How many times have you been considering a card purchase when the dealer said something to the effect of, “It’ll go up once he gets into the hall of fame.” It happened to me pretty frequently when I was collecting modern cards. But what exactly does “go up” mean? How much of an influence do those three little letters, H-O-F, have on the value of rookie cards?
The Hall of Fame Effect
I have been collecting Johnny Robinson cards for nearly 15 years. As an autographed card collector, I have multiple signed copies of most of his cards that I keep for various collections. In all I probably have a half-dozen different signed Topps rookie cards, three or four of the Fleer issue, a 1961 Fleer Wallet Photo and two uber-rare releases in the 1960 Dallas Texans 7-11 card and the 1961 Lee Clothing Company Premium. The last two are nearly impossible to track as the cards themselves are so rare and autographed examples are essentially non-existent, so public sales records do not exist. But the Fleer and Topps issues are traded often enough that using PSA’s Auction Prices Realized, one can really see the difference in price for the cards before and after the announcement of his Hall of Fame selection.
Anecdotally, I can remember picking up raw 1961 Topps Johnny Robinson cards in EX/MT condition for $3-$5 less than two years ago. In fact, in early 2018 I purchased an autographed 1961 Topps Johnny Robinson with a “6X AFL All-Star” inscription for just $6.75 via eBay’s Buy it Now (BIN).
I took a look at the APR page for the 1961 Topps #139 Johnny Robinson card in PSA 8. From November 2016 through August 16, 2018, a dozen sales of this card are represented, ranging in price from $18-$48. Johnny Robinson was named the Pro Football Hall of Fame Senior Candidate for the Class of 2019 on August 17, 2018. That very day another PSA 8 example sold, this time for $100. Since that point, only three more sales are listed, for $76, $199 and $150. There are currently two of these cards listed on eBay with Buy It Now prices of $224.95 and $229.99.
Most collectors prefer the 1961 Fleer set over the Topps issue, and APR sales information proves that to be true. There are four sales of PSA 9 examples of Robinson’s Fleer rookie card prior to August 17, 2018. The final bids were $132.50, $141.20, $157.25 and $59.63. Only two PSA 9 examples of this card have sold since Johnny was announced as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019, on February 2 of this year. They sold for $405 and $368.78. Another is currently listed on eBay with a BIN of $428.
As for autographed examples of these cards, the days of $6.75 BINs are long gone. While there are plenty of varying factors involved in the current eBay listings for autographed examples of Robinson’s rookie cards (raw, authenticated, card condition, Topps vs. Fleer, etc.), listings range in price from $124.99 to $500 for a Fleer example that has been graded PSA 5 with an authentic autograph.
A Bright Spotlight, A Call for More Autographs
Speaking of autographs, Johnny Robinson has been a reliable signer of autographs through the mail for decades. There is no shortage of Johnny Robinson autographs in the hobby. And yet after his selection, his normal five to seven TTM requests per week increased dramatically. Suddenly a couple of hundred requests were arriving each week, and the majority of the requests contained jerseys, mini helmets and 8×10 photos, though trading cards were still plentiful as well. It got to the point where Johnny had to implement a one-signature-per-request policy, as people would occasionally send up to 25 items.
So what do those three little letters mean? Well, HOF means that you have joined the most elite group of individuals within your given sport. It also means, in terms of the hobby, that your life will never be the same again.