Please note Martin Brodeur’s most valuable rookie card is the 1990 Score Canadian #439 and currently sells for only $250 (November 2021).
We’re currently living in the golden age of sports cards. By some measures, this is the third major boom in the industry and perhaps the biggest and best surge of the three thus far.
On the latest episode of HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, they included a segment on the sports card industry and mentioned that it has “outperformed the S&P 500” as an investment strategy “over the last 20 years.”
The segment included images from the National Sports Collectors Convention, staged in Rosemont, Illinois, this past July. At The National, HBO’s Jon Frankel caught up to Mike Gioseffi, trader/dealer and host of the Sports Card Nonsense podcast on The Ringer.
“It is like no other time in the history of this business,” Gioseffi said from his convention table.
“Every couple of months now, it seems like we see a new highest card ever. Million-dollar cards weren’t a thing ten years ago, and now, just yesterday, at the show, someone bought a Patrick Mahomes rookie card for over 4 million.
“Couple weeks before that, there was a Babe Ruth for 6 million, Lebron for a million before that.”
So this is all a massive sea change, and you know the saying, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
Or so it would seem. Martin Brodeur, one of the best goaltenders that the National Hockey League has ever seen, does not have any rookie cards that are worth much of anything. Despite his being enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2018, pretty much all his cards can be had for a meager price. It will cost you much more for a cocktail at a bar or a club in any big city on a given Saturday night than it would for one of Brodeur‘s mint condition rookie cards.
Listed below are the four cards that can loosely be considered Brodeur‘s RC.
- 1990 Score Martin Brodeur RC #439
- 1990 Score Canadian Martin Brodeur RC #439
- 1990 7th Inning Sketch QMJHL Martin Brodeur RC #222
- 1992 UD Upper Deck Martin Brodeur RC #408
In the truest sense, the 1990 Score issue is the only one that is his rookie card, and it comes in two different versions. The Canadian issue is bilingual, providing text in both English and French, Canada’s two official languages.
The card itself has an exciting and clever design, as it evokes a hockey rink, with the central line, blue lines, and all. While it’s an attractive card, it suffers from being produced on inferior stock, and it is thus very susceptible to easily being damaged and then downgraded in condition.
The most valuable Brodeur issues are in the higher end Upper Deck sets, and only those containing an autograph and coming out long after he had retired. While UD is known within the hobby for having started the luxury trend/premium offerings, their Brodeur issues are still not expensive.
Sal J. Barry (@puckjunk on Twitter), runs puckjuck.com and he had Brodeur rookie cards tagged at $5 when he set up shop at The National a few weeks ago. Nobody bought any; he also had the whole ’90-’91 Score set at his table, priced at $10, and nobody bought those either.
“But if I had a card with a piece of a jersey, for $30, people bought it,” Barry told me by telephone.
“Anything high-end with Brodeur sold, but his rookie card didn’t sell. The only way to invest in him is to buy his rookie card, get it graded a PSA 10, and then try to sell it, but come on, how do you make money that way?
“Especially with PSA doubling its prices.”
If you want a signed Brodeur card, you can quickly get one for far less than $200. It’s an infrequent occurrence for a Martin Brodeur card to sell for hundreds of dollars. And that’s astounding when you consider we live in an era where the FBI are regularly involved in locating and prosecuting sports card forgeries, given that millions of dollars of fraud transpire in the billions dollar industry that is sports cards every single year.
Card prices are soaring, yet Brodeur card valuations remain low. Before we look at why he’s so tremendously undervalued, we first need to look at who he is, i.e., all his accomplishments. He’s the all-time leader in goaltender wins with 691, saves 28,928, and shutouts at 125.
In his 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils, he won the Vezina Trophy (NHL’s best goalie) four times. He’s the only goalie in NHL history with eight 40-win seasons and three goals scored. His puck handling ability was so well regarded that it led, partially, to the NHL changing its rules regarding where goalies were allowed to handle the puck outside of the goal crease.
This became known as “The Brodeur Rule,” and it’s just one of his many legacies. Brodeur won the Stanley Cup three times and the Eastern Conference championship five times. This goes along with his 24 post-season shutouts (also a record) and ten NHL All-Star appearances.
He was also very durable and consistent, playing in 70 or more games in a season on 12 occasions.
So why aren’t his card valuations commensurate to his greatness? There are several reasons for this, and it certainly didn’t help that he entered the league with very little fanfare.
“During the 1990 draft, Brodeur wasn’t even considered the first or second-best goalie in the draft,” said Barry, who contributes to Beckett and The Hockey Writers.
“Felix Potvin was who everybody thought would be the best goalie from the draft, and Trevor Kidd- they were like a one-two punch, goalie-wise. Brodeur was considered more of a dark horse. He was taken in the first round with the 20th overall selection, out of 21 draft picks.
“He was considered a prospect, and Score managed to get him in the set, Upper Deck didn’t even bother, and had he had an Upper Deck rookie card that would have been considered more desirable, like other players who have rookie cards in Upper Deck in ’90-’91, even though tons of those cards were also printed- that’s seen as a better set.”
