Instances like ‘Linsanity’ are Actually Quite Good for the Hobby

The Super Bowl capped off the football season a few weeks ago. Baseball season is underway, but a spring training game hasn’t taken place yet. What a perfect time for a seldom-used role player to get thrust into the New York City limelight and starting lineup, taking over to become the toast of the current NBA season and a media darling.

Of course, I’m talking about Jeremy Lin, the Knicks point guard out of Harvard who saw little action this season or last and then in the span of five games is the most talked about player of the 2011-12 season thus far.

Say what you want about New York players getting all of the limelight from ESPN, etc., but this is actually good for the hobby, too. Far too often, probably, I’ve lamented about young players attracting big prices for their collectibles, usually trading cards, even though their professional resumes are really light on experience. But I should be applauding anything that brings attention, and the accompanying money, being shoveled into the hobby as a result. This is a good thing and an added boost for many hobby shops.

Cruising around online, dealers are mentioning how they haven’t seen this kind of activity in years. Cards that were selling for $20-$25 at the end of January are now bringing several hundred dollars. A 2010-11 National Treasures autographed patch card, numbered 1-of-1, brought $4,800. Wouldn’t that be a lovely surprise? A card tossed aside in a collection because it wasn’t John Wall from last year’s draft class is now trouncing its peers. It’s like finding an extra couple hundred bucks – or more – in your pants pocket.

But his cards have also meant robust sales of past products, as well. Panini must be loving this, as the exclusive trading card partner of the NBA. A 2010-11 Panini National Treasures Basketball unopened four-box case sold for a tick over $3,000 in hopes of landing a Lin card. Do you think a year-old product was moving that swiftly beforehand?

Much of the time the speculative nature takes hold immediately with players and the card prices follow suit. A hot prospect is followed from high school or college and any card with his image is instantly highly valued. Rarely is the process reversed when talking about first or second-year players. Lin is currently the exception.

It’s funny how this hobby works. One of the most important sports memorabilia collections in the hobby is being auctioned off by Legendary Auctions in the form of the Dreier Collection, yet Lin is captivating the spotlight at the moment. The Dreier Collection has items that are truly one of kind and not contrived scarcity from manufacturers. Yet those items won’t get the mainstream media attention.

Our sports hobby is still rather insular despite all of its main players – the athletes past and present – in the spotlight nearly every minute of the day. Tons of money is spent daily on sports memorabilia, but it’s the hot flashes, oddball items and rare game-used gems that get the mainstream attention. If those same people would look further into the hobby, they would find a lot more to love that each one of us is already aware of.

But I guess that’s OK. If these anomalies mean additional money flowing into this hobby from a bunch of unexpected sources, who can argue with that?

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