Every year, the Major League Baseball licensed baseball card market is defined by one or two players who are forever linked to the secondary sales market of that particular year’s products.
For example, when collectors think of 2017, they think of Aaron Judge’s rookie cards. The 2019 baseball card crop is known for Fernando Tatis Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The jury will be out on who the key driver of the 2021 baseball rookie card crop will be, but early indicators are that Jonathan India of the Cincinnati Reds is an early candidate to emerge as “the guy.” Through August 16, India had remarkable offensive numbers for a rookie. Hitting lead-off for the Reds, he had a .283 batting average, 16 home runs, 55 RBIs, a .396 on base percentage, a .476 slugging percentage, and an OPS of .873.
The 24-year-old rookie made his Major League debut on opening day when he made the Reds’ roster as the starting second baseman. India did not play in 2020, and in 2019 he split his season between the Daytona Tarugas of the Class-A Advanced Florida State League and the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.
India had an outstanding training camp and the Reds named him their starting second baseman. The announcement was old news by the time it was made, as India’s mother had congratulated him Instagram a couple of days before the Reds made it official.
While many fans had never heard of India – you have to think he would have been in Triple-A and called up last year if 2020 was a normal baseball season – he has been on the radar of collectors for many years. Way back in 2014, India was a 17-year-old prospect who appeared in a number of Leaf products with prospect, autograph and memorabilia cards.
In 2015, the Milwaukee Brewers drafted India in the 26th round. He opted to not to sign and to accept a scholarship to the University of Florida, where he was a teammate of Pete Alonso. India made the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American team and also made the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2016.
In 2017, India hit .274 with a .429 slugging percentage and helped the Gators win the College World Series.
India’s junior year at Florida was his best. He hit 21 home runs in 68 games and had a .350 batting average. His on base percentage was .497, his slugging percentage was .717, and he had a ridiculous OPS of 1.213. He was named the 2018 Southeast Conference Player of the Year.
The Reds selected India fifth overall in the 2018 MLB Draft and immediately began his pro career, playing Rookie A ball for the Greeneville Reds of the Appalachian League. In 2019, he spent most of the season in Daytona and was a Florida State League All-Star.
Jonathan India Prospect and Rookie Cards
After a four-year break from being featured on baseball cards, India re-emerged for collectors after turning pro in 2018. He was featured in Bowman and Panini products and his cards are among the most undervalued on the market right now. There are many autographed and serial numbered 2018 Bowman cards that can be had for less than $200.
Over the last month, eBay had sales of just over $122,000 for India cards, with an average sale price of only $35.75. The most expensive card sold was a 2018 Bowman Chrome Red Refractor autograph 1.5 which was graded BGS 9.5, which was purchased for $4,000. There was a also a fixed price eBay sale for $3,500 of a 2018 Bowman Chrome Red Refractor numbered to five that is the only PSA 10 for that specific card.
Those were the only two Jonathan India graded card sales of more than $1,800. Only nine cards, all Bowman branded from 2018 and graded, sold for $1,000 or more in the last month on eBay.
Now that India’s first MLB rookie cards are available, interest is starting to heat up, but there are still a lot of high-end options for India cards priced under $100. India has had three Topps Now rookie cards and his first base set rookie card is in the recently released Topps Allen and Ginter (#210). There are both standard and mini versions as well as parallels. Most remain modestly priced for now.
With India being named the NL Rookie of the Month in July, expect the demand for India graded, low-numbered cards to go up significantly. In July, he hit .319 with a .527 slugging percentage and four home runs. He is trying to become the third rookie in baseball history to lead his league in on base percentage. The others were Shoeless Joe Jackson in 1911 and Cuckoo Christensen in 1926.
On Aug. 15-16, India turned things up a notch. On Sun., Aug. 15, India had a lead-off home run and three hits in a 7-4 win over the Phillies. The next night, India had three hits with a home run, a double and five RBIs in a win over the Reds.
As the season goes on, India keeps getting better. And demand for his rookie cards will likely keep pace.
You can check out a list of his most watched auctions via the live list 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 Marketing. He is the former editor and publisher of Canadian Sports Collector magazine, and he was also a columnist for ESPN.com.