He wasn’t a bust. Let’s stop that foolish nonsense right now.
Andrew Luck was an incredible talent. He didn’t make Colts fans forget Peyton Manning but he was a worthy successor. When he was healthy he was among the NFL’s best. His retirement at age 29 due to the constant injury-rehab cycle he couldn’t seem to shake, leaves a void.
For those who buy and sell football cards of active players, it’s also a stark reminder that even the surest things are never really sure at all.
When he was finishing up his Stanford career at the beginning of the decade, Luck was a lock: a generational quarterback prospect (remember “Suck for Luck”?) who was ready to start what would undoubtedly be a Hall of Fame career. Panini quickly signed him to a trading card deal. He also had one with Upper Deck.
Then there was a multi-year autograph arrangement with Panini to make sure there were plenty of signed helmets, jerseys and photos to meet what would be a massive demand.
And there was a big demand for a while. As he led the Colts to the playoffs during that first season in 2012 and then again the next two seasons, prices on his already popular rookie cards continued to grow.
In January 2014, someone paid $7,250 for the 1/1 rookie Superfractor from 2012 Topps Finest. In October, an inscribed National Treasures rookie card sold for nearly $6,500.
Luck was limited to seven games in 2015, but in October of that year, his Topps Chrome Superfractor 1/1 rookie card sold for over $18,000.
The Colts missed the playoffs in ’16 but during the Colts 2017 training camp, a National Treasures rookie autograph patch numbered to 99 and graded PSA 10 sold for over $10,000.
Luck missed the entire ’17 season.
He won Comeback Player of the Year last year, leading the Colts back to the playoffs, completing over 67 percent of his passes. Since the start of that season, there were ten sales of Luck cards for $3,000 or more on eBay alone. Torn muscles, a lacerated kidney, a serious shoulder problem and yet there was still a lot of confidence in the market that at some point, Andrew Luck would be lifting a Super Bowl trophy and then a bust in Canton. He was still huge in Indiana and respected everywhere.
Weeks before his 30th birthday, a new injury–this one to his leg– was proving tough to shake. Finally, with less painful adventures to tackle that didn’t involve getting tackled, he opted to leave the game behind. It was a decision few players of his stature ever make. Most stay and try to play as long as they possibly can. Tom Brady outlasted Peyton Manning. Now he’s outlasted Manning’s successor. Great coaching, success and stability have Brady loving the game as much at 42 as he did at 29. Drew Brees is still firing away at 40.
Not everyone is so fortunate.
Andrew Luck won’t be a Hall of Famer. He’ll always be regarded among the best NFL quarterbacks of the 2010s, but that’s where it stops. If you’ve always coveted a high-end Andrew Luck rookie card, you’ll probably be able to name your price. Many of his non-rookie cards will eventually get tossed into the common box.
Andrew Luck’s autographed “panini contenders” rookie card is one I actively track on eBay via a saved search
Generally these pop up once a week. Fairly rare
6 just hit the market – at over a 50% discount from a week ago pic.twitter.com/N9xO3clXeU
— Patrick Ryan (@PRyanTexas) August 25, 2019
Some were buying Luck’s autograph cards Sunday morning on eBay, perhaps figuring he wouldn’t be signing much anymore or hoping he’ll be back before long.
Luck is young enough to change his mind in a year or two once his body feels better, but on Saturday night he didn’t sound like a man who would be doing that. He’s a smart guy with other talents and interests and no real ego. I suspect he’ll dive into something new and not look back. Jim Brown and Barry Sanders left early, too, and stayed away.
Recent sports history is filled with guys whose rookie cards turned out to be a bad investment. They’re also full of guys whose rookie cards were an afterthought and then became a great investment. Sometimes the skill level is overblown. Sometimes it manifests itself at a level only the player himself expected.
Sometimes a promising career is cut short by circumstances no one could have foreseen.
There’s no way to predict what happens to a player during his career but the projection part is what makes the hobby fun for a wide variety of people. Some love to gamble. Buy a bunch of rookie cards– or a few really good ones– and see if you guess right. Others prefer to stick with guys who’ve already given their Hall of Fame speech or will before long. I’m not saying to love one and ditch the other. It’s never a good idea to tell someone else how to collect. With huge salaries and more awareness of the effect pro football can have on a player’s long-term health, though, it’s possible other stars will make the same move in the years to come. It’s something to keep in mind.
Buying the guys who are still in the game can come with high rewards, whether you’re buying for monetary gain or just to validate your scouting and investment skills.
It can also come with a fair share of blind side hits.