Bryce Harper is a rarity, a hyped prospect who makes good. Harper’s career has been a wild ride, and having just turned 30, he’s got a lot in the tank, as he lead to the Phillies to the World Series, despite coming up short to the Astros.
But who is Harper? What are his rookie cards? Which might be the best to buy? Let’s explore the wild world of Bryce Harper early career cards!
Bryce Harper might have been the most hyped prospect. Ever.
He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as an amateur. He was taken 1st overall in the 2010 draft, the consensus best player available. He debuted at age 19 and was an All Star and the NL Rookie of the Year.
Harper just turned 30 last month, just as he was starting a postseason run seldom seen before. In the years since his rookie season, Harper has been an All Star seven times and won two Silver Sluggers.
He’s also won two MVP awards and has hit 285 home runs in his career. Harper sports a career .280/.390/.523 line, good for a .913 OPS and a OPS+ of 142.
He’s been worth 42.5 WAR though his age 29 season. As we wrote about in our article Active Major League Hitters Who We Think Are On The Baseball Hall Of Fame Path we think Harper has a solid shot at making the Hall of Fame if he stays healthy in his 30s.
Harper has put up some epic numbers in the 2022 postseason, leading the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series. He won the NL NLCS MVP and the national spotlight is drawing attention to Harper once again.
It doesn’t feel like that long ago that a list of all of a player’s rookie cards might have between one and five cards on it. Topps had a monopoly from 1956 through 1980, and even in the 1980s there were 3-5 major card companies. That had all changed by the 2000s.
Early hype plus the modern card explosion make Harper the “perfect storm” for early career card insanity.
Harper’s official rookie cards appear in 2012 products. According to TCDB.com, Harper appeared on 472 cards that year. Don’t worry, this article won’t talk about ALL of them!
Prior to his rookie year, Harper on a large number of pre-rookie and prospect cards. In 2009 and 2009, prior to even bring drafted, Harper appeared on 37 cards. In 2010, the year he was drafted, Harper appeared on 16 more cards. In 2011, the year before his major league debut and his only minor league season, he appeared on a whopping 207 cards.
So, the bad news is that there is an insane number of early career Harper cards, making any consensus on what his “true” or “best” rookie card is difficult. The good news is that there’s an early career Harper card for just about any taste and budget.
So, how do we select the best Bryce Harper rookie card? It’s no easy task. Without this article being 30,000 words with dozens of tables and hundreds of photos (that crashes your web browser), we’ll select some of our representative favorites across different card companies, types, and price points.
If your favorite Bryce Harper rookie card doesn’t make our list, let us know what your favorite is and why at card_lines on Twitter.
The standard Topps flagship offering is something of a microcosm here. The Blue Helmet version is the base version, and has a fairly high population, both of all graded and PSA 10s. Yet, it still sells in the $120-200 range for a PSA 10.
But then there’s a Red Helmet variation, which is much tougher, with only 320 copies graded by PSA with 153 PSA 10s.
There is also a Screaming variation that has been graded slightly less than the Blue Helmet (2,572 total pop, 1,686 PSA 10’s) and it sells for $125-150 in PSA 10. There’s also a Black version numbered out of 61, and an Autograph version as well. The last PSA 10 Auto that sold went for $3,800 this summer.
Fairly low population, with lots of 10s, but with an affordable price tag even for a PSA 10, the 2012 Bowman Chrome Prospects Bryce Harper #BCP10 is a great option for a Chrome Harper rookie on a budget.
Being Bowman, there’s of course the paper version that’s even more affordable, or a rainbow of Refractors and other parallels for the more adventurous chase.
Another Bowman Harper rookie card option is the standard Bowman Chrome offering, 2012 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper #214. Like many other cards on the list, it has a fairly low total pop, but a fairly high percentage of PSA 10s.
The third Bowman base offering of Harper in 2012, the 2012 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Chrome Bryce Harper #10 is the highest PSA pop of the three Bowman offerings, with a similarly high percentage of PSA 10s as the others. This one is another reasonably priced option, with PSA 10 copies going for $60-120.
Only 546 copies of the 2012 Finest Bryce Harper card have been graded by PSA. Interestingly, a shocking 86% of the cards graded are PSA 10s. Thanks to that crazy percentage, PSA 10’]s sell for a reasonable $70-140.
The priciest base rookie card on our list. The 2012 Topps Chrome Bryce Harper #196 comes from the premium Topps Chrome product, and PSA 10s sell in the $325-350 range.
Shop for 2012 Topps Chrome Bryce Harper rookie cards on eBay
Harper appears on two cards in the Topps Flagship Update set, the first being 2012 Topps Update Bryce Harper #US183. This is easily the highest population card on this list, with almost 4,000 copies graded by PSA and over 2,700 of those PSA 10s.
Because of this high population, the card is probably not the best investment on this list, although it’s fairly easy to find if you just want to add a Harper RC to your collection.
Rarer variations are available, which are worth a look, including Black, Blue, Gold, Orange, Gold Sparkle, and Printing Plates.
