Meet 12 influential baseball players who drive unprecedented sales of trading cards
eBay is the premier trading card marketplace with over 172 million cards sold since 2010. Informed by a decade of eBay data, Uncommon gives the first-ever look at what drives interest and sustains sales of certain baseball cards. The unique histories of the 12 players below and their trading cards have helped shape some of the most interesting sales trends and purchases in the industry. The report offers a new perspective on how personal and professional circumstances impact the card value of these standout players, along with their overall influence on today’s baseball card collecting culture.
The Uncommon Players
The Double All-Star BO JACKSON VS. KEVIN YOUKILIS
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The Double All-Star: Bo Jackson is widely considered the best two-sport athlete of all time, and the only player in history to be named both an MLB and NFL All-Star. Statistically, he compares to Kevin Youkilis, a 3x All-Star, and 2x World Champ—yet Jackson outsold Youkilis by 115%.
Bo Jackson, widely considered the best two-sport athlete of all time, was not only a former Heisman Trophy Winner, he went on to become the only player in history to be named an All-Star in both the MLB and NFL. Remembered for breaking bats over his knee, and his “Bo Knows” Nike videos, Jackson was one of the most popular athletes of the last 30 years.
Statistically, however, Jackson was just an average player, who compares to Kevin Youkilis, a former Boston Red Sox who made 3x All-Star-Games, won two World Series rings and by most accounts was a much more valuable contributor on the field—yet Jackson outsold Youkilis by 115%.
The Dual Threat SHOHEI OHTANI VS. BRANDON LOWE
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The Dual Threat: Shohei Ohtani, a transfer from the Japanese Baseball League, is the only starting pitcher and power batter since Babe Ruth. Ohtani broke out in 2018, winning AL ROY. Statistically, Ohtani compares to Tampa Bay Rays Second Baseman breakout Brandon Lowe, yet Ohtani’s dual-threat skills and popularity as a Japan-born player has led Ohtani to outsell Lowe by nearly 180%.
Today there are still players with uncommon stories, and none more uncommon than Shohei Ohtani’s. Not only is he a transfer from the Japanese Baseball League, he is both a starting pitcher and power bat, a skillset that hasn’t hit the Major Leagues since Babe Ruth. Ohtani broke out in a big way winning AL Rookie of the Year in 2018. His 2019 season was slowed by injuries, but the fact remains that Ohtani’s value as both a player and for card collectors is unprecedented.
Statistically Ohtani compares to another young breakout, Tampa Bay Rays Second Baseman Brandon Lowe. Lowe burst onto the scene in 2019 and immediately made the AL All-Star team, something Ohtani has yet to do. Yet Ohtani’s unique and uncommon combination of pitching and hitting, as well as his popularity as a Japan-born player, is something the game hasn’t really seen—Ohtani outsells Lowe by over 180%.
The Smooth Talker YOGI BERRA VS. ERNIE BANKS
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The Smooth Talker: Yogi Berra, an 18x All-Star, Baseball Hall of Famer and 10x World Series champion, also has gained notoriety for his memorable quotes and unforgettable nickname. Statistically, Berra compares to another legend, Ernie Banks, yet Berra’s quotable nature and namesake helped his sales outpace Banks' by nearly 195%.
Yogi Berra is one of the game’s greatest. He was an 18 times All-Star and won 10 World Series championships as a player—more than any other player in MLB history. Berra had a career batting average of .285, while hitting 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only six players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. Berra was also known as one of the most popular players in the game amongst fans and gained widespread notoriety for his unique and memorable quotes.
Statistically Berra compares to Ernie Banks. Nicknamed "Mr. Cub" he was a shortstop and first baseman for the Chicago Cubs between 1953 and 1971. He is regarded by some as one of the greatest players of all time, the best Shortstop to ever play the game and was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team—yet due to Berra’s popularity as a player, personality and his famous quotes—his sales outrank Banks' by 195%.
