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Investing in Football Cards: The NFL Rookie Class of 2012

by Rob Bertrand (09/04/12).

As is true with any other sport, a player’s rookie cards, including the 2012 Score Russell Wilson card, are the ones that will appreciate (or depreciate) in value commiserate with their play on the field.

This week kicks off the 2012 National Football League season, as helmeted warriors return to the gridiron for another year of America’s favorite game. With a record-setting five rookie quarterbacks scheduled to lead their teams on the field, now is the time to invest in their football cards. As is true with any other sport, a player’s rookie cards are the ones that will appreciate (or depreciate) in value commiserate with their play on the field. Additionally, no other position delivers consistent return on investment as the quarterback.

Every year, football card manufacturers produce innumerable products geared to collectors of varying budgets. Ranging from low-end or entry level products costing between $1 and $3 per pack, to super-premium products costing $200-$300 per pack, collectors have a wide array of cards to choose from. Currently, only two manufactures carry licenses to produce NFL trading cards, Panini and Topps. As is to be expected, the higher the original price point of a particular product, typically, the higher the secondary market value for that player’s rookie card from that product. Another factor that influences the value of a player’s rookie card is condition; much like any other collectible. Submitting a player’s rookie cards to a third-party grading service is an excellent way to protect the condition and increase the card’s value.

Unlike the early years of trading cards, when each player only had a single rookie card issued, today’s players can have upwards of 30 or more. While not every collector can afford to purchase unopened product or the single cards contained in high-end brands, there are plenty of opportunities to invest in football rookie cards without breaking the bank. Like any investment, it should be noted that there is an inherent risk in doing so. More often than not, players will not live up to their draft hype or perceived potential and, therefore, never see an appreciation in their rookie cards. For an example one needs to look no further than the over-hyped draft class of 2006 that yielded potential NFL stars in Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and Vince Young. Their rookie cards quickly sky-rocketed in value, given their success at the college level, but unfortunately, none of these players lived up to expectations and, as a result, their rookie card values plummeted as a result.

Fast forward six years and collectors are presented with another potentially star-studded rookie crop. Skill position players, like quarterback and running back, have been and will always be collector favorites. So, with the aforementioned five starting rookie quarterbacks, here is a look at each player and some of their early rookie cards; in particular, those that are autographed, easy to find on the secondary market and have the potential to increase in value.

The Players

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts, 1st Overall Pick 2012 Draft, Stanford
The pre-determined pick of the Colts in this year’s NFL Draft, the pick came as no surprise once management decided to part ways with long-time franchise player Peyton Manning. Luck has big shoes to fill but perhaps no rookie quarterback has ever been better suited to fill a void left by a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer. Luck has been given a big target to match or exceed with the record 26 touchdown passes Peyton threw for as a rookie in 1998.

Robert Griffin III (RG3), Washington Redskins, 2nd Overall Pick 2012 Draft, Baylor
The contagious enthusiasm and confidence that accompanies Griffin’s well-documented athletic skills made him the on-field leader the Redskins have been desperate for. Griffin was the 2011 Heisman Trophy award winner, an honor given to the top NCAA football player.

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins, 8th Overall Pick 2012 Draft, Texas A&M
Tannehill has the dubious distinction of being the first quarterback selected by the Miami Dolphins with a first-round pick since the venerable Dam Marino; lofty company to say the least. He is the 17th starting quarterback for the franchise since Marino’s retirement. While no one expects him achieve the passing records Marino racked up in his career, the Dolphins are hoping he will be the leader they have been lacking. They invested heavily in the young standout, signing him to a four-year, $12.68-million deal.

Brandon Weedon, Cleveland Browns, 22nd Overall Pick 2012 Draft, Oklahoma St
Weedon is the oldest player to be drafted in the first round in Draft history. At 28 years old, he has far less upside than the aforementioned quarterbacks seeing as he is starting his career when most players are just entering their prime. The Cleveland Browns are hoping that his maturity, arm strength and the addition of draft classmate, running back Trent Richardson, will be enough to build around over the next few years.

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, 75th Overall Pick 2012 Draft, Wisconsin
Players selected in the third round of the NFL Draft aren’t expected to start, at least immediately. Quarterbacks selected in the third round, often don’t even make the team out of training camp. The fact that Wilson has been able to earn the starting spot is nearly unprecedented. He will be on a very short leash but the Seahawks are hoping his ground game and overall athleticism can help overcome any deficiencies in his passing game.

The Cards

It should be noted that there are several products still to be released this football season and this list represents only those currently available on the secondary market; including those from the brands: Bowman, Topps, Score, Prestige, Elite, Rookie & Stars, Finest and Inception. While most all of these products will contain autographed rookie cards from the following quarterbacks, individual characteristics may vary from brand to brand including the print run, serial numbering, inclusion of jersey material, etc. Shown here are images and details from these brands with each of the quarterbacks (in most cases) having an identical card in the product checklist.

2012 Topps

2012 Topps Andrew Luck

An annual tradition for decades, the base Topps product delivers a comprehensive set with numerous inserts and parallels and a checklist of autographed rookie cards from the top draft picks.

