He may not be quite the hitting machine he was a few years ago, but even at age 38, Ichiro Suzuki still handles a bat better than most big leaguers. His shocking, sudden trade to the Yankees on Monday had fans talking--and collectors buying and selling in expectation of a possible price increase in Ichiro rookie cards, autographs and other items.
In the first several hours after the trade, more than 50 Ichiro rookie card lots sold on eBay. Just about everything was moving--from his autograph cards to ungraded singles offered up for a couple bucks.
Those cards date from 2001, when he left Japan for a big money deal with the Seattle Mariners. Playing in the relative, late-night anonymity with an often woeful club didn't do much for his hobby stature while he piled up the hits and some collectors are no doubt expecting a bump in price if he can play a big role in a Yankees' post-season run.
In recent weeks, copies of his 2001 SPx jersey patch autograph card, numbered to 15, sold for $1,495 and $926, respectively (assuming the eBay sales were completed). A 2001 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection signed rookie card, # to 50, is currently offered at $2,650.
Suzuki doesn't have a lot of certified autograph cards; just 149 according to Beckett. With low supply and increasing demand, prices could be heading upward, but it will largely depend upon his impact.
Fleer and Donruss were still making licensed baseball card products during his debut, which means a lengthy list of base cards from a wide variety of issues are on his checklist.
With 2,533 hits already stashed away prior to Monday's trade, Ichiro figures to be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Three years ago, as he put the wraps on a run of ten straight 200-hit seasons, we asked whether Ichiro rookie cards might be undervalued. The question is still fair today--but maybe not for much longer.