We all know that production is the forefront of where value is determined in this hobby. If you produce, your cards will be valuable, so much so that if you producED at some point, they will still hold some value even if you are not producing now. However, there are a few things that can add to that value, most of which don’t necessarily stem from long term production, and some of them are pretty nuts.
Aside from sustained production, the main contributing value add on is dominance. If a player is good to the point where they are dominating the league, value jumps into the stratosphere. Look at Jordan, LeBron, Peterson, Tiger, Pujols, they are all incredible players that dominate the games they play, and are all the highest value in their sports. These guys have added that wow factor to their production, and they have achieved more in the hobby than the guys who just have that long period of sustained production.
Piggybacking on dominance, setting records has a lot to do with value. Look at what happened to Favre’s cards when he set the TD record, it was very similar to what happened to Tom Brady’s cards when he set the single season record. Peterson set the NFL single game rushing record in his ROOKIE season, and his cards almost became un-buyable because of the cost at that point. Its very comparable to things like the 500 home run/3000 hit club in baseball, as those “records” usually put you in a higher value class.
Another more interesting factor in value is attitude, both good and bad. The more flamboyant you are, the more your cards are worth, with a few exceptions. Its why people like Chad Ochocinco are worth more than people like Reggie Wayne – he is always in the news cycle at the beginning of the week, and the end of the week. This drives him to the forefront of people’s mind when they buy, thus putting him in a higher tier. In fact, I believe his TD dances alone have raised his value 5-10% minimum. That’s the kind of effect a certain attitude can have on someone’s cards.
It does work both ways, however, as people like Terrell Owens and Randy Moss have definitely gone completely the other direction. For both, their attitudes have been so poor in the past that card companies have pretty much stopped approaching them for autographs. Not because they don’t want them in the sets, but because the cost of dealing with them and the opportunity cost of maintaining a relationship with someone like that is very high. It goes to show that having fun will always net you more than complaining in any sport.
If you have production, dominance, attitude and you do it for a long time, you are going to end up in the HOF. Being in the hall adds that much more on top of everything, more importantly if the player is older and playing baseball. Even some of the least well known hall of fame baseball players are regularly sought by collectors, and this actually drives more of the business than most of the other factors. The HOF is like a stamp on your permanent record, and unless you kill someone or get arrested (or both in OJ’s case), value will always be had.
In football and baseball, the position a player has on the team can also be a factor. In football, unless they play running back, quarterback or wide receiver, a guy is rarely going to be worth anything. In baseball, the corners, the OF, and the shortstops carry more value than a second baseman for instance, even many dominating pitchers don’t achieve much.
Lastly, and sometimes most importantly, production in your rookie year can do more for you than anything else. Players like LeBron, Derek Rose, Peterson, Matt Ryan, Rick Porcello, and others all had amazing rookie seasons, and therefore ignited a lot of people prospecting their futures. If you can get the prospectors on board, and you deliver for a few years after, things can get crazy. Its like a compounding of the different x factors, all of which are then exponentially exacerbated by a great rookie campaign. If a guy doesn’t perform as a rookie, it can take years before people in the hobby notice his production or even dominance. Because the hobby’s success usually depends on rookie cards, rookie performance is that much more important.
In most cases, value is never going to be a formula, and that’s why it is so dynamic. Guides try to capture a fraction of that, and it’s the biggest reason they fail miserably. For something that changes as much as hobby prices do, there is little any static number can show. This is mainly because of how many of the above factors can change week to week, and this is only a short list. Because each collector values certain characteristics over others, prices can go every which way. In the end, its up to us to determine what we are willing to pay, and its up to the companies to provide the products that we love. It can be a vicious cycle, but ill take it.