2015 (Randy Johnson), his Hall resume will likely mean he gets in with Johnson in their inaugural year on the ballot. A third pitcher and another likely Hall inductee, John Smoltz, will also be eligible for the first time in '15, but I don't look for him to go in on the first ballot. Martinez rookie cards also appeared during the overproduction era and can be found for $1-2. For a relic, a 2010 Upper Deck Game Jersey went for $1.25 on June 10. A 1996 Leaf Signature Bronze Auto is also affordable at the moment, going for $22.90 (with shipping) on May 29.
Are these great investments? Not likely, but it's possible values will rise on some of the relics and especially the autographed cards once the Hall calls these guys. At worst, you'll have a nice little collection of some of the best players of the 1990s who take their place along side the all-time greats. Click here to see some of their cards.