The Sports Card Big Market Value Effect

There is an inevitable hype that surrounds players in big market teams. But, as many collectors have noticed, players on the Yankees or Lakers often fetch far higher prices than their colleagues on the Timberwolves or Royals. So, is there a sports card big market value effect? If so, how significant is it?

For this reason, some sports card investors prefer to put their money in big market rookies. But how much of an influence does geography and market size have on sports card value? We are determined to find out.

If the size of the market is an essential factor, we would expect two things to occur. First, prospects for big-market teams would be worth significantly more than prospects of equivalent promise from smaller markets. In addition, players moving from small markets to big ones would increase substantially after signing or being traded.

Prospects And The Sports Card Big Market Value Effect 

The choice of big market prospects for baseball is obvious. Jasson Dominguez is an 18-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic. Signed by the New York Yankees as an international class player in 2019, Dominguez has made a major splash in the hobby.

But how much of the hype and corresponding value is related to the cache of the Yankees? To find out, we need a point of comparison.

Just how good is Dominguez? Hard to say with an 18-year-old player, but he is pretty highly rated. Baseball America has him listed as the #1 Yankees prospect and the #24 prospect in baseball.

Will Jasson Dominguez live up to the hype? (look for his autos on eBay).

Jasson Dominguez vs. Noelvi Marte

If so, there are plenty of prospects ranked higher. But to be fair to Jasson, he is younger than the prospects ahead of him. But there are a couple of comparable age prospects. Let’s take Noelvi Marte, for example. The 19-year-old shortstop is ranked the #8 overall prospect by Baseball America and #11 by MLB.com. However, he is coming up for the small market Seattle Mariners.

To get a sense of perspective, we also compared the numbers for the current #1 prospect in the game, catcher Adley Rutschman. All of these cards are Bowman Chrome firsts.

First Auto First Mojo Refractor First
Jasson Dominguez $151 $2,099 $355
Noelvi Marte $145 $180 $199
Adley Rutschman $128 $1,200 $700

I was surprised to see that the Bowman Chrome 1st prices were similar and decided to compare autos and refractors as well. As you can see, the difference on the auto is massive. The Dominguez auto also vastly outperforms the #1 prospect as well. However, this is reversed on the refractor.

As you can see, the Yankees’ prospects cards have value comparable to the highest-rated blue-chip prospects. And what is the differential worth? Again, it depends on the card, but about three times as much overall.

Would Adley Rutschman’s cards be even more expensive if he was drafted by the Yankees (look for Adley Rutschman autos on eBay).

Sports Card Big Market Value Effect Of NBA Draft Picks

Does the same logic apply to NBA draft picks? After all, the hype there begins before players are affiliated with a professional team.

The Los Angeles Lakers currently have the largest fan base in the NBA, with around 22 million supporters. So how do the cards of their draft picks fare in comparison to similar players from smaller markets?

Well, the Lakers have a habit of trading away their leading draft picks. So I had to go back in time to find a Laker draft pick who played for the team.

Moritz Wagner was selected 25th by the Lakers in the 1st round. The German big man was brought into the squad in the first year and, after an injury, ended up playing 10 minutes per game.

How does his value compare to other picks in similar positions? All cards are PSA 10 Silver Prizms.

Player First Silver Prizm Sold First Year Peak Price
Moritz Wagner $23 $75
Anfernee Simons $26 $110
Aaron Holiday $22.50 $81

The 24th pick, Anfernee Simons, didn’t play more than Wagner in the first year but gained a better reputation. As you can see, despite playing for the small market, Portland Trailblazers consistently sold for more in that first year.

Meanwhile, 23rd pick Aaron Holiday went to the Wizards and had a better year than Wagner or Simons. He had more minutes and more points.

The chart shows that Wagner’s status as a Laker did very little for his value. All cards started around the same value, and the German center had the lowest peak value. So, it looks like the big market rule matters less for NBA draft picks.

Moritz Wagner did not enjoy a value bounce when playing for the Lakers (get Wagner silver prizms on eBay).

What About The Big Market Rule And Trades?

So far, we have looked at prospects and draft picks. But what about trades and free agents? Indeed, when a player goes from a small market to a big one, the buzz sends card values up. But does it permanently raise the value of the cards, or is it just a temporary bump?

We don’t like to engage in idle speculation here at Cardlines. So, let’s dive straight into the numbers. But, first, here are some moves to big markets and their influence on card value.

Before Trade After Move To A Big Market A Year After Move
Francisco Lindor $125 $239 N/A
Lebron James $290 $325 $305
Amari Cooper $10.50 $20 $41

A couple of takeaways from these numbers. First, can you believe how cheap Lebron cards used to be? Damn.

Second, there is a big market effect for players. However, it mostly seems to apply to second-tier stars rather than first-tier. For example, when Lebron moved to the Lakers, the value went up somewhat, but he was already so well-known that it did not make a huge difference. Meanwhile, Lindor and Cooper were not household names and came to the attention of more collectors due to their moves. Therefore, the value of their cards doubled.

Francisco Lindor cards enjoyed a bounce after his big payday with the Mets (look for Lindor Bowman’s on eBay).

Soccer Cards And The Big Market Effect

Soccer is an international game. Players appear for a club but also for their country. Therefore, it is worth examining the big market theory regarding both.

Before Move After Move To A Big Market A Year After Move
Jadon Sancho $331 $304 N/A
Kai Havertz $180 $450 $79

We can see a big difference between the effect of Sancho’s move to Manchester United and the Havertz sale to Chelsea. But why? On the face of it, the two are similar. Both are young talented, attacking midfielders moving from the Bundesliga to top Premier League clubs.

However, the big difference between Sancho and Havertz is their nationality. Sancho is English, and the top English prospects get more exposure globally than those from other countries. The other nationality which attracts love in the hobby are American players.

Two prominent American talents also played or currently play in Germany. So let’s look at how their cards are valued right now. Like we did with Havertz, Pulisic is examining Rated Rookie Donruss cards for these two players. Unfortunately, Reyna doesn’t have one of those because of licensing, so we looked at his most common rookie card.

Christian Pulisic $492
Giovanni Reyna $501

The price differential between Havertz’s prices right now and those of the Americans are ridiculous. Kai is one of the premier young talents in global soccer and has proven able to contribute at the highest levels. He started ahead of Pulisic at Chelsea and was the best player for Germany in Euro 2020.

The two American players have great potential, which is so far unrealized. However, American players fetch a massive premium in the hobby.

Giovanni Reyna enjoys the ultimate big market advantage just by being American (get Reyna autos on eBay).

Bottomline On The Sports Card Big Market Value Effect 

Our examination of the big market effect indicates that it is a real phenomenon. However, it does not have the same influence in all scenarios. For example, the better known a player is before they are affiliated with, the bigger team, the lower the big market effect. That is why Lindor cards doubled in value after his move to New York, while Lebron cards had only a modest bounce after his move to Los Angeles.

That explains why players selected through a high-profile process such as the NBA or NFL draft enjoy a less significant market effect than their MLB counterparts. It is also why soccer players from high-profile nations such as the US and England gain less of a bounce when they join bigger clubs. This is because people know who they are already. In other words, the big market bounce is simply about the visibility that comes with more extensive exposure.

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is a former history and political science professor at UCLA. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary. Shai also worked as a diplomat and journalist on three continents.