The Comeback Kid JOSH HAMILTON VS. EVAN LONGORIA
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The Comeback Kid: Josh Hamilton was a touted prospect until off-the-field issues derailed his career. Then he made a storybook comeback, winning an AL MVP and making 5x straight All-Star teams. Statistically, Hamilton compares to another blue-chipper, former Tampa Bay Ray and AL ROY Evan Longoria, yet Hamilton’s beating the odd story has helped him outsell Longoria by more than 185%.
Starting as a top prospect, Josh Hamilton’s career took a different path than most. Hamilton was the first overall pick in the 1999 MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was considered a blue chip prospect until injuries and a drug addiction derailed his career. After dropping out of the league for nearly three years, Hamilton returned to the league sober in 2008 and stronger than ever. Over the next 5 years, Hamilton made 5x All-Star teams as well as won the AL MVP and the ALCS MVP in 2010. Fans loved his comeback story and consistently voted him into the All-Star Game.
Statistically Hamilton compares to another first-round draft-pick who debuted in 2008, Tampa Bay Rays rookie Evan Longoria. Longoria took the MLB by storm, he won the AL Rookie of the Year Award and followed by making 3x straight All-Star Games as well as 3x Gold Glove Award. He owns several Tampa records and still plays today—but Hamilton outsells Longoria by a whopping 185%.
The World Series Hero KIRK GIBSON VS. ERIC KARROS
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The World Series Hero: Kirk Gibson signed with the LA Dodgers in 1988, won the NL MVP, then went down in history for his walk-off home run in Game 1 of the World Series. While Gibson helped the Dodgers win their last title, on paper, fellow Dodger Eric Karros had a more consistent career, yet thanks to Gibson’s unforgettable hit and spin around the bases, his cards are collected 130% more than Karros.
Kirk Gibson was a good but not great player throughout the 80s. In 1988, he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and won the perhaps the most controversial NL MVP Award ever, after not even making the All-Star team that same year. Still, he will go down in history for a single at bat in the 1988 World Series. Trailing 4–3 in the bottom of the 9th he sent a 3-2 pitch from future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley into the stands helping the Dodgers win Game 1 and go on to take the World Series.
Statistically Gibson compares to another Dodger, Eric Karros. Karros was the 1992 National League Rookie of the Year and no Dodger in history compiled more 30 home run 100 RBI seasons than Karros (five, matched only by Duke Snider and Gil Hodges). On paper, Karros was a more consistently valuable contributor—yet thanks to Gibson's unforgettable walk-off, and iconic base running celebration thereafter, Gibson is 130% more valuable on eBay.
The International Sensation ICHIRO SUZUKI VS. JOE MAUER
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The International Sensation: Ichiro Suzuki became the first Japanese position player in the MLB in 2001. Many thought his skills wouldn’t translate to the American game. Instead, he won AL Rookie of the Year and MVP. He retired last year and is a lock for the MLB HOF. Statistically, he compares to Joe Mauer, another player who had a Hall of Fame Career. Still, Suzuki’s popularity and unorthodox style helped him outsell Mauer by 97%.
In 2001, Suzuki joined the Seattle Mariners after already playing a decade in the Japanese Baseball league. Suzuki became the first Japanese position player to make the leap and sign with an MLB club. There were many skeptics who said his skills would not translate to the American game, yet he proved all of them wrong. He led the American League (AL) in batting average and stolen bases en route to being named AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP. His unconventional and ultimately successful story made him a national sensation, as well as a hero and role model for many Asian-American fans and players.
Statistically, Suzuki compares to Joe Mauer, a home-town boy from Minnesota who was drafted by the Twins and had a Hall of Fame Career. He made 6x All-Star Games and won the AL MVP—still, Suzuki outsells Mauer by 97%.
Stacks On Stacks:
From the MLB, to Garbage Pail Kids, Pokemon and Magic The Gathering, we’ve got the cards you want (even the one that got away). Plus jump in on case breaks and shop accessories to store your collection.
Get In The Game:
While we approach teams taking the field for the first time this season, check out our lineup of already released 2020 MLB Trading Cards and memorabilia for your collections, as well as the latest official team gear.