No one’s catching Nolan Ryan anytime soon but any pitcher with over 200 wins and three no-hitters is someone to whom even The Express would tip his cap. It’s been 14 years since Justin Verlander rookie cards first arrived and as he enters some pretty exclusive company en route to the Hall of Fame, it might be time to take a second look at them.
The Verlander File
Drafted second overall by the Detroit Tigers in 2004 out of Old Dominion, the Virginia native was in the big leagues 12 months later, finishing 0-2 with a 7.15 earned run average. A year later, he won 17 games and over the next seven years, he’d win at least 17 in each.
After helping the Tigers to four straight division titles and two pennants while notching his first two no-hitters, he signed with the Houston Astros. winning the ALCS MVP award and then a World Series title in 2017.
With his third no-hitter, he joined a small group of greats who’ve tossed three or more since 1900 (Ryan with 7, Sandy Koufax with four and Bob Feller, Cy Young and 19th century star Larry Corcoran with three).
While his official rookie cards didn’t arrive until 2005, Verlander’s first cardboard dates to Upper Deck’s time as the maker of cards for USA Baseball when the college ace was on the national team. He has signed and unsigned cards in 2003. Most of the autographed versions on the market can be had for under $200 today, even with relatively small serial numbered print runs. Unsigned cards from USA baseball sets in ’03 and ’04 won’t set you back much.
Despite his accomplishments, Verlander’s rookie cards–even the earliest autographs–sell for relatively modest prices. Only two of his cards have ever sold for more than $2,000 on eBay and only 13 have broached the $1,000 mark.
Verlander’s big league debut came at a time when Topps wasn’t the only MLB trading card licensee and he has 46 different cards in 2005. His 2005 Bowman Chrome autograph (#331) is the one that dominates the list of his highest priced cards. While most are under $500, a BGS 9.5 copy of the Blue Refractor parallel netted $1,613 at auction this summer while a Gold parallel numbered to 50 and graded BGS 9 sold for $1,293. In 2011, the 1/1 SuperFractor sold for over $3,000. Of course, grading plays a major role in what collectors have been willing to spend for what many consider the best Justin Verlander rookie card.
His Topps Chrome auto with various parallel versions is another one to consider with Refractor autos pushing past $600. There’s also Red Xfractor numbered to 25 that is worth a look.
You’ll find sticker autographed relic cards inside 2005 Bowman Sterling, with eBay prices currently between $125 and $150.
Verlander’s standard flagship rookie card from the 2005 Topps set should also get a jolt from the third no-hitter. Several ungraded examples sold for $25-$45 on Sunday. The supply is pretty strong so prices shouldn’t explode but it’s a low-cost play with little risk and a nice upside if yours grades well.
Verlander’s Upper Deck rookie cards include the SP Authentic auto (#137) numbered to 185, the signed #239 from Ultimate Collection that’s numbered to just 99 and the Ultimate Signatures (#145) numbered to 125. In July of this year, a PSA 10 copy of the SP Authentic sold for $778.
You’ll also find Verlander cards labeled “rookie card” that were issued during his first full season of 2006 when the current “rookie card rules” went into effect in which a player’s “official rookie cards” are considered those that were issued only after a player had appeared in a big league game.