This brings us to the primary reason that Brodeur cards aren’t more highly sought after- the legendary shot-stopper came of age during what is known in the hobby as the “junk wax” era. In the late 1980s to mid-1990s, the market was flooded by way too many companies issuing way too many cards. In the early 1990s, demand was never going to be able to match supply.
As Barry points out, ’90-’91 was considered the beginning of the junk wax era for hockey “because you went from two companies making cards, to five, in one year.”
“Plus, hockey got more popular, due to a couple of things- Wayne Gretzky gets traded to the Kings, and that increased the popularity of hockey in America, and then Topps had an exclusive with the NHLPA that expired in 1990, O-Pee-Chee had a sub-license,” he continued.
“All of a sudden, people were able to get hockey cards anywhere, grocery stores, gas stations, convenience stores. From 1989 over to 1991, they were mass-produced.
It’s unfortunate, at least in regards to card valuation, for all the superstar athletes who came through the ranks during this era, but it’s especially tough on hockey players. For most of the hobby’s history, it’s been baseball first and foremost, with every other sport rather far behind.
“Even if his rookie card were a year before, it would be more valuable, although ’89 and ’90 Topps and O-Pee-Chee-were printed in enough quantities that they’re not hard to come by,” said Barry, a professor of web design and graphic design at DePaul University.
“It’s just a sheer numbers game, and there’s too many of them out there…If he had a card ten years later, or 20 years later, or 10 or 20 years before, then the card would be worth a lot more. It would have been kind of like Patrick Roy’s rookie card from 1986-87, going for hundreds of dollars.”
In the early 2000s, basketball began to assert itself as a potential new bellwether within the hobby, as the sport made significant inroads during the 1990s. For football, it has been pretty much quarterbacks and not much else. While football cards are popular and valuable, non-QBs don’t move the needle all that much. Hockey comes fourth behind the other three sports we mentioned, and that is reflected in the valuation of Brodeur‘s cards.
While he’s one of the best at what he did for a living, Brodeur didn’t get nearly as much attention as he deserved because he just wasn’t a flashy kind of guy. It can be challenging for hockey players and non-QB football players to get press and publicity because they’re not as recognizable as basketball players and thus don’t grab a lot of mainstream, general populace attention.
All of these factors work against the valuation of Brodeur‘s cards, as does the fact that he predates the era of premium cards with a lot of bells and whistles built-in. You’re just not going to find many of his cards with autographs, jersey patches, equipment pieces, and a limited print run.
“Because Score printed so many of those cards, it’s just not seen, generally, as a desirable set,” Barry added.
“It doesn’t move the needle because when you can get the whole set for $10, and thus it’s kind of hard to put a premium on just one card.”
Almost all of his cards, simply put, are from arguably the most unremarkable era, ever, in the hobby, and at a time when hockey cards had a lesser profile than they do today. Hockey is similar to football or soccer in that the only cards in high demand belong to players at certain positions.
Like soccer, it’s the goal-scorers (similar to how in football it’s all about the QBs) who attract the attention, and thus the demand, for their cardboard. You can easily say that Brodeur was as good at what he did as Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux was at they did, but it’s the guys who put the pucks in the net which are the most recognizable, not the men who stopped those pucks. It’s the cards of the scoring sensations which are in higher demand above all positions, even the greatest goalies.
Since Brodeur‘s cards are so undervalued right now, does that mean we have a significant potential investment opportunity on our hands here?
The legendary goalkeeper went to the Hall of Fame three years ago, so there likely won’t be any significant news event or cultural phenomenon coming that would push his cards into a valuation surge. He and his cards are somewhat similar to someone whose cards we profiled previously- Cincinnati Reds icon and probably the greatest catcher in Major League Baseball history, Johnny Bench.
You can say for both, right now, that he is who he is.
“Once they’re retired, there are only three things they can do for their cards to go up,” said Barry
“Get inducted into the Hall of Fame, which he did. They can do something off the ice, perhaps if he became a high profile coach or GM, of Team Canada or something like that.
“When they die, sadly, but true, when players pass away there is a renewed interest in their cards.”
This is the challenge of trying to buy low and sell high off a player who is long retired, but again, you just never know.
“We’re seeing an influx of new collectors in all sports, and there is a re-introduction to the hobby from former collectors, who are new collectors again,” Barry continued.
“And a lot of them are going to say- yeah, I remember the New Jersey Devils in the ’90s I want to have his rookie card. Anybody who liked hockey in the ’90s or the 2000s they’re going to want that card, and it might creep up to a card that’s like a couple of bucks, it might be a $10 card one day, but that’s going to be hard to do because there’s so much product out there.”
Again, sadly, the market is just plain flooded.
Getting back to that HBO Real Sports segment, they also profiled a high-end collector and real estate mogul who is mandated by his insurance company to transport his card collection only with armed security and an armored car.
He has to transport his collection because he can’t keep it (he has the famous Honus Wagner T206, among others) in his Malibu beach house. Thus, he has to store his cards in an ultra-secure bank vault instead.
If you’re dreaming of collecting a player that might someday get you up in this elite, rarified level, please, and obviously, look elsewhere than Martin Brodeur.