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Age Before Beauty? Austin Before O-maha(!)? Arch Manning Card Outsells Peyton

Age Before Beauty? Austin Before O-maha(!)? Arch Manning Card Outsells Peyton
August 10, 2023
Dylan Dittrich

Photo: Panini America

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The less you've accomplished, the more your cards might be worth.

That's the reality in a sports card market that has not yet shaken its troubling affinity for prospecting. Last week, a card featuring Texas freshman quarterback Arch Manning sold for the eye-popping sum of $102,500. It was his 1/1 Panini Black Prizm Autograph that drew inspired bidding, with proceeds benefitting St. David's Foundation in central Texas.

While that famous last name and an unprecedented football recruitment make Arch a surefire favorite among fans and collectors, the 18 year old signal caller has yet to take a collegiate snap and will not be the starter for the Longhorns this season. It might be a year before we know if he's any good at the college level, let alone the NFL.

Consider this: the $102,500 sale is $30,000 MORE expensive than his uncle Peyton's most expensive card. That, of course, makes sense, because all that bum did was win two Super Bowls and five MVPs, all while becoming one of the more universally likable athletes we've had in recent memory. Most would agree that going on to equal Peyton's career would very likely be the absolute BEST case scenario for Arch. That would be incredible! Peyton is one of the best quarterbacks of all time.

Let's be honest, becoming Eli would be amazing; only 13 quarterbacks in history have won multiple Super Bowls, and Eli might be even more likable than Peyton. His most expensive card sold for just under $6,000. Shame on you sports card market.

Still, while some of the best case scenarios would be simply reaching the same heights as his uncles, one of Arch's cards is already more expensive than either of theirs ever was. Peyton's early years came during the junk wax era, so his cards are of course populous, and the card companies had not yet done as careful a job in creating and managing scarcity amongst that flood of cardboard. But this Arch card was created out of thin air - it's not part of a broader set, nor does it follow the traditional path of a young player's collecting journey. Does that contrived scarcity truly make it better than any of Peyton's cards?

The market says yes, but this perhaps flawed line of thinking has become entrenched in recent years. What used to resemble buying a lottery ticket can't be referred to as such anymore. What lottery ticket costs $100k?! This is more akin to betting on one of the slight favorites in a crowded field, without particularly favorable odds.  Arch has to go on to become great for the value of that card to multiply. Even then, the upside may not be massive, particularly if you consider the distinct possibility that a card from college - even though it's his first - may not be considered his most valuable.

We're certainly not here to pick on Arch. That's right Jasson Dominguez, you're next pal. In February of last year, a collector paid $474,000 for the Yankee prospect's 1/1 Bowman Chrome Prospect Autographs Superfractor. At the time, he had yet to play even AA baseball!

Bryce Harper's Superfractor Auto sold for $432,000. Aaron Judge's sold for $324,000. Man, wouldn't it be great if Dominguez turned out to be as good and as marketable as those two guys?  Literally two of the best and most marketable stars in baseball, and Dominguez's most coveted card is already more expensive than theirs. The 20 year old Dominguez is currently batting .238 in AA, but things are getting better after a July that saw him find a groove to hit .319. Still, AA success is far from MLB superstardom, so there's a long road to justifying that price, let alone improving upon it.

One of the better "prospecting" bets in recent memory was the September 2018 sale of Shohei Ohtani's Superfractor Auto for $184,000. That buy will pay off handsomely, potentially resulting in a seven-figure windfall. But, that was a massive sale at the time, and Ohtani wasn't really a prospect at all, as he was already well on his way to a Rookie of the Year crown. He was established at the highest level.

In the present card market, there are no real lottery tickets. Chase cards are well understood, and talents are better scouted than ever. Today's values price in unrealistic probabilities of success, reducing the ultimate reward for "hitting" the lottery.

Anyways, once Bronny James is hopefully fully recovered and thriving, we're looking forward to copying and pasting this section with minor modifications when his first card sells for more than some houses.

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