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Rookie Card Prospectors Looking for Next Big Thing

Collectors hunt bargains at the National Sports Collectors Convention, hoping to get in on who’s hot–or more importantly, who’s going to be hot.

Dealers of current issue sports cards have plenty of competition at the 30th National show in Cleveland.

Dozens of booths offer the latest unopened products and autographed rookie cards pulled fresh from boxes and cases. It’s where you can see them up close, without being forced to actually make the financial commitment.

So what seems to be hot as the National heads into the weekend? Philadelphia area dealer Joe Romano, set up in the middle of the convention floor has seen plenty of bargain hunters, a product of the recession that’s had collectors keeping their eyes on their wallets.

"It’s been mostly mid-to-low end baseball and football rookies. Hockey too. It’s been a pretty good early show," Romano told Sports Collectors Daily. "Everyone likes to see the high-end stuff but it’s not what they’re buying right now, at least in baseball."

With most of the higher-end 2009 football card products yet to hit store shelves, baseball continues to carry the day. The most popular targets for fans of today’s cards are Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw, with collectors and other dealers hoping they’re getting in on the ground floor of Hall of Fame type careers. With other talented youngsters on the horizon, others are looking to take a gamble on those players before they hit the big leagues.

"A lot of people are still prospecting," Romano said. "They’re grabbing minor leaguers who might be coming up later in the year." Many of those players are found in Bowman issues. "Anything Bowman is really good. Bowman Chrome, Bowman Sterling."

Many football card prospectors are awaiting the high dollar boxes, while others are buying Upper Deck Exquisite and SP.

For Romano, the football market is being driven by last year’s sensations including Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte and Matt Ryan. The trick now is to analyze this year’s draft. "Everyone is asking ‘who’s going to be the next running back star in the NFL. Everyone is speculating on who’s going to be big."

Romano uses the National as much for its big crowds of sellers as he does for bringing his wares to buyers. If he can buy at a margin that nets him even 20% profit on eBay, he’s happy. "Absolutely. The more you pick up, the more you make."

Like a stock broker, though, the trick, is having a finger literally on top of the market virtually every day.

"I always have my iPhone in my pocket and I’m constantly checking eBay to see what stuff is going for."


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For more on the opening of the 2009 National Sports Collectors Convention, read the Editor’s Blog.

Rookie cards on eBay

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