The Vast Overvaluing of Running Back Autographs

Over the last few years, we have had our fair share of rookie running backs come and go. As recently as 2006, we had Reggie Bush commanding some of the biggest values in the history of the hobby. This year, we have had Demarco Murray tearing it up in Dallas, setting some prestigious records along the way. Although neither of these backs will most likely become a collector’s dream like Adrian Peterson has become, few in the future will even reach a status close to Emmitt Smith or the God of Hard Knocks – Walter Payton. So, based on this obvious situation, should we continue to value a piece like the running back, especially now that the workhorse back is a thing of the past?

Walter Payton is the man in football, so much so that his signature is one of the most valuable of any player – not just running backs. His certified autograph cards (most on card), even the ugly ones, are worth in upwards of a thousand dollars, a price that dwarfs even the great Johnny Unitas. Payton’s signature is so valuable that it has even transferred into his jersey cards, most of which are starting to dry up with the swatches not being as readily available. I would even go so far as to saying that Payton is the NFL’s Mickey Mantle, with Jim Thorpe being Babe Ruth.

Check out some of these prices:

Walter Payton Upper Deck Auto Jersey /34

1999 Walter Payton Donruss Auto

Walter Payton Topps Rookie Reprint Auto

As you can see, Sweetness takes the autograph card to a level it has never been before. Its just as much about rarity of signature as it is popularity. It is also why I am not someone who thinks that DeMarco Murray, a player who has had 2 good games, is worth putting in the kind of money that people are. There will never be another Adrian Peterson, as even Peterson is having a tough time living up to himself with reduced workload. In fact, with Emmitt Smith only commanding about 250 bucks a card in secondary value, the Running Back position is definitely capped.

Should we really be spending THIS much on players like Ingram, Murray and the like? Even if they reach the same level as Emmitt or AP, will they be worth as much? Probably not:

DeMarco Murray Platinum Patch Auto /10

DeMarco Murray Chrome Gold Refractor Auto /10

DeMarco Murray Finest Mosaic Auto /10

That being said, Adrian Peterson and Emmitt Smith are some of the most expensive autographs that companies have to pay for, as they charge more than most of the quarterbacks that are actually just as valuable. Without a doubt, they are vital components of a valuable checklist, and that is why they are a necessary inclusion. However, collectors have bought into guys like Knowshon Moreno and Donald Brown at a similar clip, only to see limited returns. The running back, on an offense is ultimately one of the most replaceable components there is.

Therefore, when you have a guy producing at a top level during a few games, I think it may be better to wait until they establish themselves. Too much risk of injury and bust than any other position. Who knows if Chris Johnson will ever be the same, or for that matter, if guys like Rashard Mendenhall will ever continue to be productive. Willie Parker had a few years of top production on a top team, including Super Bowl wins, same with Larry Johnson and Ladanian Tomlinson (minus the rings). All of these top guys are now value chumps on eBay.

I used to call the overvaluing of Running Backs “the Peterson Effect”, but now it may be more of a pandemic hobby wide.

5 thoughts on “The Vast Overvaluing of Running Back Autographs

  1. I don’t think it’s just running backs…it’s all young stars/rookies.

    What does it tell you when I can get signed Goal Line Art cards of players like Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham, Gale Sayers, Jim Brown, etc. (which are ten times better looking than anything being produced today) for a fraction of the price of young players who are more likely than not to end up having completely average careers.

    It tells you that the “hobby” has been taken over by speculators and turned into another version of the stock market.

  2. I couldn’t click Buy It Now fast enough when I saw an Ingram Chrome auto for $40. I wouldn’t pay the prices that are out there now though.

  3. Picked up my BGS 9.5 Walter Payton RC Reprint auto for $575 in the off season…. after selling off the Sam Bradford Leaf Limited 1/1 RC Patch/Auto for $1k. Pocketed $400 bucks and picked up a top autograph. I love the people who buy into the hype of rookies and flashes in the pan. Rip & Flip. I’m now 6 away from the 2001 UD Legends NFL autograph set, something with real value.

  4. $600 for the Murray gold refractor. Ridiculous, and I am a Murray collector and would overpay to own this card. In fact, it is having me consider selling my collection at the moment to capitalize on this insanity.

  5. I can’t believe how cheap Tomlinson’s cards have become. He is as sure fire a Hall of Famer as anyone playing today. He set the record for TD’s in a single season and will probably end up #2 on the all time list. I’m hoping he can end up with the Packers next year so he can get a cheap ring and retire.

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