By Larry Canale
Here’s a trivia question you can try on your friends: When Drew Brees entered the NFL as the Chargers’ second-round pick in 2001, he was the backup behind which veteran QB? A clue that might give it away: The San Diego starter that year was at least 2 inches shorter than the 6-foot Brees.
Answer: Doug Flutie. At the time, the popular Flutie was 39 years old but very durable, starting all 16 games in 2001. In fact, young Brees got into only one game all year. The next season, though, he took over as the Chargers’ starter and would hold the job through 2005. He developed quickly as a productive passer, though his QB record was barely over .500 (30 wins and 28 losses).
Brees’ fortunes changed in 2006. Even though he suffered a serious shoulder injury at the end of 2005, the Saints gambled and signed him to a six-year, $60 million contract. The rest has been history—record-breaking history. This season, at age 39, Brees has become the NFL’s all-time leader in completions, yards, passing yards per game and yards per attempt, among other records. By season’s end, he’ll rank either second or third in career TD passes, pending Tom Brady’s output.
As he’s rewriting the NFL’s passing records, Brees is also gaining steam in the collectibles market.
The big draw is his 2001 Playoff Contenders card, an autographed issue that swells to five-figure prices if in Mint condition. For example, note the presence of a PSA 10 specimen of Brees’ 2001 Contenders card on our Top 10 list at $18,500. Another example, also PSA 10, sold for $13,667.
Last time out in this space, we reported on two PSA 10 Brees Contenders rookies that fetched $21,065 and $15,900. And two columns ago, a Brees PSA 10 Contenders charted at an even higher price: $24,400.
If graded between 8 and 9.5, Brees’ 2001 Contenders card tends to sell for prices between $5,000 and $10,000.
It’s not the only Brees piece attracting attention, either. Here’s a sampling of top prices paid for various items in the past weeks:
• $10,100 for a 2001 Topps Chrome Black Refractor Brees card graded PSA 10. A BGS 9.5 example of the same card brought $10,000.
• $6,422 for a Sign of the Times card (PSA 10) from Upper Deck’s 2001 SP Authentic set.
• $3,601 for a 2001 Leaf signed Rookies & Stars card graded PSA 10.
• $3,152 for a 2001 Upper Deck SP Authentic Future Watch game-worn patch card graded PSA 10.
• $2,939 for a 2001 Fleer E-X signed card also graded PSA 10.
Authenticated full-sized Saints helmets autographed by Brees typically sell in the $275 to $500 range. Signed mini-helmets usually land in the $75 to $175 range. Footballs signed by Brees fall into a wider range—anywhere from $100 to $300, depending on the authentication and type of football.
Speaking of future Hall of Famers, how about the consistently stellar Aaron Rodgers? The Packer QB’s autographed 2005 Playoff Contenders Rookie Ticket card is consistently selling for five figures. Three recent examples, all graded PSA 10, sold for prices of $14,050 on 46 bids, $13,651 on 34 bids and $12,220 on 36 bids.
Another hot Rodgers item is his 2005 Topps Chrome Refractor; one recent PSA 10 specimen of the card sold in a Buy It Now deal for $10,000.
ON THE OUTSIDE, PLUS AN ICHIRO SIGHTING
Just outside our Top 10 list were these worthy items:
• $16,350: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (SGC 10)
• $16,100: 2013 Bowman Chrome Aaron Judge (PSA 10)
• $15,989: 2001 Bowman Chrome Ichiro Suzuki Xfractor (PSA 10)
• $15,399: 1948-49 Bowman George Mikan (PSA 7)
• $15,000: 2016-17 Upper Deck The Cup Connor McDavid, auto patch (NHL shield) (BGS 9, auto 10)
A quick note on the Ichiro card: It captures the distinctive batting stance of this fan favorite, who came over from Japan in 2001 at age 27. He made an immediate impact, swatting 242 hits and batting .350 to lead the majors in both categories. Ichiro retired early in the 2018 season (it seems like so long ago, doesn’t it?). By then, he had amassed 3,089 hits and 509 stolen bases in his career, batting .311 over 18 seasons.
Other Ichiro treasures to sell recently include a signed 2001 Ultimate Collection card that brought $3,649 (ungraded) and a signed 2001 Upper Deck SPx signed Prospect Jersey card (PSA 10) that reeled in $3,274.
AN UNLIKELY SERIES STAR
We’ll monitor Red Sox memorabilia in coming weeks as baseball’s champs bask in the glow of their 2018 World Series title. For now, how can we ignore Steve Pearce?
The unlikely MVP had four hits in the five-game Series—three homers and a double that accounted for his team-leading eight RBI. The 35-year-old journeyman has played for seven different MLB franchises after coming up in the Pirates’ chain as a highly touted slugger (he hit 59 homers combined in 2006 and 2007 in minor-league ball). The Pirates had him up and down between 2007 and 2011 before peddling him to the Yankees.
After a short stay in New York, Pearce went on to the Astros, Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays and, finally, the Red Sox. He’s got 90 career homers and a .257 average in 2,456 at-bats.
For collecting purposes, Pearce has always been what we refer to, lovingly, as a common. His fall heroics won’t spike his values overall, but they do make him a target for World Series MVP collectors. Especially appealing: Pearce-signed baseballs, which are selling for anywhere from $75 to $270, depending on authentication.
You’ll also find Topps Now cards produced and issued practically in real time. One example—capturing Pearce during Game 4, in which he hit a game-tying homer and go-ahead three-run double—sold for $175. Pearce’s signature on the card, of course, helped drive the price.
For a look at a young Pearce, pick up his 2007 Bowman Heritage Signs of Greatness autographed rookie card. An ungraded but top-condition example fetched $60 during the heat of the World Series, but since then, it’s come down to the $15 to $30 range.