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Investment Tips: Albert Pujols Joins the 500 Home Run Club
Hits 2 Home Runs to enter the Club
Does Albert Pujols Hitting his 500th Home Run Mean Anything?
From a collecting standpoint, it does, to a degree.
Albert Pujols is a strange case. He seemingly came from out of nowhere in 2001 and has long been considered one of the best players in baseball. He has also been repeatedly accused of steroid/PED use which nobody has any evidence of. As far as I know, he hasn’t failed any drug test so I’ll write the rest of this piece based on the assumption that Mr. Pujols is clean.
Pujols cards are in demand and they have been since he bashed his way to Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 2001. The 2001 sets were blessed with two great players whose first cards were in that year’s sets, Pujols and Ichiro. Pujols has a number of high end autographed rookie cards that are still some of the most popular cards in the hobby. Does hitting his 500th home run change anything? Honestly, his career statistics are so overwhelming; his future achievements may not positively affect his card values. However, that is not the case in reverse. When he does not play well, or up to his standards, his cards do take a hit and suffer.
Changing Teams Matters
Old Baseball Cities Rule the Collectibles Markets
While it may be unfair, there is a reason for this phenomenon. There are certain places where baseball is king and St. Louis is one of them. Leaving the Cardinals had a huge impact on Pujols’ cards. While I’m sure playing in Los Angeles, for the Angels, is making him lots of money, the impact of playing for the Angels simply is not the same as playing for the Cardinals. This same thing happens for players in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Cincinnati. Cities (or areas) that have a long baseball tradition foster more collector interest. If Joey Votto were traded to the Blue Jays, his collectability would plummet. The same thing happened for everything related to Robinson Cano. He went from New York to Seattle and his collectibles plummeted in value. Yes, he’s still the same player and he’ll probably do great for the Mariners, but his collectibles will never again attain the status they had unless he wins some awards or does something unusual on the baseball field.
2001 SP Game Bat Milestone Rookie Card
Back to Mr. Pujols.
One thing is for sure; 500 Home Runs is a lot of Home Runs. He is only the 26th player to join the 500 Home Run Club so it’s a fairly elite group of players (even with the PED era players included). He is also the third youngest player to reach the milestone. He does have an outside chance to catch Bonds but everything would need to break right for Pujols to have the time he needs. His contract is long enough, it’s more a question of whether his body and skill holds out long enough to surpass Bonds on the All-Time Home Run list. Pujols should easily eclipse the 600 HR plateau in a few years but when he gets to 700, that’s when his card have a real chance to start moving up in value.
From a collector’s standpoint, Pujols has 43 different official rookie cards. In 2001, there are a host of brands that don’t exist anymore and the rookie cards from those brands are valued less than the major brands that still exist today like Topps and Bowman Chrome. Of the 43 official rookie cards only 11 of them are not serial numbered (also keeping their value a bit lower than the others). One of these is a short print, 2001 Bowman Heritage which is a card printed in black and white and not visually appealing. One of these cards contains a piece of game used bat, 2001 SP Game Bat Milestone which is amongst the most appealing bat cards you will find of Albert Pujols anywhere. The 11 non-serial numbered rookie cards are:
2001 Bowman #264 Albert Pujols RC
2001 Bowman Heritage #351 Albert Pujols SP RC
2001 Fleer Tradition #451 Albert Pujols RC
2001 Leaf Rookies and Stars #205 Albert Pujols RC
2001 MLB Showdown Pennant Run #168 Albert Pujols FOIL RC
2001 SP Game Bat Milestone #92 Albert Pujols BAT RC
2001 Topps Traded #T247 Albert Pujols RC
2001 Topps Chrome #596 Albert Pujols RC
2001 Topps Gallery #135 Albert Pujols RC
2001 Topps Stars #198 Albert Pujols RC
2001 Upper Deck #295 Albert Pujols SR RC
2001 Bowman Chrome - Most Expensive Option
Low Serial-Numbered Rookie Cards
Of the 32 serial numbered rookie cards, 13 of them are serial numbered to 525 or less and several contain pieces of jersey/hat or contain an autograph. All of these cards are relatively expensive; the ones with an autograph are very expensive. I have included the serial numbering for each card.