Andrew Luck Card #140
Robert Griffin III Card #340
Ryan Tannehill Card #134
Brandon Weedon Card #3
Russell Wilson Card #165

2012 Score

2012 Score Brandon Weedon

A product designed to be fun and affordable. Odds of finding a rookie autograph card are challenging as the print run is very limited, making them valuable but because they herald from an entry-level product, are more affordable than rookie autographed cards from other products

Andrew Luck Card #304
Robert Griffin III Card #368
Ryan Tannehill Card #375
Brandon Weedon Card #308
Russell Wilson Card #372

2012 Bowman
A Topps product that focuses heavily on rookie content with an array of parallels and inserts, Bowman cards are notorious for being condition sensitive due to their traditionally dark borders. A mid-range product that provides three rookie autograph cards per box.

Andrew Luck Card #150
Robert Griffin III Card #200
Ryan Tannehill Card #110
Brandon Weedon Card #161
Russell Wilson Card NA

2012 Prestige (by Panini)

2012 Prestige (by Panini) Robert Griffin III

This is a mid-range product that has become a favorite of mainstream collectors, as it is typically the first product to hit the market after the conclusion of the NFL Draft, allowing collectors to stock up on a checklist of autographed rookie cards from almost 100 players.

Andrew Luck Card #229 (Serial #’d /299 copies)
Robert Griffin III Card #230 (Serial #’d /299 copies)
Ryan Tannehill Card #231 (Serial #’d /299 copies)
Brandon Weedon Card #236 (Serial #’d /299 copies)
Russell Wilson Card #238 (Serial #’d /499 copies)

2012 Topps Finest
A higher-end product that relies on brilliant colors and a metallic-like card stock to deliver a set of autographed rookie cards that deliver a wow factor. The product features several levels of parallels in limited availability adding an additional level of collectability.

Andrew Luck Card #110
Robert Griffin III Card #120
Ryan Tannehill Card #135
Brandon Weedon Card #102
Russell Wilson Card #140

2012 Topps Inception

2012 Topps Inception Andrew Luck

A product returning for its second season that delivers upper mid-range content at a similar price point. This brand relies heavily on an artistic theme compared to typical action or posed photos, with the result being that they resemble miniature works of art.

Andrew Luck Card #110
Robert Griffin III Card #120
Ryan Tannehill Card #101
Brandon Weedon Card #105
Russell Wilson Card #112

2012 Elite (by Panini)

2012 Elite (by Panini) Robert Griffin III

Elite football has become a staple in Panini’s annual product release calendar and relies on a flashy mirror foil board, tiered parallels and rookie autographs at the product’s core. Featuring 100 top rookies, the higher serial numbering and corresponding print run provides a better than average chance of hitting one of the rookie quarterbacks.

Andrew Luck Card #101 (Serial #’d /699 copies)
Robert Griffin III Card #102 (Serial #’d /699 copies)
Ryan Tannehill Card #111 (Serial #’d /699 copies)
Brandon Weedon Card #141 (Serial #’d /699 copies)
Russell Wilson Card #190 (Serial #’d /799 copies)

2012 Rookies & Stars (by Panini)

2012 Rookies & Stars (by Panini) Andrew Luck

This is the only current product that features true rookie cards (numbered as part of the base set) that contains a piece of jersey material and an autograph, adding further value to an already strong rookie autograph checklist. Additionally, they are limited in printing and serial numbered to /499.

Andrew Luck Card #216
Robert Griffin III Card #217
Ryan Tannehill Card #220
Brandon Weedon Card #223
Russell Wilson Card #246

WorthPoint’s Pick

2012 Rookies and Stars (Panini) Autographed Materials Jersey Rookie Serial Numbered to /499
This is a product that has had a complete facelift from years past and may fly under the radar of most mainstream collectors, allowing this card to be picked up at a relative bargain. Featuring a clean horizontal layout, three-quarter length player photo, autograph with jersey number inscription, piece of rookie jersey material and serial numbered under 500, makes this a highly attractive and desirable card. As additional higher-end products begin to hit the market, this will be a brand collectors look back on for their comparative value, so the key will be to grab them early regardless of current price.

As for picking which player is most likely to achieve, my money is on Andrew Luck. He may not win immediately, as the Colts are in a rebuilding mode. However, if he stays healthy, he seems to me to be the prototypical package when you envision an NFL quarterback. Only time will tell.

Rob Bertrand has been an active collector of sports cards and memorabilia for more than 20 years. His involvement in the hobby community is well documented, having been the content manager for the Card Corner Club website before the company’s merger with CardboardConnection in 2011, where he is now a staff writer and multimedia content producer. Rob is also the co-host of the sports collectibles hobby’s only live and nationally broadcast radio show, Cardboard Connection Radio. He is the author of the highly respected and trafficked blog, Voice of the Collector and you can follow him on Twitter @VOTC. A dealer himself, Rob runs an online business through eBay, and is frequently asked to consign collections.

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3 Responses to “Investing in Football Cards: The NFL Rookie Class of 2012”

  1. DJ says:

    Related to the topic of collectible football cards, I have a somewhat unique question?

    I have TWO very interesting Items. Two sheets (not proof sheets). These are two different Topps card sheets which never made it the final “guillotine” for cutting. There’s a valid reason.Each sheet is in excellent preserved condition and were never cut or circulated because they were Topps “mistakes”.

    On side A:

    BASEBALL players.

    On side B (the reverse sides):

    FOOTBALL players.

    What kind of value would such sheets have to collectors?

  2. JUST TOO MANY CARD COMPANIES & TOO MANY CARDS ISSUED PER PACKAGE, WOULD DIE OF OLD AGE BEFORE ANY OF THESE BECOME VALUABLE. A WASTE OF MONEY. BILLY

  3. Billy Reed says:

    i really enjoy geting new cards

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