Is Alex Rodriguez about to join some other familiar names in the collector’s black hole?
There was a time roughly ten years ago when the 1985 Topps Olympic Mark McGwire, widely considered his ‘rookie card’, was the hottest modern era item on the planet.If you didn’t own one before the single-season home run chase was the biggest baseball story going, you weren’t getting one cheap. Everyone wanted at least one, even those who were more fan than collector.
Ditto Sammy Sosa. The ’90 Leaf flew past the $30 mark, broke the $50 barrier and headed higher before his Cubs career went down in flames. Now, a $20 bill will get you a couple of nice ones–and enough change to buy as many Clemens and Palmeiro rookies as you like. People still buy them–if they’re cheap enough–maybe hoping the steroid scandal will become a distant memory in the distant future. The one difference between those tarnished careers and Alex Rodriguez is that ARod is still playing. So what now?
Rodriguez never topped the list of high dollar modern era rookie cards or autographs, but he was most certainly on it. Near the top in New York when the Yankees were hot. Big time dealers bought signed ARob balls for $175 to $200 and sold them for $250-300. Not anymore. At least not now.
An autographed Rodriguez baseball signed "a Yankee for Life" sold for $122.50 on eBay Wednesday. Still shocking to those who don’t collect. Eye-opening for those who don’t.
It will take a few more apologies and some major heroics to elevate his career above the guys lumped in, fairly or not, as steroid users. But the apology issued Tuesday and the fact that Rodriguez still has a chance to let his play to the talking could mean a much less severe hit over the long haul. His 1994 Upper Deck SP rookie cards were still selling in the $150-200 range on eBay Tuesday, even after the steroid story came out. Overall, though, demand isn’t likely to surpass supply anytime soon.
"There’s no doubt there will be a dip in value for his cards," said Robert Stemen of Sports Card Stop, who has bought and sold rookie cards for a number of years. "But, if everything in the wash comes out and he truly only took steroids for the three years he is claiming then I think sales will bounce back. I think it will take years and additional broken records from ARod to get his card value back up to what it was but i think it will happen. As long as nothing else comes out."
Rodriguez signed a contract with the Yankees that calls for him to autograph memorabilia associated with the milestones he’s expected to reach while in pinstripes. The deal, worth $30 million, is tied to specific home run marks, including a $6 million payout for signing memorabilia related to 660, 714 and 755 home runs. It also calls for a signing if and when Rodriguez breaks Barry Bonds’ career home run record of 762. Rodriguez currently stands at 553 homers. That unique arrangement won’t be affected by the steroid admission, but those signed items could be a tough sell if the Yankees don’t win and public opinion moves even further against the perennial All-Star.
Art Whitkes, who owns New York-based Grandstand Sports, told the New York Daily News he normally sells about four dozen Rodriguez signed balls per month.
"If A-Rod has a great start [to the season], maybe his stuff will begin to recoup some of its value, but a lot of damage has been done…just think, there are still over 100 names on that list," Whitkes said.
"Forget? No. At least, not for a long time," said Stemen. "Forgive? Yes. I personally collect ARod rookies and some of his rare cards and although I am shocked at the news. I do believe most of his story. I do feel he is taking an honest approach to this, answering all the questions he can and trying to start getting past it. I think a lot of people will be skeptical and say he’s lying to save his career but again, as long as this is it, I think those three years will start fading and people will forget."
Related: Track Alex Rodriguez prices on eBay