2001 Bowman Chrome #340 Albert Pujols AU RC #500
2001 Donruss #156 Albert Pujols RC #500
2001 Donruss Class of 2001 #268 Albert Pujols RC #525
2001 Donruss Signature #151 Albert Pujols AU RC #330
2001 E-X #131 Albert Pujols RC #499
2001 Fleer Legacy #102 Albert Pujols RC #499
2001 Fleer Showcase #121 Albert Pujols RC #500
2001 Leaf Certified Materials #158 Albert Pujols Hat RC #200
2001 Leaf Limited #367 Albert Pujols Jsy RC #250
2001 SP Game Used Edition #85 Albert Pujols RC #500
2001 Ultimate Collection #111 Albert Pujols T3 RC #250
2001 Upper Deck Gold Glove #130 Albert Pujols GD RC #500
2001 Upper Deck Pros and Prospects #137 Albert Pujols JSY RC #500
2001 SPx - Very Popular
Limited but Affordable
What remains are the cards that are serial-numbered so they are somewhat limited and rare. They aren’t so limited though as to be impossible to find or afford. The only exception here is the 2001 SPx #206 Albert Pujols which is serial numbered and autographed. While this brand does not exist anymore, this has always been a popular and expensive card. The rest of the list includes the following cards:
2001 Absolute Memorabilia #157 Albert Pujols RC #700
2001 Bowman's Best #174 Albert Pujols RC #2999
2001 Donruss Classics #108 Albert Pujols RC #585
2001 Donruss Elite #156 Albert Pujols RC #900
2001 Fleer Authority #102 Albert Pujols RC #2001
2001 Fleer Focus #245 Albert Pujols RC #999
2001 Fleer Futures #224 Albert Pujols RC #2499
2001 Fleer Game Time #121 Albert Pujols RC #2000
2001 Fleer Platinum #301 Albert Pujols RC #1500
2001 Fleer Premium #233 Albert Pujols RC #1999
2001 Fleer Triple Crown #309 Albert Pujols RC #2999
2001 SP Authentic #126 Albert Pujols RC #1250
2001 SPx #206 Albert Pujols AU RC #1500
2001 Studio #191 Albert Pujols RC #700
2001 Sweet Spot #121 Albert Pujols RC #1500
2001 Topps Reserve #103 Albert Pujols RC #945
2001 UD Reserve #204 Albert Pujols RC #2500
2001 Ultra #277 A.Pujols RC/B.Smith RC #1499
2001 Upper Deck Evolution #92 Albert Pujols RC #2500
As with other players, there are a number of minor league cards that exist for Pujols. NONE of them qualify as a rookie card so be aware of that when shopping in online auctions. They aren’t Pre-Rookie cards either in the sense that the term “Pre-Rookie” means anything to collectors, it doesn’t. There are also a number of insert cards from 2001 that have Pujols on them. They are generally fairly expensive but they also are not considered rookie cards.
My recommendation is to shop around. There are a number of different views in the hobby as to how to proceed with brands and companies that are not produced anymore. All of the Fleer and Donruss cards look great but none of those brands exist so you may want to stick with the Topps brands (even that gets sketchy as many brands like Gallery and Stars also don't exist). If you have the budget for the big hitter, expensive options, I think the SPx card is the way to go. It's still has room to grow whereas the Bowman Chrome is super expensive already. If your budget doesn't allow for those types of cards, I'd go with the Topps Traded options as they aren't expensive and the brand will always exist, satisfying both conditions.
My favorites include the SP Milestone Bat card featured above as I appreciate the bat piece and the flag carved into the wood. It can be found for under $40 in online auctions. Another favorite is the E-X card shown above. I happen to be a big fan of cards printed on clear acetate and it's limited to 1500 copies.
In the end, my philosophy is to always buy what you like - if Pujols reaches 700 Home Runs, all of these cards will move up in value regardless of bat/jersey pieces, serial-numbering or autographs.