As a card store since December 11, 1992 I have had the chance to see all sorts of “can’t miss” prospects come up and down the pike. Immortal names like Brien Taylor, Michael Olowodandi and many others dot the “what could have been” landscape. Seemingly the list of products that got whacked like Nancy Kerrigan because of rookies that missed instead of made far exceed the list of success stories.
Now I follow the NHL fairly closely since we typically sell as many boxes of hockey as we do MLB in a year, but it is unusual for me to know of an NHL prospect over a year before he could be drafted. Then again, if Wayne Gretzky is going to stick his neck out and say Connor McDavid is the best prospect he has seen since himself, what more do we need to hear?
When it came time to order 2015-16 Upper Deck series 1 hockey, I figured it was time to step and order more heavily than I had ordered any single product before. In the 1990s it was a safe bet to bring in 10 or more cases of base products like Topps 1 MLB, Upper Deck 1 MLB and other established releases that even if I got jammed on, would continue to sell through the season.
My direct allocation was five cases and while I brought in eight cases of 2013-14 Series 1 when the Avalanche had #1 pick Nathan MacKinnon, I didn’t think for a second that starting at eight would be near enough this time.
Between GTS and Magazine Exchange, I was able to raise that number to 25 cases in the days leading up to last week’s release. Please note, we have gone through at least 35 cases of ’13-14, but that was over the course of months with a local prospect that was producing big time.
Unlike the NFL where cards can be made of any player, drafted or not, the NHL has an interesting rule that only licensed cards to be made of a rookie after they have played in a regular season game. So, for the first time ever, I checked in on Edmonton and Buffalo after every game during the preseason since the Sabres drafted Jack Eichel with the second pick.
Part of my looking was to see if they had scored in the game and an equal part was to ensure that neither player had been hurt. I joked with friends that in the days before the season, they should bubble wrap McDavid and drive him around in a Brinks truck to make sure he got onto the ice for even a minute or two.
While he did not score in his first game, that he made it onto the ice was enough for me. Within a few games, we was able to showcase his talents and quickly showed why he was made the first pick.
So, on the Sunday before release, we started hyping the release on our Facebook page and even put together a promotion to win a free box of the high-end 2015-16 The Cup when it releases. So imagine my surprise when Tuesday night around 10 local time, my GTS rep called me with the news of McDavid going hard into the boards with two Philadelphia Flyers on top of him.
This will literally be one of the “where were you” moments of my hobby shop career, up there with being in my first store when Dikembe Mutombo was rolling around on the floor after beating Seattle while in my first location, Kordell to Westbrook to beat Michigan in my second spot and the AFC Championship game where the Broncos took down the Steelers on their way to their first Super Bowl victory in the third version of Mike’s.
The biggest difference was that this moment might be about to cost me a ton.
My son saw the look of horror and anger on my face as I realized I had close to $16,000 invested in a product that now had a chance of more closely resembling most releases from the 2013 NFL season instead of what could have been.
Despite the injury, there was still a buzz. I spent Wednesday begging my FedEx and UPS driver to disregard their rules and either drop off my 25 cases next door before I opened or if we could meet with my wife’s SUV since my 1998 Dodge Intrepid is slightly more filled. Unfortunately my daughter woke up feeling sick and around the same time I was to meet my UPS driver, we were at Target getting her prescription filled for strep throat.
My luck turned when I got to my store around 9:45. The dry cleaner next door helped me carry over the UPS part of my shipment in time for the arrival of my first rabid collector just as we opened our doors at 10 AM. Now I did not see the case opened, but the buyer called to share that he pulled three McDavid Young Guns rookies.
Over the next ten hours my collectors stepped up and we set a record for the most cases sold in one day in our 22-year history. Counting the first three, we had 12 base rookies of McDavid and really lucked out when someone pulled an SP as well. Technically I own the distinction of pulling the first one at the shop since I was helping one of my breakers plow through his first of many cases.
The next day, with over ten cases left to sell, I was more than surprised to see that Dave & Adams had bumped their case price from $934.95 to $1049.95 (there are some on eBay in that neighborhood now). It was also fun to watch the Dealernet stock market continually bump up on case pricing throughout Friday. At the time of this writing, dealers are offering to pay $250 above factory cost on cases. In spite of all that, we are kept our case prices at $900 each through Saturday and perhaps that is why we moved another five cases on our second day.
While avoiding a broken collarbone would have been infinitely better, it is beyond impressive that so many collectors have made working on their Series 1 master sets an annual rite of passage. Seriously, try to imagine how NFL sales would be doing this week if Winston, Mariota, Cooper and Gurley all went out for a month or two (side note, if this happens, please don’t blame me!).
Face it, McDavid’s RC is short printed, but isn’t signed, numbered, does not feature a relic swatch and collectors are still willing to gladly offer a decent percentage of a month’s worth of mortgage for a virtual guarantee at the next superstar.
Release day was like a national holiday in Canada, with collectors actually lined up outside some shops before they opened.
Looking ahead it will be interesting to see how strong the response is to future releases that are scheduled to arrive during his time away from the game and when he finally returns. Are dealers going to see the success of UD1 and order Black Diamond, SP Game Used and other products more strongly than otherwise? Will distributors see this as a chance to fund a third house and go deep?
Most importantly, will Upper Deck limit orders or simply make all that they can? With only one major license, who could blame them?
1) 2015 Panini Playbook NFL – Collectors are drawn to the only release with a guaranteed playbook card per box and love its sub $100 price.
2) 15/16 Artifacts NHL – Upper Deck took out two packs and the guarantee of an autograph per box, bue we are still moving through box after box.
3) 2015 Panini Gridiron Gear NFL – Manufacturers, please keep giving my shop and others boxes we can sell for less than $70, with two hits and a guarantee of at least one autograph and a rookie crop that is drawing in collectors like crazy.
4) 2015 Topps Update MLB – The allure of a strong rookie crop seems to also be working for baseball. While the Cubs did not win the World Series, their success seems to be carrying over even after the season ended.
5) 2014 Bowman Sterling Asian Edition MLB – Take all the incredible prospect signed cards of Carlos Correa, Kyle Schwarber and more, throw in exclusive, low-numbered parallels and other relic cards and they will come.
Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, CO. Normally, his column focuses on what products are selling best in hobby shops. He’s got thousands of cards for sale on COMC.com under the ID cardmn5150. Enjoy new arrivals and big hits from Mike’s on Twitter. Mike’s is always looking for more friends on Facebook and you can email him at [email protected].