When entering the AFL Trading Card community, you’ll most likely come across some seemingly random words and abbreviations. You could say that we are perennially lazy with typing, but these terms DO have significant meaning! Let’s break it down for you:
Low Numbers – Generally considered to be cards with serial numbers between 002-009
JN’s – Jumper or Jersey Number Cards, the number in which the player wears on his guernsey for that particular year
01’s – Cards with the serial number 01, 001 or even 0001 - Considered to be First Off The Line. Note: up until 2018 Select did not release 001 cards into circulation.
Now that you’re up to date with the lingo, what makes cards in these categories important? It’s not as though serial numbering adds any intrinsic value to the card itself, but these cards can have a strong perceived value when they hit the secondary market. Whether it’s related to the ‘prestige’ of owning these types of cards, or just having an added layer of collectability to chase, people pay serious money to acquire these cards! This concept works in markets like AFL due to the strong affiliation supporters have with teams and players, as well as the lower print runs of trading cards compared to other international markets like the NBA and NFL. US Card genres don’t necessarily place as high a value on serial numbering due to their abundance of numbered inserts & variations, which is something that must be considered in the AFL space moving forward.
So how much should you be paying for these types of numbered cards? There are some unofficial ‘guidelines’ collectors use which can be followed, but like there is with all transactions, there are exceptions.
Starting off with ‘low-numbered cards’ which became more prominent throughout the Prestige releases starting in 2020. They are the easiest variant to come across and therefore should cost the least amount extra. A good number to play around with when buying low-numbered cards is a 25% premium of a non-low serial numbered card, or paying “Full eBay Comps (Ebay sales & listings)”, which compensates the numbering for the potential eBay tax incurred. Numbers may vary when the product is numbered-insert heavy and collectors get into full swing with low-numbered collecting, but that’s easy to adjust to by simply checking ‘Sold Listings’.
The added price you should be willing to pay for 01’s and JN’s should be very similar, as they are both only 1 number in the print run. Of course if you exclusively collect 01’s or JN’s of a certain team or player then you might feel inclined to pay more. Regardless, a good yardstick to refer to is 2-2.5x the price of a normal numbered card. As stated, this number can get skewed depending on the team or player popularity, with there being reasonable competition within particular collector bases. What you’re willing to pay might be less than the next person, so use that knowledge at your discretion!
Another important concept to understand when buying/selling low numbered, 01 or Jumper Numbered cards is how the scarcity and price of a card could dictate the multiplier you’re willing to pay/sell at!
For example, a JN card with a print run of 750, worth $5 to $10 normally, could command as much as 5x to 10x when looking to buy or sell. The inflated multiplier works the same with low numbers, as the proportion of the print run numbered between 002-009 is so much lower than a card numbered to 100 for instance! On the flipside, the extra amount you’d be looking to spend on a low numbered card with a print run of 25, is probably less than what you’d normally pay due to 40% of the print run being a ‘low’.
When dealing with the top echelon of cards, the theory could work the same but in reverse. For example, a card with a regular ticket price of $2000, the buyer is probably not willing to pay $2000-2,500 extra for something like serial numbering as the financial outlay can outweigh the expected multiplier, so in this instance the multiplier is lowered to a realistic level or price ceiling. Of course it depends on the card, but in most instances you’re probably not commanding steep increases into the $1000’s for significant numbers.
As alluded to earlier, overseas markets don’t place much of an added value on significant serial numbering and is seen more as a “bonus” when purchasing sports cards. This could be due to the huge amount of different releases and inserts printed every year, which waters down the collectability of serial numbers because of the sheer volume produced. In a market like AFL where JN’s, 01’s and low numbers can command $100’s more than its regular counterparts, it's important to acknowledge that potentially one day serial numbering might mean a whole lot less than it presently does. This isn’t suggesting that these cards instantly become worthless or lose value overnight, as comparing the two markets and collector bases is chalk and cheese, but as supply increases, it's important to understand what that does to demand and therefore prices! As with all forms of collecting, the card will always only be worth what people are prepared to pay, so if collectors continue to target specific numbers the demand and premium will keep rising.