The Great Memorabilia Card Debate: Desirable or Recyclable?
Memorabilia (Mem) cards come in a variety of materials, shapes, and styles. The most common jersey types found on Memorabilia cards are event-worn (EW), game-used (GU), and patch cards. Based on a poll I conducted, the desirability of these cards is generally ranked as follows:
Desirability of Memorabilia Cards, Ranked Highest to Lowest
(assuming all cards are the same style and numbering)
A disturbing fact is that most non-autographed memorabilia cards are worth the same, regardless of the brand. For instance, a two-color patch of Anquan Boldin from a high end product like 2009 Exquisite is worth the same (around $15) as a two-color patch of Anquan Boldin from 2009 Playoff Prestige. Heck, even the single-color jersey cards guaranteed in some retail blaster boxes are valued in the same range. If this is the case, then what's the point? Does this mean that memorabilia cards are essentially worthless? Does it mean that Memorabilia cards are just not desirable among collectors?
The answer is both yes and no.
First of all, I must admit that single color memorabilia cards of any kind are meaningless to me. They have become so ubiquitous that I consider them nothing more than glorified decoy cards. When a new product advertises that each box will contain four hits per box with “at least one autograph," I shutter. I know that each collector is different and that everyone has their own tastes; but personally, I just don't have a taste for single color memorabilia cards. Quite frankly, I would be surprised if any collector didn't sigh in disappointment each time they've pulled one. Realizing that one of your “hits" is essentially worthless doesn't make you feel too happy about your 100+ dollar purchase.
It shocks me when I see beautiful patch cards of top-notch players from high-end products sell for next to nothing on the secondary market. This happens because the overabundance of memorabilia cards has desensitized the collecting community to the point where we really don't care about a card unless it's special, and special usually means it's either autographed or otherwise unique. A few top players each year may be excluded from this generalization, but it commonly stands true.
When it comes to the highly sought-after “patch-autos," the quality of the patch plays a serious role in determining the desirability of the card. For example, take a gander at the following Percy Harvin cards. Both are the same make and model, both are autographed, both have the same print run. The only difference is the patch, but in this case, the patch made all the difference when it came to sale value.
From their inception, memorabilia cards were supposed to do one thing: bring us closer to the game. At least from my perspective, only game-used cards accomplish this. Although I'm not in love with basic memorabilia cards, I am always excited to learn that the material embedded in my card was actually worn in an NFL game.
In my opinion, event-worn swatches bring me closer to the sporting good store, not the football field. The only exception to this rule is the Rookie Premiere Photo Shoot, which enables manufacturers to create football cards of the hot new rookies before the season begins. Although I still don't like the event-worn stuff that comes out of the Rookie Premiere, I understand the need for it.
The only time I actually don't care (as much) about where the piece of memorabilia came from is when the swatch is accompanied by an autograph…or if it's a sick multi-colored patch…or if it includes a logo-shield or if it's of Tim Tebow. I'm still not thrilled with event-worn memorabilia in these cases, but I will definitely look the other way.
Despite my blatant hypocrisy above, I believe our hobby would be better off without the 10,000 single-color event-worn jersey cards that drown us each time we bust a box. Without the horde of mass-produced event-worn garbage, game-used cards of every shape and style would become a lot more significant. I understand that manufacturers want to include “X" number of hits in their products to ensure “value" in each box, but this only makes sense for the younger kids who are excited about any card with shiny colors and a swatch of fabric. Serious collectors don't buy into this false sense of “value." In my opinion, true value comes in the shape of meaningful cards: cards that bring me closer to the game.