Each year a new class comes to the front of the hobby, usually there are one or two that are in the stratosphere for pricing, a middle group of people who are expensive but not overly expensive, and lastly, the scrubs. In 2007 I was faced with a whole year of collecting that top level of rookie with Peterson, but last year, Booty was, in terms of value, a scrub. This year, Harvin will probably be a mid level guy, taking in 20-30 bucks for autos after the first few games of the season, my wallet is thanking me right now. The question remains, what if you are “stuck” with the top guy in the class, but don’t have the cash? Here are some solutions I have had to incoporate into my repetoir.
First, Chrome is your best friend. You can usually buy a box for less than 50 bucks, and you can get some of the best looking base RC cards out there. Although the autos of your top guy will be scarce, you probably wont need to spend more than 5 bucks for an amazing base card. The good thing is that collectors still value chrome, so it isnt one of those, “lets throw base RCs in here because we need to fill the set” type of things. Also, parallels for chrome will also still be well received, so that will work in your favor. Of all the parallels in the hobby, this and SPA are the only ones I support. The icing on the cake is that chrome comes out early, so you don’t have to wait to long to have a keeper. After all, you could get lucky in your box.
Second, pick your battles. There is no reason to be a super collector these days, as there is no possible way to get everything. That doesn’t mean you cant pick your favorites, however. Choose a set or two that you know will be amazing from the previews and years past, and save your shit for that release. If you like Contenders, don’t waste your money on buying card after card after card. I know one of my favorite sets of the year is Classics because I know that it is the first Post RC Premiere product. The autos are just the base cards in a parallel, so I know it wont be a crappy RC subset that was an afterthought. Plus, from the previews, it looks pretty good this year. Because of my feelings, I wouldn’t buy boxes of Elite, UD Draft, or Prestige because I am a bigger fan of the later sets. Funny enough, Draft actually looks pretty good this year, so I may jump on that boat despite my Classics target.
Third, know your personal structure of value. If you want a nice card of your top guy, and know that you will only have one or two shots at an auto with the money you have, it may be in your favor to just pick the highest up on the value structure. Usually the top of the pyramid are always nice cards, and I hope that continues. Here is my list of cards to consider:
1. Exquisite Auto Patch
2. SPA Auto Patch
3. National Treasures Auto Patch
4. Chrome Base RC Auto
5. Topps Rookie Premiere Auto
6. SPX Auto Jers
7. Contenders Auto Ticket
8. UD Premier Auto Jers
9. Limited Auto Jers
10. Gridiron Gear Double Patch Auto (the one without the EU Football)
Of course, if you just want a cheap auto option and just want it to look nice, there are quite a few early DLP products with tons of subset autos to choose from, along with UD heroes and UD Icons. They wont be worth a ton, but they will look nice. Plus I believe that most of the UD products this year will be on card, if not all, so that will be good if you want something similar to the on card bonanza that happens with the top end of the scale.
Really, I cant stress enough how important it is to save up your cheese for something you need, as there is always something else you want. If you chip away at the 400 you need to pay for a top level SPA patch auto all year by throwing a few dollars aside each time you want to make a worthless buy, you will have your cash when you need it. However, if you buy junk for a year and then wonder why you are short on cash, I have an “I told you so” cocked and ready to fire.
Lastly, it comes down to watiting versus jumping the line. If you have a QB as your top guy, and you cant possibly wait one second, fine. Otherwise, QBs usually don’t start their first season, and when they do, they usually suck. However, if you wait until this reality sweeps over the line jumpers, you can usually chop 20-30 bucks off the 100 the autos usually cost. For a RB, people are obsessed with buying as many as possible, just in case there is some miniscule chance that the guy turns into Peterson. Look at Felix Jones, Jonathan Stewart, Darren McFadden, and Rashard Mendenhall, all of whose prices were astronomical beofre the season thanks to the idiots who don’t know any better. Then, as they started to show that they were still rookies, prices fell with reckless abandon. McFadden was tops to start the year, and ended up near the middle of the value pack at the end. Mendehall bottomed out and almost became a scrub. Don’t make this mistake for yourself.
Also, here is the way value will even out as the years pass. Even though a WR may be the top guy now, history shows that in the long run they wont be:
Be smart, and for god’s sake, don’t be that guy.