Jagr Premier on Fire!
Updated: May 16
The entire sports card industry has been boosted by the COVID lockdown measures, which have been in place in some form for almost ten months now. People lucky enough to still have disposable income are not spending in their normal ways. Travel is out of the question. The restaurants that are open have limited capacity. Same for movie theatres. Some people have rediscovered old hobbies, like sports cards. The result has been a surge in sales on the secondary market.
In the hockey card world, rookie cards of the game's legends have been garnering the most attention, with prices for Howe, Orr, Dryden, Gretzky, Lemieux, and Roy cards all being carried along on this larger wave. But it's the meteoric rise in value of the rookie card of another legend that might be the most interesting to watch: Jaromir Jagr.
Junk No More
Production numbers of cards have never been readily available, but it's no secret that cards from the 1990-91 season are plentiful. This was the season when Topps/O-Pee-Chee lost its exclusive license to produce NHL hockey cards, allowing Pro Set, Score, and Upper Deck to enter the market. As interest in the hobby exploded, so too did production. The market was flooded with cards.
It was the beginning of hockey's so-called junk wax era, a disparaging term often used to describe this period of over-production. No doubt the term was coined by veteran collectors and dealers who had been in the hobby for years and were disappointed by this market shift. The name has stuck because these cards have had little value on the secondary market in the years since. (This term is also a slap in the face to anyone who grew up with these cards and actually enjoyed collecting them!)
Jaromir Jagr's OPC Premier RC is the key RC from the 1990-91 season. Its value on the secondary market is important because it sets a high-water mark for other cards from this period, including the RCs of Teemu Selanne, Nicklas Lidstrom, Dominik Hasek, Sergei Fedorov, Paul Kariya, Pavel Bure, Mike Modano, and Mats Sundin.
In February of 2020 - pre-lockdown - a PSA 10 copy of the Jagr Premier RC cost less than $100 CDN, which was on the high end of PSA 10 cards from the early 1990s. For comparison, PSA 10 Jagr RCs from Upper Deck, Pro Set, and Score all cost less than $50 at the time, barely worth the price of grading.
But just like rookie cards of legendary players from vintage sets, the price for Jagr's Premier RC rose during those early months of the pandemic lockdown. In August, there were 45 PSA 10s sold on eBay, with an average price of $292 CDN. In just six months, the card had almost tripled in value. And it maintained that value until December.
The Gretzky Effect
On December 10th, one of only two PSA 10s of Wayne Gretzky's 1979-80 OPC RC sold through Heritage Auctions for a staggering $1.29M US. (The same PSA 10 I referred to in my Got Gretzky post from April 2020.) This is the highest price ever paid for a hockey card.
After that sale, the hockey card market went from hot to scorching. Jagr's Premier RC was carried right along, with sales surging through December and January. The chart below shows every PSA 10 sold individually on eBay from August 1st, 2020 to January 22nd, 2021.
On December 4th, one lucky eBay user managed to nab a Jagr PSA 10 for $215 CDN. Just 38 days later, on January 11th, someone else paid $773 for a copy. That's a whopping difference of $558. (Also of note: of the 215 Jagr PSA 10s sold on eBay from August 1st, 2020 to January 22nd, 2021, 61% were through Best Offers or Fixed Price sales, while only 39% were through auction.)
Who is buying all these Jagr Premier RCs? It doesn't seem to be collectors, unless they are brand new to the hobby. Most collectors had ample opportunity to buy this card at $100 CDN or less, whether a year ago or long before. The more likely scenario is that this is one of the cards being targeted by investors, no doubt fuelled by the Gretzky sale.
On one hand, this makes sense, given Jagr's stature in the game. But on the other hand, there are a lot of copies of this card out there. According to the PSA population report, there are 2,739 PSA 10s of this card available. (By comparison, there are just 86 PSA 10s of Patrick Roy's 1986-87 OPC RC.)
This is what makes the recent activity on the Jagr card so interesting. Could a PSA 10 card from the 1990-91 season actually be worth $700 CDN or more? Is this card the equivalent of Ken Griffey Jr.'s 1989 Upper Deck Baseball RC? Griffey PSA 10s currently sell for about $3,500 CDN, and there are 3,903 of those cards available. But there are a lot more baseball card collectors than hockey.
Time Always Tells
A year from now, will the Jagr card still be selling for $700 CDN? Who knows. The general consensus is that we are in a bubble right now for all card prices, and there will be a correction once COVID is under control and people have less time and money to put into card collecting. Who knows exactly how long that will take.
