Now we know what kind of World Series it will be. It will feature the Panda and the Moose.
Other notables will include Captain Underpants, Country Breakfast, Big Game James and the Freak.
It should be quite a show as the San Francisco Giants fight their third World Series battle in five years while the Royals enter the ring for the first time in almost three decades. And that postseason success record has a direct connection to the hobby of sports collecting. Although the players’ personal records certainly fuel a lot of collector’s interest, there is something about the coast-to-coast October viewing of the fight that impacts the demand and supply of baseball cards or memorabilia for any given World Series club.
The Giants have several players who have earned and still carry some hobby buzz thanks to their frequent October appearances. The rookie cards of Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Madison Bumgarner sell well from coast to coast (granted, Posey also has ROY and MVP mojo). And the cardboard of players such as Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence and even Tim Lincecum still surpass most other cards of their rookie years.
But what about the rookie cards of the Kansas City Royals?
I have written here recently regarding the overall growing interest in Royals items and their current status as a bargain compared to most other clubs and/or players. Those things still hold true. However, with their historic run of eight straight postseason wins and their supposed place as the “darling Cinderella” team of the 2014 season, the interest in items bearing the KC logo is certainly increasing. And there is another factor: the Royals are still a very young club. Their starting lineup has only three players who are 30 or older, and the oldest is 32. Three of the starters are 25 or younger. The back-end of their vaunted bullpen, the 7-8-9 inning guys, have an average age of 26.5. When you have a group of guys bursting into the national ring who are this young it does allow for the possibility of Kansas City Royals rookie cards gaining and growing in value. Especially if they stay competitive over the next several years.
Let’s take a look at the starting lineup for the midwest boys in blue (the rookie cards of pitchers are so up and down). If you are new to their bandwagon you will be able to use this as a guide to some of their key cards and, hopefully, gather what you want while they are still a bargain. Those who have been long-term Royals rooters will still benefit from the list, and you may even discover a gem or two that you have overlooked.
Some have already dubbed him the second best catcher in baseball (behind Yadier Molina). Perez was selected to fill in for the injured Matt Wieters as the starter for the American League All-Star team in 2014, which followed his 2013 appearance when he was the catcher for Mariano Rivera in Rivera’s final All-Star Game before retirement. Pretty impressive for a young guy whose rookie cards are from the 2011 season. Those cards were all produced in various Bowman products (Draft, Chrome Draft, Sterling), and therefore a rainbow of parallels can be found of the cards. Among the base rookie cards, however, the Sterling currently lists with the highest value, and it is only $5. This seems to be one of the best bargains among catchers currently on big league 40-man rosters. Even the Sterling Gold Refractor, which is numbered to 50, lists affordably at $30. During the ALCS a 2011 Bowman Chrome Orange Refractor of Perez (#’d 24/25) sold on an eBay auction at $40. The most valuable Salvador Perez rookie cards, though, are in the 2010 Bowman Chrome release with some higher grade, low serial numbered refractors bringing $40 and up.
It seems as if fans have been waiting for this promising slugger to break out for years, but in truth his rookie card is also from the same 2011 campaign as his teammate above. Of course, Hosmer came to the league with considerably more fanfare. This can be seen in that the Gold Glove winning first baseman had seven cards that are deemed as rookie cards from that season.
Hoz has a RC in each of Topps Chrome, Topps Update, Topps Triple Threads, Finest, Bowman Chrome, Topps Tier One, and Bowman Sterling. The Tier One card is serial numbered to 799, and it currently carries a price of around $8. But the real prize is the Triple Threads auto bat relic. Only 99 were fashioned, and they contain both a bat piece and an autograph from the young first sacker.
If you’re into ‘first cards’, however, Hosmer has autographed and regular cards in the 2008 Upper Deck Team USA set.
With a Gold Glove already on his resume, and more to come, not to mention the breaking out on a national stage, this might be the best time ever to obtain Hosmer’s cards.
Omar Infante -Second Base
The first player on this list who does not appear on his rookie card as a Kansas City Royal, the steady second baseman also saw his Rookie Card debut a full decade before the two players already mentioned. Drafted by Central Division rivals, the Detroit Tigers, Omar’s rookie card is the 2001 Bowman Heritage card #175, and though it lists for $3, it can often be found for far below that price.
Alcides Escobar -Shortstop
“Esky,” as he is known in Kansas City, also appears with a team other than the American League champions on his rookie card. Coming to the Kansas City club in the mega-trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Brewers, the flashy shortstop’s rookie cards are from the 2009 season.
In addition to the card products with which rookie cards are usually associated (Topps, Topps Heritage, Finest, Bowman, etc.), the 22-year old rookie also had cards in the UD A Piece of History, Upper Deck Signature Stars and Upper Deck Goudey sets. Although he has usually been thought of as primarily a glove man, the durable shortstop has shown some prowess at the plate hitting .295 in 2012 and .285 in this season. Considering his most expensive rookie base card lists at only $3 and he’s still only 27, Escobar might be a gamble worth taking if value is something a collector seeks. He first appeared in the 2006 Bowman Chrome issue.
Appearing on national cardboard ever since the 2006-07 USA Baseball set, the “Moose” has spent a lot of time on baseball watcher’s radar. Another Royals player with rookie cards from the 2011 season, a half-dozen cards from that year manufactured by Topps bear the RC logo with Moustakas’ picture and stats (Topps Update, Finest, Topps Tier One, Bowman Draft, Bowman Chrome Draft, Bowman Sterling). The Bowman Sterling and Tier One cards are more reasonably priced, but again, the signed and serial numbered 2008 Bowman Chrome cards get the most valuable tag.
