Strasburg Rookie Cards Get Jolt from Pitcher’s Return

So a ligament from his thigh is now in his elbow…who cares?  It’s Stephen Strasburg and he’s ready to get back on a big league mound. At least that’s the opinion of many baseball card prospectors.  One year and a couple of days after undergoing surgery to fix a major arm injury, the  hobby’s most talked about player of 2010 is scheduled to make his first start of the year tonight.  For collectors of current era cards–and fans in general–it’s exciting stuff.

After a handful of minor league starts, the pitching wunderkind made a splashy debut last season before blowing out his elbow on August 21.  He’d gone 5-3 with a 2.91 earned run average and helped fill the Nationals Park in Washington.  A 14-strikeout performance was enough to convince many that he had the goods to live up to his sizable billing.

The operation that put a ligament from his thigh into his arm on Sept. 3, 2010 was a success.  Rehab went great.  His six minor league starts late this summer went off without a hitch, a four-team escapade that has brought him back into focus.   Strasburg is scheduled pitch against the Dodgers on Tuesday, but there’s a good chance of rain. If the weather misses with his routine, it’s likely Strasburg’s 2011 debut will be pushed back. Once he does take the hill, he’ll be on a strict pitch count and likely won’t pitch more than five or six innings per start.

Stephen Strasburg autographed 2010 Bowman PlatinumHis return has also sparked a revival in his baseball cards.  Strasburg rookie cards never bottomed out.  But with an uncertain future, a lot of speculators stayed away.  Lately, though, the positive reports have pushed sales higher.

In the last week to ten days, several Strasburg rookie and prospect cards have sold for $475 and up on eBay.  A BGS 10 Bowman Prospects autograph card drew 40 bids and sold for $1474.99.  His #661 card from the 2010 Topps Million Card Giveaway, graded 9.5, sold Friday for $549.  A Bowman Platinum rookie auto, one of ten, sold for $510 while a 1 of 9 2010 Topps Triple Threads Auto Relic Gold, brought a winning bid of $505.

Stephen Strasburg Triple Threads Gold AutoStrasburg gained national attention after dominating hitters while at San Diego State, setting an Aztecs record with a 23 strikeout performance one afternoon.   He also pitched for Team USA in the 2008 Olympics and that’s when his first baseball cards hit the market.  While not ‘true’ rookie cards according to current definitions, the 2008 Upper Deck Team USA Strasburg autos are still very popular with collectors.

Topps fed the Strasburg hype throughout 2010 as he rocketed through the minor leagues following the draft.  He showed up in virtually every Topps set after June, and a 2010 Bowman Superfractor, a one-of-one, generated national media attention when it sold twice; once for just over $16,000 and later for $21,403.  Not all of the attention was positive, but his cards and the attention surrounding them pushed sales forward for Topps in a difficult economic environment.   Hundreds of Strasburg cards were issued in various 2010 products, but those bearing the official ‘rookie card’ emblem are small in number.  Do collectors care?  Not really.  The quality of the card, limited quantities, popularity of the product and, of course, grade, play larger roles.

Topps also marked autographed Strasburg products last season.

He’ll have only a month to prove he’s capable of returning to his old form.  Collectors and speculators will likely have to wait another six months to see him at full strength again, but it may be enough to push Strasburg rookie cards back into the forefront.