During a podcast I did recently with Ryan Nolan of Breakout Cards, Ryan brought something up that really stuck in my brain and sent me searching for some data on CardLadder. He mentioned how the card populations of modern players like Zion Williamson are much higher than the rookie cards of Shaq. I was well aware of how Shaq rookie cards from 1992 were a huge casualty of the overproduction of cards in the Junk Wax Era. Shaq is a legend. An all-time great who checks all the boxes for his cards to be highly valuable, except for the supply of them was too high. Let’s look at what most consider his flagship rookie card:
I consider Shaq to be one of the top 15 greatest players in NBA history. His 1992 Topps PSA 10 flagship rookie card only being valued at $320 seems crazy, until you see that there are currently 3,020 of them. Junk. Wax. Era. Ok got it. But wait, let’s look at Zion’s flagship rookie card:
Hold on now. So Zion’s 2019 Panini Prizm in PSA 10 is currently valued higher than the Shaq card above and has a population currently 6-times higher (and growing fast).
Think about this for a second too: What are the odds that Zion has even close to the type of career that Shaq had? For you real young people, Shaq won 4 Championships, 3 Finals MVPs, every other award you can think of and is world famous. I’ll answer the question for you…close to a zero chance. Let’s look at Luka:
Luka’s flagship rookie is selling for almost 3-times the amount of the Shaq card and with almost 6-times the population.
In my view Luka has a better shot than Zion at having a Shaq-caliber career, and becoming a hobby legend, but the odds are still very low.
Maybe you’re saying “but those are base cards and I’m into the colored parallels”. Well you’re in luck because Shaq actually had one of those for this same exact card:
The Shaq Topps Gold in this card only has a pop of 539 and it’s valued at $2,043. A great comparison is:
The Zion 2019 Silver Prizm Rookie in PSA 10 is the equivalent to the Shaq Gold. Currently valued at $3,067 with a PSA 10 pop of 1,314 (for now). Soon to be 3-times the population and valued at about 35% more than the Shaq Gold? Let’s look at the Luka Silver Prizm:
Hey now! 4-times the pop of the Shaq Gold and valued at well over double. Again, I think Luka is a great player with potential to be an international legend but I still don’t think he will likely reach the Shaq-level after his career is over.
Conclusion & Sports Card Investing Lesson
If you’re using these cards to do short-term flipping, ok I get it, but if you’re collecting these modern cards with long term intentions, in hopes that they’ll be valued higher in 15+ years – the numbers aren’t looking good. It sure seems to me that the last few years the card companies are producing Junk Wax Era supply-levels of cards. Remember, the law of supply and demand always prevails in the long run.