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Strasburg Cards Hit Stratosphere

Stephen Strasburg
AP
Stephen Strasburg

Today, the Washington Nationalsare expected to take Stephen Strasburg as the first overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft.

And while there will be plenty of debate as to how much the heralded pitcher from San Diego State deserves -- Scott Boras is his agent and numbers as high as $50 million have been mentioned -- memorabilia collectors seem to think that Strasburg will be the real deal.

Many Strasburg autographed cards are selling for north of $200 on eBay , with the rarest autographed patch cards selling in the $600 range.

Stephen Strasburg Upper Deck card
Stephen Strasburg Upper Deck card

That number might not seem astronomical, but it's unprecedented for a guy who hasn't been drafted.

"This is very uncharted territory," said Chris Olds, editor of Beckett Baseball. "Guys like Ben McDonald, Todd Van Poppel and Brien Taylor came in strong from a hype standpoint, but that was after they were picked."

That was also the early 1990s when card collecting was red hot.

The fact that Strasburg even has cards at this point has to do with his appearance on Team USA. In 2005, frustrated with the glut of cards being produced, the Major League Baseball Players Association ruled that card manufacturers could only make rookie cards of players who either made the 25-man roster or played in a major league game the year before. Team USA cards, whose rights are owned by Upper Deck, represent a loophole in the rule because the cards are inserts and not part of the base set.

Team USA cards in the past, most notably the 1985 Topps Mark McGwire card, have been hot, but the values only started skyrocketing when the players did well in the majors.

Said Olds: "We haven't seen a guy like this, who was seen by the collecting industry as a definitively amazing prospect before he was drafted. I mean, David Price was popular, but people weren't paying three figures for a card."

Recession? Not for Stephen Strasburg.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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