Despite some eye-popping numbers, Michael Thomas’ rookie cards had yet to truly take off during his first few seasons. A rapidly growing market has finally done what NFL DBs couldn’t do: catch up to him.
Thomas isn’t yet among the first names football card collectors and investors tend to think of, but he’s on pace to have a Hall of Fame-worthy career. At 27, he should have many more productive years in front of him.
The Thomas File
Thomas was a standout wide receiver in high school, setting school records and leading the state in receiving yards his senior season. After a year away at Fork Union Military Academy, he eventually found his way to Ohio State. Thomas made little noise as a true freshman in 2012 but he made his presence felt, becoming a starter during his sophomore season, going from a little known backup to a star, go-to receiver.
After two very successful years at OSU, he was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints.
Heading to the Bayou meant hooking up with one of the greatest quarterbacks in history of the game in Drew Brees. Not only did they connect, they connected at a historic clip, seemingly from day one on. In each of his first four seasons in the league, his receptions and yardage have increased at a rapid rate. In 2019, he finished the season with an NFL record 149 catches for over 1,700 yards.
A pass catching machine, Thomas holds the NFL record for most receptions by a player in his first four years in the league as well as the most receptions by a player in a single season.
Make no mistake, Mike still can’t be guarded, so there is likely still some room for his rookie cards to add value, especially if the Saints can push for another Super Bowl.
Here’s a three-tiered breakdown of some Michael Thomas rookie cards to consider, depending on your budget level.
Record Breaker Tier
1. 2016 Panini National Treasures Michael Thomas JSY Autographed Rookie
National Treasures has been in the upper echelon of releases from the very beginning. Carrying an on-card autograph and limited in nature, the NT rookie numbered to 99 is really the gold standard. Thomas has other autographs in National Treasures, too, that are worth considering even if they’re not considered “official” rookie cards.
2. 2016 Immaculate Collection Michael Thomas JSY AUTO /99 RC
The immaculate Collection Michael Thomas Rookie Patch Auto ranks right up there with the National Treasures example. Again a beautiful on-card auto with stunning multicolored patches accompanied by a photo from one of the early rookie photo shoots makes these cards as much of a work of art as a trading card.
3. 2016 Panini Contenders Michael Thomas Rookie Ticket Auto /250 RC
Since its inception in the late 1990s, the Contenders brand formerly playoff, now Panini, has ranked right up there with the most significant rookie cards of any player during their much anticipated annual release. This Thomas autographed version is no different. Again, there are other Contenders Thomas rookie autos as well.
All Pro Tier
1. 2016 Panini Prizm Michael Thomas RC
As it has in basketball, the Prizm brand has really caught fire in recent months in the football card market and that fact means that the fire has now finally transferred over to top tier NFL talent, including the Ohio State product. It has seen sharp movement upwards and one can only imagine that we will see more of the same as Thomas hauls in more records over the next few years.
2. 2016 Panini Spectra Michael Thomas JSY AUTO RC # to 99
The Spectra RPA showcases a sticker autograph and generally a one color piece of memorabilia. The horizontal layout and bright design of the card is a standout and at a current price of well under $200, it’s a pretty good option for a rookie auto.
3. 2016 Certified Michael Thomas JSY AUTO RC
Certified is a relatively new brand that has offered a very nice mid to upper level RPA in recent years. The Thomas version offers a piece of memorabilia with a sticker auto which can be had at a very reasonable price considering the prices of some of the Saints wideouts’ other RPAs.
Redshirt Freshman Tier
1. 2016 Donruss Optic Michael Thomas Rated Rookie
Much like the Prizm brand, Optic has really caught fire and captured collector’s imaginations over the years. This Thomas base rookie card can often be had for just a couple of bucks with a seemingly strong possibility of future growth, both short and long term for high-grade versions. There are parallel versions, too, that still aren’t very expensive. The card offers a clean design with a photo shoot image of Thomas doing what he does best… catching the football.
2. 2016 Panini Preferred Michael Thomas Crown Royale Rookie Card
The serial-numbered gold version of this works well with the Saints colors and at just 149 copies, it’s one to keep an eye on. There’s also a jersey relic card numbered to 149.
3. 2016 Rookies & Stars Michael Thomas RC
Since the mid-90s, Rookies & Stars has offered a nice, clean, affordable base rookie card for collectors on a budget. Panini got a little crazy with design this particular year but the Rookies & Stars brand still holds solid as a nice option for a lower end Michael Thomas rookie card and it’s readily available for next to nothing.
You can see all of Michael Thomas’ cards for sale on eBay here and get a live look at the 50 most watched Thomas card auctions below.