In January 2014, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Clayton Kershaw to a contract extension valued at $215 million over seven seasons. It’s beginning to look like a bargain and Kershaw’s best baseball cards purchased early in his pro career are too.
For Dodgers fans of past and present the inevitable comparison to Sandy Koufax has been made.
On the final day of the 2015 season, Kershaw joined Koufax as the only Dodger pitchers to record 300 or more strikeouts in a single season.
Koufax, who between 1961-’66 was one of the best pitchers the game would ever see, only earned $35,000 in 1963 when he won both the NL Cy Young and MVP awards according to the Bill James Historical Abstract. Even adjusted for inflation, Koufax’ salary that year only amounted to $266,582.19 in 2013 dollars according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In terms of an investment by the Dodgers – one of baseball’s richest franchises – the risk of signing a pitcher long term is always there. They need look no further than their great rival – the Giants – for pitching contracts gone awry. However, with the Dodgers needing to stay competitive to draw ratings to a new TV deal it was clear they needed to keep Kershaw in the mix for years to come. Kershaw is well regarded for his charity – Kershaw’s Challenge – and was the recipient of the 2013 Branch Rickey Award. He’s a public relations gift from the heavens.
In terms of the value of Clayton Kershaw baseball cards, it has always been difficult for pitchers to amass what some call ‘hobby love’. In fact, the back-to-back Cy Young awards by Tim Lincecum in 2008-’09 and the aforementioned Verlander’s masterful 2011 MVP winning campaign did not result in massive hobby gains.
Projecting pitcher statistics has become increasingly difficult as the prevalence of bullpens has resulted in fewer decisions awarded to starting pitchers over the past two decades. If Kershaw pitches at least ten more seasons, stays healthy, and the Dodgers offense does its part – then Kershaw has a chance to reach the 300 win club. A World Series title would also impact Kershaw’s value in positive manner.
Kershaw first appeared on the 2005 Upper Deck USA Baseball set when he was a member of the national team and while his ‘official’ rookie cards are dated 2008 when he first appeared in the major leagues, the most desirable of all Kershaw cards is his 2006 Bowman Chrome issue. Available in several parallel versions of varying scarcity, the orange (# to 25) has skyrocketed. The blue refractor, numbered to 150, is now $1,000 and up depending on grade.
Kershaw now has an odd looking autograph that resembles hieroglyphics with dominant angular letters; one that is a little different than what you see on those early issues.
Of course, you don’t have to spend thousands on a Kershaw rookie card. Non-autographed base cards can still be had for just a few bucks, but for the long haul, buying the best you can afford is usually good advice. His ‘official’ rookie cards are actually from 2008 when he made his MLB debut and among those, the 2008 Bowman Sterling Kershaw may be your best bet. The Sterling card seems to be the most difficult to locate in high grade.
Like all popular players of the era, Kershaw has a large quantity and variety of memorabilia and autograph cards. With Sandy Koufax joining the roster of stars signing cards for Topps, Koufax and Kershaw have appeared on a few autograph cards together, that have become increasingly popular as the two careers have paralleled. If Kershaw lives up to the big contract those dual autographs could be very valuable.
Below is a list of the hottest Kershaw cards currently on eBay.