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Basketball card

Bucking the Trend

Before the matchup between the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo rookie cards were absolutely on fire. In fact, when I last wrote about Giannis back on August 13th (click here for a link to that post) the PSA 10 Prizm rookie cards were up roughly 5,000% in the past two years. It was one of, if not the hottest rookie card I’d covered this year.

However, the Bucks quickly found themselves in an 0-3 hole to the Miami Heat and although they walked away with an overtime win in game 4, the victory was a result of everyone but Giannis playing great ball. If you didn’t see the game, Giannis re-injured his right ankle and had to leave the game in the 2nd quarter and didn’t return. At the time of writing this post, his status for game five is unknown, but I’m assuming he will play.

The funny thing about game 4 was the rest of the Bucks played like a well oiled machine in GA’s abscence. According to Jimmy Butler, the Heat took their foot off the gas when Giannis left the game, but what I saw was the Bucks simply playing strong team ball. It reminded me a little bit of those 9 or 10 crazy games the Knicks had when Carmelo Anthony got hurt and it allowed Jeremy Lin and the rest of the team to play out of their minds.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, sometimes the best thing for a team is for them to lose their star player. Then again, I’m also watching season one of Friday Night Lights at the moment so its possible my perspective right now is wildly skewed. (Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!)

From a collectors perspective, now is NOT the time to buy any of Giannis’ rookies, in case that was a thought anyone felt creeping into their domes. I put out a poll on twitter before game 4 asking people if people agreed with the following statement: “If the Bucks lose to the Heat, Giannis rookies will drop at least 10% over the next few months?”.

The results were unanimous. Of the 16 responses I received (Whoa, 16… I’m getting there) every single person said the value would fall by at least 10%. So, assuming the people on twitter know their stuff, wait until November or December and grab a Giannis rookie at a discount.

I agree with those that weighed in, and think the drop could be much greater than 10%, but in lieu of knowing the future, lets take a look at the Giannis Panini Prizm graded PSA 10 rookie (#290) to see what the price action has been in the nearly four weeks since I last looked at it.

2013 Panini Prizm Giannis Antetokounmpo Rookie (#290)

I wanted to take a look and see how the Giannis rookies have done in the first week of the month for each of the last four months, and also look back at how much the PSA was selling for the first week of September in 2019. As you can see from the graph below, the PSA 10 was selling for just over $500 last year during the first week of September.

As we got closer and closer to playoffs, and as we got deeper into COVID-19, the price of Giannis PSA 10 Prizm rookies shot up like crazy. This card looks to have peaked in August, when the card was selling for an average price of $6,500! However, with the Bucks on the ropes, the card has already dropped by almost $2,000 and it may still have lots of room to drop. In fact, if the Bucks lose to the Heat, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this card settle in for the remainder of the year in the $2,000 – $3,000 range, so basically what it was trading for back in June and July.

But what about some of the players on the Heat? They were not favored to win this series, and yet they now lead the Bucks 3-1 and look almost certain to move on. I’m curious to know if players like Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo (who killed it in Game 4, with 26 points and 12 boards) have seen strong upticks in the demand for their rookie cards, and if those numbers have kept on creeping upward as they get closer and closer to closing out the series with the Bucks.

To keep the comparisons as similar as possible, I’ll focus on the Panini Prizm PSA 10 cards for both Butler and Adebayo. Neither player’s cards are traded any anywhere near the same level as Giannis’ rookie card, but I’ll do my best to make as close to a similar comparison as possible.

With Jimmy Butler’s 2012 Panini Prizm PSA 10 rookie card (#205), the current prices for the last three sales have all been at or over $1,000 – which is the highest prices ever recorded for this Butler rookie. So unlike Giannis, Butlers card prices have continued to rise, as one would expect.

2012 Panini Prizm Jimmy Butler Rookie (#205)

There were 8 Jimmy Butler PSA 10 sales in the first week in August, and seven of those sold in a tight range of $530-$575. There were three sales make on July 8th (none in the first actual week of July) that sold between $425-$430. And if we go back to September 2019, we see the PSA 10 Butler Prizm rookies were going for $25-$35. Putting this all together, we see the Butler cards are up around 3,000% in one year, while Giannis’ Prizm rookie is ‘only’ up at the moment by around 800%.

But before Jumping on the Butler Bandwagon, you’d be very wise to remember that what we see now happening to Giannis rookies could (and likely will) happen to Butler rookies if the Heat don’t go all the way, which is still a very tall order given how strong both the Raptors and Celtics have looked in their series. After last nights victory, the Celtic’s now hold a 3-2 edge over the Raptors and are looking to be the likely matchup against the Heat, assuming they close things out against the Bucks.

I think it’s also worth looking at Adebayo, simply because he has had such strong performances the last two games and his stats and role on the Heat have really come alive in the 2019-2020 season. Adebayo could be a good player to catch while his cards are still pretty affordable, and if he continues to play like he has or gets traded to a stronger team in the off season, he may pan out for collectors.

Adebayo’s rookie season came back in 2017, and as such his prizm rookie is from the 2017-18 Panini Prizm set (card #51). Unlike Butler, Adebayo was drafted by the Heat so his rookie card features him in the Heat uniform.

2017 Panini Prizm Bam Adebayo Rookie (#51)

Like the Butler rookie, the Adebayo rookie card has continued to climb into September. Looking only at the PSA 10s, this card has moved from about $125 back in May up to around $500 now. In fact, right now (8:20 AM on September 8th), there is a PSA 10 up on eBay with 14 hours left in the auction and it has already been bid up to $560 (link to that auction)!

There were no cards sold back in September 2019, but if we go to back to January of this year, the one PSA 10 sale went for $26. So in the past 8 months, the Abedayo PSA 10 rookie card is up around 1,800%!

I’ve been very impressed with Bam Adebayo this season and throughout the playoffs, but I think his rookie cards are too pricey at the moment. I’m very doubtful that the Heat can go all the way, so as soon as they exit the playoffs the Adebayo rookies, like the Butler rookies, should see a significant dip and later in the year is probably a much better time to try and pick up a high end Adebayo rookie.

Although we’ve seen prices for some Heat players at all time highs, it will benefit collectors to be patient and get some fantastic rookies once the prices start to come back down to earth. We’ve already started to see this with Giannis and it will likely be the story for all players in the off season, with the one exception of the star players who end up taking home the Championship in this bizarre 2020 season.

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