by Juan Martinez
I knew what Chris Paul looked like as a Clipper years before it actually happened. It was a scenario that I allowed myself to dream up every year; I would pick up the latest game in the NBA 2K franchise and create a Los Angeles Clippers team that wasn’t a total piece of garbage. Prior to Vinny Del Negro taking over as head coach, I would fire Mike Dunleavy (with gleeful joy) every year without fail and rebuild the team with fake trades and free agent signings that would never happen in real life. Earlier in the decade, I would find ways to bring back guys like Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson for comedic value. Then came the Sam Cassell era and somehow Latrell Sprewell came along for the ride. In my version of the Clippers, Elton Brand never stabbed the team in the back and Baron Davis actually cared enough to try. Guys like Dwight Howard, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have all suited up for the Clippers in my fantasy world where the team was run by competent people and it wasn’t owned by The Donald…
But Chris Paul was a constant in my tinkering of the roster. The idea of the evolutionary Isaiah Thomas running a team with Blake Griffin and forming the most dynamic alley-oop duo since Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp seemed like a pipe dream. Until it actually happened.
Chris Paul has only been in Los Angeles for a few weeks, but he has already seen his profile increase exponentially since coming on board with the Clippers. Appearances on Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel will do that to Paul, not to mention the chance to premiere his latest shoe, the Jordan CP3.V, at an avant garde Los Angeles design studio. Coupled this hoopla with the team’s good start and highlight reel plays with Blake, Paul is very well on his way to becoming the latest “big deal” in the city.
Put it this way; when my mom, casual Laker fan that doesn’t pay attention to anybody that isn’t on her team, calls me to ask about Chris Paul, that means that he has already “made it” here in Los Angeles. The only other people my mom has asked me about in the past ten years? Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Manny Ramirez and Pau Gasol right after he got traded. We love our stars, that’s for sure.
But has all this added exposure done wonders for Chris Paul rookie cards?
It should be worth noting that this is not the first time a lot of attention has been paid to Paul’s rookie cards. His inaugural season was highlighted by a Rookie of the Year campaign, even though he was drafted behind Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut and the immortal Marvin Williams. By the time 2005-06 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection hit the market, his Autograph Patch rookie cards were on fire. After a solid second season, Paul’s cards would get another bump during the 2007-08 campaign when he led the New Orleans Hornets to within a game of the Western Conference Finals and finished second in the MVP voting. But injuries and failing to go deeper in the playoffs in the preceding years caused his cards to stagnate. They never dropped off significantly, but he was no longer the darling of the hobby world that he once was (hi, Derrick Rose).
While it’s only been a few weeks into the new NBA season, the potential is there for a third Chris Paul rookie card market surge. Paul is leading a team that not only has the potential to go places in the playoffs, but look good while doing so. In a city that places a premium on winning with style, that can go a long way in bringing in the casual collectors who maybe did not have Paul on their radar previously.
Here are some numbers you might want to check out before making the decision to collect Paul.
Chris Paul rookie cards were selling for an average for $42.72 per card during the 90 day period before the NBA lockout ended on November 25, 2011. This includes the sale of four Exquisite rookies (average sale price: $1,208.56), although two were of the same card, an SP Authentic Rookie Autograph Patch for $349.99, an SPx Rookie Autograph Jersey Spectrum Parallel for $338.99 and a BGS 9.5 Fleer Greats of the Game Rookie Autograph for $212.52. For perspective, I once sold an ungraded version of that Greats of the Game card for $400.00 during the leadoff to his second year.
After the players and the owners reached a tentative agreement and the news of a season starting on Christmas Day was announced, it seemed like interest in NBA cardboard shot up as well. Chris Paul rookie cards were selling for an average of $61.58 from November 26th to December 7th. Now you’re probably wondering why the small sample size. Well, you should probably sit down for this…
On December 8th, there was an agreement in place to send Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a trade that many felt the Lakers had to do to get them back into championship contention, even if it meant giving up Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. On the day when news of the trade made it to every sports news site under the sun, 21 Chris Paul rookie cards sold for an average of $123.21, including an Exquisite rookie that sold for $2000.00 and several hit BINs of SPx and Ultimate rookie autos and Finest and Chrome refractors with the word “Lakers” in the title.
And then David Stern killed the deal because his bitter owners (*cought* Dan Gilbert *cough*) felt like the Lakers got one over on them again he felt the Hornets were not getting enough value in the deal (because the Hornets do not have an owner, the NBA technically owns and runs the team for the time being). In the days leading up to his eventual trade to the Clippers on December 14th, Chris Paul rookie cards crashed back to earth with 32 cards that sold for $26.84, although a BGS 9.5 Ultimate Collection Rookie Autograph sold for $325.00 in that time span.
When the trade to the Clippers finally became official, the average went back up to $73.96 on that day, including several BINs that were hit for the SPx Rookie at $149.99. During the lockout, those same cards could barely crack a hundred dollars.
With the Los Angeles Clippers getting some solid wins under their belt as the season moved into 2012, Paul’s rookie cards have been holding steady at $41.02, but without any Exquisite sales. This could be a sign that people are starting to hold to their Exquisite rookies and other higher-end Chris Paul cards in anticipation of another major rush by collectors in order to cash in. If Paul can maintain a high level play and get into the conversation for MVP, expect plenty of CP3 rookies to pop out of nowhere around Playoff time.
Juan Martinez is a southern California based writer. Follow him on Twitter.