Little known fact: Ray Allen’s first name is actually Walter. But Walter Allen sounds like an 80’s finance bro, a person I’d picture working alongside Patrick Bateman (a relative of Paul Allen’s, no doubt) comparing business cards, so I support Ray’s decision to use his middle name.
I wanted to write a post about Ray because he’s one of my all-time favorite players. He was a dynamic shooting guard who could shoot from behind the arc, get to the rim, he was automatic when he went to the foul line, and he starred as Jesus Shuttlesworth in the Spike Lee movie, He Got Game. On top of that, I’ve heard through the grapevine that he’s a genuinely nice guy (despite that whole catfishing incident).
One of the other things I like about Ray is that his cards are still very affordable. He came into the NBA after the junk card era (late 80’s and early 90’s) and he was enough of a star to be featured in many parallel sets. He has a number of quality rookie cards, including autographed rookies and refractors. The one rookie card of his that I’m featuring today is his 1996-97 SkyBox Premium Autographics rookie card. I don’t own this card but I like this card for its simplicity and SkyBox did a fantastic job designing the card to accentuate the autograph, with a white background running along the left side of the card and then fading to a purple background off to the right. The autograph is also on the card, which is an important feature that a lot of collectors, including myself, value when evaluating cards.
The normal card in this set is signed with a black ink marker, but there is also a blue ink parallel. I wasn’t able to find any hard data about how rare the blue ink parallels were, but various sources out there on the internet seem to agree that the first 100 cards were signed in blue ink, and as you’d expect, blue ink copies of the Ray rookie or any 96-97 Premium Autographics card sell at a premium. If you’re in the market for this card, its also important to look for the SkyBox embossed logo to minimize the risk of purchasing a counterfeit card.
One strange feature about this card is that it doesn’t have a card number. I can’t really explain why, but this bothers me a bit. I’d just expect something like “SA-RA”, for SkyBox Autographics – Ray Allen, but SkyBox chose not to use a card number or reference and I’m going to have to live with that. It isn’t a big deal, and I still love the card, but it is a bit odd.
As of July 23rd, I only saw three copies of this card selling on eBay so this Ray rookie is pretty scarce. The prices for the two black ink cards were between $130 and $175. The only blue ink card was listed with a Buy It Now price of $449. This card certainly has potential to appreciate in value given that there seems to be a lot of positive sentiment around SkyBox Premium Autographics set in general and Ray was a top rookie featured in the set so I’d expect that this could see a nice upward trend as basketball card collecting picks up steam.
* “I love Walter” was a phrase Tommy Heinsohn used to say during his tenure as an announcer for the Boston Celtics whenever Walter McCarty did something he liked. He said it frequently enough that it was the obvious title for me to use for this post. The wasn’t much to love during the Walter years (’97-’05), as the C’s only had one season with greater than 45 wins, so Tommy was just doing what he could to keep the fans engaged during the Celtics doldrums period.