If the 2022 Stanley Cup finals will be remembered by collectors for one thing, it will be for the explosion of interest for Cale Makar in the hobby.
The 23-year-old Colorado Avalanche star won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman earlier this week. His graded rookie cards and variations are on fire.
Makar rookie cards have become increasingly popular during the postseason. While it’s far too soon to know exactly what his career will hold, it’s become more common to hear him compared to a young Bobby Orr.
Orr is among the top three collected players of all time, tucking in behind Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe. After the big three, players like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur dominate the market. Aside from Orr, there are no defensemen on the list.
Makar may be changing that.
In the last 12 months, over 10,000 Makar listings have sold on eBay alone, for a total of more than $1.2 million. Earlier this month, one of two PSA 9 copies of his rookie patch autograph from the 2019-20 Upper Deck “The Cup” product sold for $13,600.
In April, one of two PSA 10 copies of his Upper Deck Clear Cut Red Ink Autograph netted $14,500.
Makar’s first name has hockey roots. Makar’s father did some marketing work with the Calgary Flames in the 1990s. He got to know Flames player Cale Hulse quite well and named his new son after him. A stay-at-home defenseman, Hulse scored 16 goals in 10 NHL seasons.
Who would have known Cale Makar would not only grow up to play in the league but also play the same position as his namesake?
Makar may have taken a while to become well known to some collectors in the east, because the Avalanche play the majority of their games late at night. College hockey fans are full aware of him, though. Three years ago he won the Hobey Baker Trophy while playing at Massachusetts. He jumped from his final season in the NCAA into his first playoffs without ever having played an NHL regular season game.
Immediately, Makar started producing points from the back end while being an exceptional defender, especially in the transition, because of his skating.
But offense is what drives value in collecting, and what Makar has done in his young career is staggering.
In NHL history, there have only been three defensemen to average more than a point per game in their careers both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey were the first two. Makar is now the third.
Brian Leetch also averaged more than a point per game in the playoffs, but he did not have that average in the regular season. Orr finished his career with 1.243 points per playoff game. Makar is currently second with 1.096 points per playoff game. In the first round of the 2022 playoffs, Makar scored ten points in a four-game sweep of the Nashville Predators–the most ever by a defenseman in the first four games of a postseason. A sweep of the Oilers followed.
“You could really see how good he was in the series against Edmonton,” said longtime NHL and WHA star Rick Smith, who was a teammate of Orr’s as a defenseman with the Boston Bruins in the 1970s. “He is a gifted playmaker offensively. But defensively, he is a great skater and he is a very good defender. To see him chase down Connor McDavid and take away a scoring chance is amazing.”
In that series, former NHL goalie and current Hockey Night in Canada analyst Kelly Hrudey also compared Makar’s skill set to that of Orr. Hrudey made the comment that he was talking to a former star defenseman about Makar. The former player, who turned out to be Rob Blake, told Hrudey that Makar was the best defenseman the NHL has seen since Orr.
While Makar has the ability to shut down the NHL’s top offensive stars – just look at how he neutralized Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl of the Oilers – he is also one of the game’s top playmakers.
Many analysts say he is changing the way the game is being played at the blue line of the offensive zone. Wayne Gretzky changed play in the offensive zone by setting up behind the net. Makar is changing it by being more of a penetrating point guard than a standard defenseman. Analysts on NHL Network Radio have commented that it is like having a playmaker as good as MacKinnon with McDavid’s skating skills operating an offence from the blue line. It is something that the NHL has never really seen.
It is probably unfair to say that NHL defensemen are not collectible. There have always been collectible blue liners, just like the NFL has always had collectible defensive players. Lawrence Taylor may not have been as collectible as Joe Montana, but he was still a hot player in the hobby. Junior Seau was perhaps the most popular defensive player in the 1990s and was also popular with collectors at the time, even though he was not Brett Favre.
Other than the god-like Orr, a list of the game’s most popular defensemen in the past 50 years includes some familiar names. Chronologically, you have Denis Potvin, Larry Robinson, Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Brian Leetch, Rob Blake, Chris Pronger, Nicklas Lidstrom, Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, PK Subban, Brent Burns, Victor Hedman and a few others. Adam Fox of the Rangers is emerging as a star defenseman with a hobby upside. Makar, though, seems on pace to surpass all of them in hobby popularity.
Makar’s Upper Deck Yong Guns card was in the 2019-20 Upper Deck Series 2 set, number #462. A PSA 10 graded Makar Young Guns rookie card had been selling in the $600-$700 range about a month ago. Now, some sales have pushed into the $950-$1,050 range.
A Stanley Cup win could be the trigger that will make some of those prices look like bargains by the time next season starts.
Surrounded By Talent
Makar is on a team where he is surrounded by stars. MacKinnon is a bona fide NHL superstar. Nazem Kadri is also becoming more and more of a star, even though he is polarizing enough on the ice to be referred to as the Western Conference’s Brad Marchand. Through it all, Makar is humble, puts the team first, and puts winning the Stanley Cup ahead of any personal accolades.
“I’m still pretty young, so having this playoff experience at an early age is very exciting for me,” Makar said to the Denver Post. “You try to kind of take it all in. At the end of the day, it’s step by step. Being able to experience what we have right now as a team, it’s only going to make us stronger in the future regardless of what happens. But we’re focused on obviously winning right now.”
You can check current listings for Cale Makar rookie cards on eBay on this page (and yes, he does still have some that are modestly priced for now) and see a live list of the 50 current most watched eBay auctions below.
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 of Marketing. He is the former editor and publisher of Canadian Sports Collector magazine, and he was also a columnist for ESPN.com.