With so much emphasis in the hobby this year on Shohei Ohtani and young stars like Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Wander Franco to name a few, the big hobby stars of just a few years ago can be all but forgotten.
Don’t look now, but the next player to blow up on the baseball card market might be Bryce Harper.
For those of us who have been reading about, watching and collecting Harper since he first appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a teenage phenom, it’s hard to imagine that he could be even a little bit under the radar. But this is 2021, and it’s where we are at.
And surprisingly, many of his cards are being reported on hobby sties with a declining value.
It seems like Harper has been around forever, but he is only 28 years old. He is one of the youngest players to ever be featured in a baseball card set, having made his debut way back in 2008 in the Upper Deck USA Baseball card set as a member of the U16 national team. Most copies of the card can be found for well under $200 as of now. The jersey/patch autographed variation serial numbered to 50 has a value range of $1,000 to $1,500.
Harper’s first Bowman card was in the 2009 Bowman AFLAC Autographs insert set. The card is serial numbered to 230 and high-grade examples are still under $1,000.
The first official Bryce Harper rookie cards appeared in 2012. He was a late addition to Topps Series 2 with a short printed rookie card and a couple of photo variations.
Harper also has a 2012 Topps Archives short printed RC that’s a bit tough to find and has been rising in value, along with the Fan Favorites autograph version. One of his most sought after cards is the 2012 Topps Heritage and its autographed brother. Both are super short printed and will require a decent sized investment.
A lot of collectors zero in on Bowman Chrome autographs and Harper did sign for the 2011 product. Higher grade examples of the non-parallel versions have been pushing toward $1,000, still a relatively reasonable sum.
There are plenty more cards from Harper’s first couple of seasons in pro ball but if you are looking for something to be to eventually get graded or just want an affordable Harper RC, they are out there. He has Topps Finest, Bowman Chrome and Topps Allen and Ginter cards cards that are often available for $25 or less.
Topps Now Celebrates Harper’s 250th
Last week, Topps put Harper front and center again as they released a Topps Now card to commemorate Harper’s 250th home run. It might have made fans and collectors do a double take. Yes, Harper has 250 home runs to his credit at age 28. And let’s not forget that he has an MVP Award to his name plus the World Series ring he won with the Washington Nationals.
The Phillies have overtaken the New York Mets for first place in the NL East and Harper is hearing “MVP” chants from the crowd at Citizens Bank Park. With Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jacob deGrom both out with injuries, Harper has emerged as a bona fide candidate. Friday night, he hit his 19th home run of the season in the eighth inning to ice the win that vaulted Philadelphia into first place. He added another one during the weekend.
Although he missed some time with injuries earlier in the year, he has been on fire since the All-Star Break. Harper is currently hitting .302 with a .413 on base percentage and a slugging percentage of .570.
The Phillies added closer Ian Kennedy and starter Kyle Gibson at the trade deadline. The addition of Kennedy was crucial. The Phillies would have run away with the division by this point if it weren’t for their bullpen meltdowns. Kennedy will stabilize that, and the Phillies have are suddenly the favorite to win the division.
If that happens, and if Harper keeps producing at the plate, he is the favorite for the NL MVP award. The Phillies haven’t been to the playoffs in ten years but if they go on a playoff run and win a World Series, Harper will be in the spotlight again, just as he was in Washington a few years ago.
While he’s taken a back seat to some young players who’ve been on collectors’ minds over the last few years like Ronald Acuna Jr., Fernando Tatis, Juan Soto, Luis Robert and others, he probably shouldn’t.
About Jeff Morris
Jeff Morris is a hobby veteran who has been a collector for more than 50 years. Originally a hobby journalist, he became brand manager at Pinnacle, and then was an executive for Collector’s Edge and Shop at Home before joining Pacific Trading Cards as VP Marketing. He is the former editor and publisher of Canadian Sports Collector magazine, and he was also a columnist for ESPN.com.