Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton is having an incredible season, leading the American League in average, home runs and RBI.
Despite Hamilton’s tear, which included a four home run game on May 8, collectors aren’t exactly fighting for the centerfielder’s memorabilia.
Much of the hesitancy to invest in Hamilton has to do with his past, including drug and alcohol addictions that took him out of baseball for years after he was picked No. 1 overall in the 1999 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Collectors are scared,” said Matt Powers (@powersco), owner of online sports and memorabilia company, PowersCollectibles.com. “They’re not confident that his story has a great ending because he’s still very active in dealing with his disease.”
Powers says he is one of the largest purchasers of autographed items of Hamilton, who has an exclusive deal with the Major League Baseball Alumni Association. He is pre-selling a ball that Hamilton will sign that includes his four home run inscription with the date.
While it retails for $449, Powers tested the marketplace over the weekend by putting the balls on Groupon for $149. Even at that discount, he didn’t move much.
“I sold maybe 50 balls,” Powers said. “When I did a similar deal with Brian Wilson, who signed ‘Fear The Beard’ on 2010 World Series baseballs, I sold 700 really quickly.”
When Powers does sell Hamilton items, it is almost exclusively to collectors in Texas, which doesn’t come as a surprise to Brian Fleischer, a senior market analyst for Beckett, a trading card publication that is based in Texas.
“It seems like people who aren’t Rangers fans don’t want to collect him,” Fleischer said. “I’m sure if he were on the Yankees or Red Sox it would be a different story.”
Fleischer said Hamilton’s 1999 Topps Traded autograph rookie card has gone up in value from $250 to $500, but if Hamilton were playing for a more popular team, the card might be selling in the $800 range.
One company is currently testing how much Hamilton can command nationally. AllProClassics.com is the official memorabilia dealer of the Rangers. To this point, they’ve only sold signed balls, bats and jerseys at the stadium.
But just this week, the company posted a game-worn Hamilton uniform (jersey, pants, hat and helmet) on eBay . Three days in, there have been 14 bids, but the current bid is $2,551, well short of the $10,000 reserve.
“We think it’s worth $12,000 to $20,000,” said Michael Toler, vice president of the sales for the company. “It’s probably too early to tell if it will command that.”
Considering his rough past, Hamilton is highly thought of, according to data collected this month by the Davie Brown Index. The pollster says its data reflects that he ranks No. 160 out of 2,500 celebrities in the influence category, on par with the likes of Will Ferrell and Jay Z. He’s also up there in the trendsetter category, coming in at No. 300, in line with stars like Megan Fox and Ashton Kutcher.
"Of course, it's about risk-reward,” said Bill Glenn (@sponczar), senior vice president of The Marketing Arm, which owns the DBI. “Those collectors willing to make the investment could see the equivalent of a four-home run game in payback."
Collectors on Twitter echoed those comments.
“Hamilton is like investing in a startup,” said @anthonystoops. “Big upside with a big chance to lose it all if not managed properly.”
“I like the redemption story, but not a good investment,” said @boomphish311.
While some mention Hamilton being injury prone or his career getting a late start (he turned 31 yesterday), others think that his story makes him unique enough already.
“He won’t be forgotten for better or for worse,” @jromeo288 said.
Despite the attention given to his comeback, Powers feels like not enough people who collect highly priced collectibles can really relate to his story.
Said Powers: “We’re dealing with, for the most part, middle aged, college educated guys who can’t identify with him. And all the tattoos don't help."
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