By Greg Bates
Jameis Winston might have edged out fellow quarterback Marcus Mariota as the No. 1 pick in April’s NFL draft. However, Mariota might have the last laugh.
The Tennessee Titans’ top selection seems to be the more popular player early on in the eyes of football fans. Mariota was No. 1 in total jerseys in the entire NFL in May for sales on NFLShop.com. How about Winston, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first choice? Well, he was a close second.
Impressive for two guys who haven’t even taken an NFL snap.
Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, quarterbacks who are well on their way to Hall of Fame busts, ranked third and fourth, respectively, in sales.
Winston and Mariota merchandise and memorabilia have been selling well nationwide, but especially solid in the local areas where the two quarterbacks now call home.
One week after the draft, Sport Seasons’ Brittany Jump was anxiously waiting for the NFL to release Mariota’s No. 8 jerseys.
“Literally, the next day people were asking,” said Jump, who is the general manager of the Nashville, Tenn., sporting goods store. “Anything they can get their hands on.”
Fans were seeking jerseys of the former Oregon Ducks star, but they had to wait a couple weeks and couldn’t pre-order the products. Once Jump received the shipment, the items flew off the shelves.
At Sport Seasons, the Mariota jerseys – which go for $99 for adult sizes and $70 for kids – have been by far the best sellers.
“We’ve got the CBU color, we’ve got the navy, we’ve got the white in the men’s,” Jump said. “In women’s, we have the light blue. In kids, right now, we’ve got the light blue and the white. I’ve got all the way down to toddler sizes in the light blue.”
Sales have been going well at Sport Seasons, which has six locations throughout Tennessee.
“I think all my stores have actually been doing pretty well with it,” Jump said.
Sport Seasons has a half row – a full row during football season – of Titans gear, along with jerseys scattered throughout its store. As of early June, Jump only had Mariota jerseys in stock, but was waiting for some jersey T-shirts to arrive.
“We do have a lot,” Jump said. “We’re trying to prepare for leading into football season. We want to make sure we’ve got what everybody needs all the way through.”
Mariota is by far Sport Seasons’ top Titans seller and its best seller since another West Coast college quarterback, Jake Locker.
“Locker was OK,” Jump said. “He wasn’t as big a buzz as Mariota seems to be getting.”
Sales for Mariota jerseys are also going strong at the Titans Locker Room – which is located inside the LP Field pro shop, home of the Titans – and at TitansLockerRoom.com. According to Titans assistant director of media relations Dwight Spradlin, the store and online combined equal approximately 2,000 jerseys sold, as of May 29.
Meanwhile, in Florida, sporting goods store Sports Authority, which has three locations in Tampa, has had an influx of customers interested in acquiring Winston’s No. 3 jersey.
“The jerseys have been selling well,” Sports Authority Tampa West Shore store manager Calvin West said. “There has been quite a bit of interest from fans.”
Sports Authority is carrying just Winston jerseys and is trying to keep a constant supply since it’s the store’s top-selling Buccaneers item.
West, who has been the store manager for 10 years, has been around during some productive players for the Bucs. He said when Tampa Bay drafted running back Cadillac Williams in 2005, there was a high level of interest from fans. However, that doesn’t compare to how Winston sold in the first month on the team.
Cards just as desirable to collectors
Over the years, Tampa Bay Buccaneers players haven’t been the most desirable cards at Orlando Sports Cards South.
Store owner Kendall Loyd seems to have a new fan favorite with Winston.
“Everything that I put out of his sells,” said Loyd, one week after the draft. “I have nothing of him right now, not a single card.”
Winston cards in his Florida State uniform were selling strong weeks before the draft.
“People were buying cards before the draft, but the draft even pushed it stronger,” Loyd said.
Right after the draft, Loyd had a large number of Winston cards from Upper Deck (ranging in price from $8-$12), Sage Hit ($5-$8) and a Leaf base autograph card that sold for about $150.
With new products hitting the market recently, Loyd was planning to break packs and try to amass more Winston cards to sell.
“I need some more singles, because I think it’s going to be another decent draft for the offensive-type players in there,” Loyd said. “Hopefully, they will turn out a little better than (Johnny) Manziel, because that was really disappointing last year.”
Loyd believes the newer products that show Winston in a Buccaneers jersey are going to be better sellers. Loyd said fans seem to prefer the players in NFL uniforms, whereas Loyd likes the cards that feature college apparel.
Loyd also had a good selection of Mariota cards in early May, but those base cards flew out the door, just like Winston.
Prices on the Winston and Mariota cards differ slightly in Loyd’s store.
“A $10 Winston is maybe a $7 or $8 Mariota,” Loyd said. “A $150 autograph of Winston is maybe $100-$120 for Mariota. He carries a little bit more weight right now.”
Winston, playing in his home state, has a little advantage with collectors in Florida. However, not all fans think Winston will be the Buccaneers’ savior.
“There are mixed reviews of people who come in here that are Tampa fans. They don’t want him and they’d rather have (Mariota),” Loyd said. “Even for those people that are not so high on him, when they pull his cards, I have a feeling they’re going to be a little bit more excited than they say they are.”
Fans interested in picking up Mariota cards in Nashville don’t have too many options. At Bob’s Collectors Den in Cookeville, an hour east of Nashville, owner Bob Smith doesn’t get a lot of interest in Titans merchandise. However, he was hoping some fans would make their way to his shop for Mariota cards.
Collectors aren’t even entering the store and asking about the Titans’ quarterback.
“They haven’t yet, which is shocking to me and surprising and disappointing to me,” Smith said.
Amazon and eBay seem to be thriving on Winston and Mariota cards. On eBay in early June, a Winston Upper Deck Letterman Signatures No. 11/15 was going for $3,000. A Panini Contenders Season Ticket autograph No. 4/23 was listed at $2,499.95. A Leaf Metal Draft No. 1/1 autograph of Mariota was selling for $2,999.99. A Mariota Upper Deck Letterman Signatures No. 8/25, three cards “U, C, S” was going for $2,000.
On Amazon in early June, the highest Winston and Mariota card was a Panini Contenders Playoff Ticket autograph graded BGS 9.5 that was selling for $1,130.99.
Of those actually selling, a Mariota 2015 Leaf Metal Draft 1-of-1 Prismatic Gold Autograph brought $1,100 and a 2014 Mariota 1-of-1 UD Exquisite 2015 Rookies Spectrum sold for $886. In Winston cards, a 2015 Leaf Metal Draft Winston Gold Prismatic 1-of-1 rookie auto brought $2,500, and a Winston 2015 Upper Deck Inscription Gold Refractor Auto No. 3/10 sold for $575.
The autograph and jersey cards are the most desirable pieces by collectors, Loyd noted.
“It makes it a little tough because they come out so high,” Loyd said. “Unfortunately, that’s how it is in baseball, basketball, whatever. Before they even hit the floor or the court or the field, they’re high.”
Greg Bates if a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at email@example.com.