Super Bowl Can Create Hobby Superstars

by Eamonn Donlyn

The Super Bowl. No sense in recapping the history, we all know what it’s about. It’s the most watched event in American television, and the mark of popularity can easily be measured by the cost of advertising in the big game, as it has reached the $4 million mark this year. Yes, four…. million dollars, for thirty seconds.

Of course the hobby market is abuzz, as certain players skyrocket to stardom in this annual ritual, with the heroes of each conference having led their teams to the promised-land. Just two weeks ago, it was almost a sure thing to expect Tom Brady OR Peyton Manning to be heading to the big game, right?

But Joe Flacco out-dueled both Super star QB’s (and overcame the Vegas doubters) to cement his place on the AFC mantle with the Ravens. Flacco’s 2008 rookie cards are  all over the place when it comes to sales.  Many of his high end RC’s land in the $300-$1,000 range, with a few above $2,000 currently.   Others can be had for well under $100.

In the NFC, Colin Kaepernick has taken the league and hobby by storm over the past month or two, and is the hottest card on the market as his 49ers head to New Orleans.

Colin Kaepernick National TreasuresKaepernick went from backup to late season revelation in record time and now his 2011 rookie cards are about the hottest thing going.   His ’11 Topps Inception RC Auto Patch 1/1 was listed with a starting bid of $21,999.99 after the NFC Championship game (hey, it doesn’t hurt toss it out there I suppose).    However, you can still buy a # to 499 signed relic card for less than $80, which isn’t bad if he becomes the Super Bowl MVP.   For sellers, it means you can now move even a base rookie card for a few bucks where in August it probably sat in a box.

As a collector, in some ways the new blood is quite refreshing, despite some of the price tags. Only so many articles can be written about Manning’s and Brady’s SP Authentic rookie cards, respectively.

As everyone scrambles to capitalize on the big game in the hobby, the theme is quite clear beyond Kaepernick, and Joe Flacco is the poster boy. The best word might be unassuming, as it doesn’t appear the card world is ready to embrace him just yet.

Flacco hasn’t been the star of his own offense (Ray Rice has been the catalyst), much less the star of his team over the last couple years. Although Ray Lewis RC’s have been highly sought since he announced this season as his ‘swan song’, defensive players struggle to lead the hobby even at Lewis’ level. From Rice to Flacco, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith on offense, no one screams out as a superstar in collectors minds. A victory in Super Bowl XLVII, and possibly a superstar performance is needed for any of them to garner true national interest long term.

For the 49ers, it is a similar story behind Kaepernick. Patrick Willis is the leader of the team, and Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and even Randy Moss aren’t on the tip of anyone’s tongue when you mention the hottest cards available prior to the NFC Championship. Even the more scarce Jim Harbaugh’s cards fetch decent money at times and rival his players’ cards in popularity!

At the end of a players career it is tough to move the needle to much on card value, but if Ray Lewis or Randy Moss are able to have a major impact in the game and take home the title, their stock will be even stronger as they head toward retirement.

Quietly, two young running backs are worth buying in the 2 weeks leading up to the Super Bowl if found at a good value, Baltimore’s Bernard Pierce and the 49ers LaMichael James. As the 2nd tier ball carriers, they have both shown enough promise to warrant serious carries next season, and are worth investments in the long term even if they don’t play major roles on Super Bowl Sunday. If they do play well, their costs will be exorbitant immediately.

Looking back, there has been a superstar level quarterback in every title game since Super Bowl XXXVII, when Tampa Bay defeated Oakland with Brad Johnson and Rich Gannon as the signal callers. That game was dominated by the Buccaneers defense, with no real offensive superstars coming forward, and this year could end up being similar. But it has the potential to be as shootout as well.

There is a subtle tentative vibe in the collecting world, that more is riding on this game than usual for all the players involved. With so many good players, whomever can make the big plays on offense will rise to that next level in collectors minds, as Kaepernick already has. But if the defense steals the show like Tampa Bay did in 2003, the hobby market could diffuse quite quickly for many players on both teams. The Super Bowl can always swing on a big play here or there, it just seems like this year that even the hobby market is waiting to swing right with it.