Photo: Best of Ohio Sports Cards
This article was featured in our newsletter, Alts & Ends. Click here to subscribe for free and receive the best collectible market insights straight to your inbox on a weekly basis!
There are very few situations in which the answer to the following question should be no: would you like $250,000 for your piece of cardboard?
What if there was a follow-up question, though: If the player depicted on that piece of cardboard becomes a Hall of Famer, would you like $1,000,000 for it?
Those are the literal questions facing the family that recently pulled the 1/1 Druw Jones Superfractor Auto from 2023 Bowman Baseball.
About a month ago, Dave and Adam's, a collectibles dealer, made headlines when it issued a bounty for the premier grail of the 2023 Bowman Baseball set. Their offer: $250,000 up front for the card....or $1,000,000 if and when Jones becomes a Hall of Famer. We know, it sounds crazy! But you have to remember.....this piece of cardboard is uniquely shiny. The "fractor" is of the "Super" variety.
Of course, cards valued at $250,000 or above aren't at all uncommon. They're a bit more uncommon when they're the cards of players who have yet to appear in a major league game, but they're still not entirely unheard of. The most well-known example is the $474,000 paid for Jasson Dominguez's Superfractor Auto at Goldin in February of 2022. Dominguez is batting .207 this season in AA ball and is currently ranked somewhere between the 47th and 67th best prospect in baseball.
That result alone might make you spit at the $250,000 offer. A pittance! How dare they!
This market is not, however, the market of February 2022, and the same strength of demand hasn't been on offer for prospect cards in recent months. Jones is indeed a highly touted prospect, though, ranking between 15th and 33rd, and his arrival has been heavily anticipated for many years as the son of Braves legend Andruw Jones. The Diamondbacks were certainly eager to have him aboard: Jones is just one of five drafted players in history to receive a signing bonus in excess of $8 million.
Let's assume $250,000 is a pretty reasonable offer in today's market for a player with no big league experience. Maybe it would do better at auction, maybe it wouldn't...either way, it seems reasonable. But what if things go really well for Jones over the next, say, 10 years?
Two of the most marketable and productive players in today's MLB have had their key Superfractor autos sell over the last 12 months. Aaron Judge's sold for $324,000 in May of 2022, notably before he broke the AL single season home run record. Bryce Harper's sold for $432,000 in November of 2022. Almost anybody would agree that no matter how highly-touted, if a prospect ends up being as successful as Aaron Judge or Bryce Harper, that's a massive success. So, if you pulled the card and you resolutely, 100% believed Druw Jones would be that good, you wouldn't take the $250,000 unless you thought you could earn enough by investing that $250,000 today to surpass the future proceeds from the card. That's right, we're about to drop some time value of money on ya. What other collectibles newsletter is doing that?!$
250,000 invested at an annual return of 5% for 10 years would yield about $407k. That would put you in today's Harper/Judge ballpark, but you'd also be operating under the assumption that the market would be stable over the next 10 years and not in the ascendancy. We're guessing that would not be a popular belief for someone involved enough in the Hobby to pull the Jones card.
If the market were to appreciate, you'd have to do much better than 5% annually on your investments to out-earn where the Superfractor of a successful Druw Jones might end up a decade down the line. Again though, this is all operating under the assumption you unflinchingly believe he's going to be great, building in a 100% probability that will be the case. Obviously, the reality of the situation offers nowhere near such a probability.
And if you think he's going to be great, you probably think he's a Hall of Famer, right? In that case, let's assume Jones plays 15 years and becomes HoF eligible after another 5, meaning you have a 20 year time horizon. If you took the $250,000 today, you'd have to return about 7.2% annually for 20 years to surpass the $1,000,000 that could have instead been due to you. Not an impossible number if you have an appetite for risk, but certainly no slam dunk; over the last 15 years, the annualized return of the S&P 500 is 7.85%, though it's higher at 10.11% over the last, highly bullish decade. Of course, if you took the cash up front, you'd have the $250,000 in hand, and plenty of people would have plenty of great uses and needs for it beyond investing.
Still, there's really only one way at the moment to make that $1,000,000 offer look insulting: assume Jones becomes Mike Trout. Trout's Superfractor Auto sold for $3,840,000 in August of 2020. Obviously that sum is much larger than $1 mill, but the seller also didn't have to wait for Trout's induction to cash in, which is a meaningful advantage. If Jones is to be a Hall of Fame caliber player on Trout's level, it will be apparent long before he's enshrined in Cooperstown.
Ultimately, the decision will rest with The Silers, owners of Best of Ohio Sports Cards. The grandpa of the family pulled the card in the passenger seat of the car on a drive to Cincinnati, asking "is Druw Jones any good?"
They've stated that they're not considering the $1,000,000 offer due to the timeframe entailed. Whatever they decide, whether that's taking the $250,000 outright or consigning it at auction sometime in the near future, it's clear that a swift exit is far and away the lowest risk option. If Jones becomes Trout, they'll have regrets. If he becomes Judge or Harper, they can probably take that in stride. As it stands today, just about any lesser outcome will leave them with few qualms about taking the $250,000 bird in hand.
A fascinating potential suitor for the card has emerged: Druw Jones. Whether in jest or not, Jones himself commented "let me get it" on an Instagram post documenting the pull. With that $8 million signing bonus, perhaps he could do better than $250k, but that might not be the most prudent use of cash for a 19 year old athlete. Then again, it's one way to bet on yourself....you know, like not in a Pete Rose-y way.
UPDATE: The Silers have accepted the $250,000 offer from Dave & Adam's!
Enjoyed this article? Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter to receive more like it in your inbox weekly!
Disclaimer: You understand that by reading Altan Insights, you are not receiving financial advice. No content published here constitutes a recommendation that any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. You further understand that the author(s) are not advising you personally concerning the nature, potential, value or suitability of any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy. You alone are solely responsible for determining whether an investment, security or strategy, or any other product or service, is appropriate or suitable for you based on your investment objectives and personal financial situation. Please speak with a financial advisor to understand if the risks inherent in trading are appropriate for you. Trade at your own risk.