It will be very interesting to monitor the PSA population of Jagr's Premier RC over the next year. How many collectors, caught up in the recent buzz, have pulled their Jagr Premier cards out of binders or top loaders and submitted them to PSA, hoping for a 10?
One particular thing to watch for is the PSA 10 conversion rate for the Jagr Premier RC. It currently sits at 32.7% (2,739 PSA 10s for 8,379 cards submitted). There is a misnomer that every one of these cards (a) started in pristine condition, and (b) has been stored to keep it that way, making it an easy card to grade PSA 10. For a long time, it was only worth the price of grading this card if you thought it would grade PSA 10. But now people might be less conservative, submitting copies they think will grade at least PSA 9, while hoping for PSA 10. In that case, the conversion rate will certainly fall.
Obviously, nobody knows what value this card will hold long-term. But the tail end of the graph above shows that the average price (the running average of the last ten sales) is in its biggest decline since I started following the card back in August, a good indication that the card's value may have already peaked. My guess is that this is indeed the case, and its value will drop over the next few months. I don’t think it will fall back to its pre-pandemic price of $100 CDN, but rather it will settle somewhere between $300 and $400 for the next few years. But remember, one day Jagr will join the Hockey Hall of Fame - if he ever stops playing - which will likely give this card another boost.
I hope I am wrong about the future price of Jagr’s Premier RC. But that will depend entirely on how many new PSA 10s are introduced to the market. We shall see. Either way, it's been a lot of fun tracking its sales over the past number of months. Hopefully everyone will stop referring to any cards as junk, because you just never know what can happen in this hobby.
Premier's Second Act
Upon its release in January of 1991, OPC Premier quickly became the hottest product on the market. As I wrote in my Iconic Premier post, the price of packs went from 50-cents to $21 shortly after its release. Thirty years later, buoyed by prices of PSA 10 Jagr Premier RCs, everything Premier is hot again. Here's what you can expect to pay for Premier items right now (all prices CDN):
Unopened Box (36 packs): $550 - $600
Sealed Factory Set: $300 - $350
Complete Set, Raw: $125 - $150
Jagr RC, PSA 9: $125 - $150
Jagr RC, Raw: $65 - $85
I've been tracking PSA 10s of Jagr's Premier RC because there are more of them in circulation. As stated above, 215 were sold in my almost six months of tracking. But the value of his BGS 10 has also increased dramatically. Most recently, on January 13th, one sold on eBay for just over $6,000 CDN. Just a few months before, that same card would have sold for approximately $1,200 - $1,500. Keep in mind, there are only 33 Jagr Premier RCs with that grade.
Originally posted on Jan. 22, 2021.
Bonus: Monthly Updates (January - April, 2021)
January was the biggest month so far for sales of PSA 10 Jagr Premier RCs, with a total of 92 individual cards sold on eBay. That's 42 more than the previous high of 50 sold in December. Average price also hit a new high at $683 CDN, up 57% over December's average of $435. A new high-price for an individual sale was hit five times during the month, most recently coming in at $895 CDN on January 29th.
Note that I have been focused on tracking individual sales and do not include lot sales. I mention this because a lot of 10 sold on January 26th for a whopping $11,250 CDN! I am not sure about the logic behind the purchase, given the average price for an individual sale was roughly $650 CDN at the time. A discount for combined shipping, perhaps?
February was another big month, with 70 more cards being sold. That's the second largest volume for any month, behind only January. Average price reached almost $750 CDN, up 9.5% over January. A new high-price of $1,136 CDN (for an individual sale) was established on February 25th.
It appears this card may finally be levelling off, as indicated in the blue line in the chart below, which tracks the average price of the last 10 cards sold. It started the month near $800 CDN and finished in almost the exact same place.
March was a bit of an odd month for this card, with prices all over the place. Before March, this card had only cracked $1K CDN twice. Then three sold on March 18th for more than that amount. On the last day of the month, seven copies were sold, with only one of those going for more than $600. The other six sold for between $550 and $590.
Overall, sales for this card have definitely flattened out, with an average sale price of $750 remaining relatively consistent through February and March.
While the price of this card has declined recently, it has not been to the extent of some others, which may be an indication that it was severely undervalued at $100 CDN, pre-COVID. The blue line in the chart below, which shows the average sales price for the last ten sales, has been hovering around $750 CDN since February. It has since settled in at around $700 CDN.
Note the one very odd sale in here for $1,230 CDN on April 27th. That’s the highest anyone has paid yet for this card. But it was a $1,000 US "Best Offer" for a card listed for a ludicrous $20,000,000 US. This seems fishy, but I've included it for now. If it comes out that this was not a legitimate sale, I'll remove it. Either way, it was nice of the seller to come down off that asking price a little.