The second appearance of Harper in the Topps Flagship Update offering is 2012 Topps Update Bryce Harper #US299. This one has a much lower population than the other card in the Update set, but also sells for less in PSA 10.
A number of variations are available, which are worth chasing, including Black, Blue, Gold, All Star (with Chipper Jones), Orange, Gold Sparkle, Golden Moments, Printing Plates, and “In a Suit”.
There are of course, lots of other options. If you’re a fan of vintage style modern cards, check out the 2012 Topps Archives Bryce Harper #241 or 2012 Topps Heritage Bryce Harper #H650.
|Card||PSA Pop||PSA Comp Pop||Recent PSA Comp|
|2012 Topps Bryce Harper Blue Helmet #661||2,689||PSA 10 = 1,520||PSA 10 = $120-200|
|2012 Bowman Chrome Prospects Bryce Harper #BCP10||595||PSA 10 = 354||PSA 10 = $50-90|
|2012 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper #214||675||PSA 10 = 385||PSA 10 = $120-250|
|2012 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Chrome Bryce Harper #10||1,251||PSA 10 = 826||PSA 10 = $60-120|
|2012 Finest Bryce Harper #73||546||PSA 10 = 470||PSA 10 = $70-140|
|2012 Topps Chrome Bryce Harper #196||981||PSA 10 = 352||PSA 10 = $325-350|
|2012 Topps Update Bryce Harper #US183||3,975||PSA 10 = 2,737||PSA 10 = $100-150|
|2012 Topps Update Bryce Harper #US299||854||PSA 10 = 571||PSA 10 = $40-65|
It is notable that many of these cards include a multitude of parallel, variation, and autographed versions beyond what I’ve mentioned. These offer collectors a myriad of additional options to pursue at higher price points and lower population levels.
If this were an article on the most expensive Bryce Harper cards, we’d spend more time on those.
As mentioned earlier, Harper appeared on a large number of pre-rookie or prospect cards before his official rookie cards were released. We’ll highlight a few of them here.
The 2008 Upper Deck Team USA #47 is Harper’s very first appearance on a card from a major manufacturer. PSA has graded only 399 copies of the card, but a surprising 216 of those are PSA 10s. Even in that condition, the card is affordable at $100-150.
Harper’s first appearance on a Bowman card is in the 2009 Bowman AFLAC Bryce Harper #BH. This card is in a similar situation from a PSA pop perspective as the 2008 Upper Deck card…fairly low pop, but high percentage of PSA 10’s. It sells in the same price range as well.
In 2010 and 2011 Harper appears in Bowman Chrome products, 2010 Bowman Chrome 18U USA and 2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects, respectively.
|Card||PSA Pop||PSA Comp Pop||Recent PSA Comp|
|2008 Upper Deck USA Baseball Bryce Harper #47||399||PSA 10 = 216||PSA 10 = $100-150|
|2009 Bowman AFLAC Bryce Harper #BH||402||PSA 10 = 206||PSA 10 = $100-150|
|2010 Bowman Chrome 18U USA Bryce Harper # BC8||697||PSA 10 = 211||PSA 10 = $200-250|
|2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects Bryce Harper #BCP1||2,644||PSA 10 = 1,003||PSA 10 = $75-200|
As with any other discussion of sports card investing, timing is everything. Are Bryce Harper’s cards a solid investment? I’d say probably yes. His career is off to a strong start and a healthy run through his 30s would line him up for strong consideration for the Hall of Fame.
Is right now the best time to invest in Harper’s cards? I’d say probably not. As of this writing he’s brought his team to the World Series, won the NLCS MVP, and is coming off the 2021 MVP award.
I think Harper’s cards have some upside, but the best move is to let demand cool down a bit. That may happen slightly in the off-season, or perhaps if he has a down year in the not-too-distant future.
That being said, it’s not all about pure dollars and cents. If you’re loving watching Harper do his thing in the 2022 playoffs, grab one of his rookie cards. Sure, you’re likely paying “top of market” prices right now, but it’s a hobby, and if owning a few Harper cards makes you happy, go for it.
As far as which Harper card to buy? The base cards are rather affordable, although the upside is probably less. If you can afford some of the various parallels, autographs, and variations, that’s likely the way to go.
Getting the rarest parallel, variation, or autographed Harper rookie card your budget allows is likely the best bet. As far as what brand? I don’t think there’s enough of a trend to say anything beyond “buy the one you think looks the coolest”.
Bryce Harper appears on an absurd number of rookie, prospect, pre-rookie, and other early career cards. It can be confusing to know what to buy, for sure.
The only reasonable way to approach it is simple. Buy what you like and fits within your collecting budget. If that’s PSA 10 autographs and rare parallels, great. If it’s PSA 9 base rookie cards? Awesome.
If its raw copies of oddball and lesser known releases that you just like the look of, or appreciate their “deep cut” status? More power to you and have fun. The hobby is just that, and as long as you’re enjoying it, you’re doing it right.
Just like Harper on the baseball diamond.