Moustakas has had a difficult time at the plate thus far in his big league career, and though he has played a key role in the Royals postseason run, it is unlikely that his cards will rise much in the near future. Of course, he will play next season at only 26 years of age, and so things can certainly change.
Now this KC favorite has a rookie card story that is unique. Gordon was a top prospect in the Kansas City Royals system in 2006, but under MLB Players Association rules, Gordon was not allowed a Rookie Card yet because he was not on the Royals’ 25-man roster. However, a Gordon card was “accidentally” released in the 2006 Topps set, card #297. Eventually four versions of the card were found: a full card, a card with the picture cutout, a blank gold and a blank silver – all of which still pop up on eBay from time to time. The most popular is the full card, which features Gordon’s portrait on the front with full name on front and back. On July 6 of this year, a raw card sold for $113.61 on eBay and on June 9, a PSA 10 sold for $281.66.
He’s got cards in 2006 Bowman Chrome that sell for over $100 as well including this Blue Refractor numbered to 150 that sold two weeks ago for $189.
With several Gold Gloves to his credit so far, and his leadership on a pennant winning club, Gordon’s cards are surely worth having for a Royals fan/collector. However, it seems unlikely that any of his “real” rookie cards from 2007 will ever approach the infamous card just mentioned. Of the 28 rookie cards listed by Beckett’s online price guide, the most expensive rookie card of Gordo is the short-printed, autographed 2007 Upper Deck Future Stars card #159. it currently carries a price guide value of $40. However, during this postseason run, a 2007 Topps Chrome autographed Red Refractor did sell for $71.
Another prize for KC from the Greinke trade with Milwaukee, Cain showed up as a Brewer on 2010 rookie cards from three sets. He has a base rookie card in the Topps Update series from that year, as well as the Bowman Draft and Chrome Draft sets.
Currently, none of those cards will cost over $2, however, if the speedy 28-year-old outfielder continues the play that won him the ALCS MVP award and saw him hit .301 this season, that could change rather quickly. He is a charismatic player with a flair for the dramatic that collectors love. Evidence of that may be found in his earliest appearance on cardboard–the 2006 Bowman Chrome issue. Cain’s Orange Refractors, numbered to 150, have been among the most active movers on eBay, with several changing hands during the Royals’ run at well over $100 each.
Norichika Aoki -Right Field
The 2012 Topps Heritage High Number card of then Milwaukee Brewer Norichika Aoki is the base rookie card of the popular Japanese outfielder that carries the most value at this time, and it is under $3. The card is serial numbered to 1,000, which sets it apart from the other 11 rookie cards of the slap hitting star. In addition to the “usual” sets, Aoki also has rookie cards in the Allen & Ginter set and Panini Prizm baseball product from the 2012 year.
You can see his first cards from U.S. manufacturers in the 2009 Bowman lines.
At age 32 he is unlikely to catch fire in a hobby sense, but for Royals fans he is an integral piece of this magical run.
Billy Butler -DH
The longest tenured member of the Kansas City starting lineup, the man known as Country Breakfast had his rookie card debut in 2005. That season the slugging first baseman turned DH showed up on a dozen different rookie cards, and several of those had parallels. His cards were found in the following brands: Bowman, Bowman Heritage, Finest, Topps Gallery, Topps Chrome, Bowman Sterling, Bowman’s Best, Topps, Topps Heritage, and Topps Pristine. The autographed Finest rookie card was numbered to 970, and has carried the highest book value in recent days at $25.
However, along with the rest of the Royals, the interest in Billy’s cards has been trending upward, and eBay has seen several autographed parallels selling the $60 range over the last week or so of the ALCS. Most Butler autos are a lot less though.
There are several other Royals players who are young enough, and important enough to the team’s success that they are worth adding to a Royals rookie collection. Some have been utility players to this point but may grow into more. Others are pitchers who, though always an “iffy” proposition, are essential to a winning team and just may develop into the type of pitcher whose rookie card is a must. I will name just a few, along with those that would be among their best true rookie cards and the current price guide value:
OF Jarrod Dyson (2011 Topps Heritage #414, $1)
SP James Shields (his 2006 Upper Deck Future Stars #146 is autographed and he appears as a Tampa Bay Ray, $15)
SP Yordano Ventura (the 2014 campaign is his Rookie Card year, and the Donruss wrapper redemption card #203 looks to be a bargain at $4)
SP Danny Duffy (2011 Bowman Sterling #25, $2.50)
The rookie cards of relief pitchers never seem to do much (with the current possible exception of Mariano Rivera). Even Hall of Fame relievers do not compare well to other pitchers enshrined in Cooperstown as a whole. Even so, the rookie cards of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland might be a great trio to own just because of the history they are making.
By the way, along their way to the 2014 World Series, the Royals were piloted by a man who was often vilified on talk radio (by callers and hosts alike), and a skipper who was once fired by a playoff bound team with 12 games left to go in a season. Whether the KC boys win the Series or not there has to be a sense of vindication for manager Ned Yost. And, just in case you are curious, his rookie card is the 1979 Topps card #708, which he shares with Kevin Bass and Eddie Romero. Value? $1.50.