In case you've been living under a rock, West Coast are currently putting together statistically one of the WORST seasons in AFL/VFL history! It's bad., and being an Eagles fan myself I find it tough to turn on the T.V most weeks. But trying to relate the madness back to the world of trading cards... It's going to be interesting to see how West Coast's card prices fluctuate during this tumultuous time. Thinking ahead to this year's Series 2 release with young guns Reuben Ginbey and Elijah Hewett receiving their first cards, and even further down the road with Harley Reid potentially playing for the Eagles in 2024, how will the prices of their cards cope?
This takes us to the main question of today's article: should on-field team success be the main driver for trading card collectability?
On-field team success can come in many forms. Whether that be sustained dynasties like what we've seen with Richmond. Brisbane, and Hawthorn. Seasons where teams have exceeded expectations, like what we are currently seeing with Port Adelaide, or even promising winning spurts which we've seen happen with Essendon across recent years.
However due to the rigors of AFL, it's difficult for teams to dominate for a sustained period of time. Geelong are really the only team who have been able to achieve sustained success spanning across decades, but even then they haven't been a betting favourite to win the flag year in year out. In recent memory, I don't think the same 8 teams have played finals in consecutive years. The point I'm trying to get across is, team success is a very cyclical variable which some teams can maintain better than others. But in saying that, do we put too much emphasis on the current level of team performance? And more specifically are we too quick to sell when the going gets tough?
Even though I've isolated the element of team success for this article, if you strip back team success even further, the catalyst for fluctuating card prices is the varying levels of collector sentiment. Collectors are MORE likely to go out and spend money on trading cards when they're feeling good about their football team. AFL collectors are different to collectors from other hobbies due to our strong attachments for our chosen teams. Put simply, we are extremely tribal with our passion for our chosen teams. Not to say other sports or hobbies don't have loyal fanbases, but the passion of an AFL fan is somewhat incomparable to other sporting scenarios. Because of this, it would also be fair to say that most collectors in the AFL space are some form of 'team-collectors', compared to the more "rookie-centric" focus of overseas hobbies. So when certain teams are performing well, their trading card prices have the potential to significantly increase, depending on the size of the teams collector base. Obviously more so with star-players who have more collectability, but you get the gist!
This theory can also obviously work in reverse, and a good example of this is the current climate with Carlton trading cards. The Carlton team which defeated the Gold Coast Suns only 2 weeks ago included the likes of: 2x Coleman Medalist's, 1x Brownlow Medalist, 2x #1 Draft Picks, and other superstar players like Sam Docherty, Adam Cerra and Adam Saad. However due to the disillusion their fans have felt this season, Carlton trading cards are arguably in their biggest slumps since collecting has recently gathered increased interest. Which is crazy considering that they have some of the biggest hobby "draw cards" at their disposal in Charlie Curnow, Patrick Cripps, and Sam Walsh!
The BIG example that jumps to mind is a card I recently saw listed on a Facebook group. It was the Charlie Curnow Virtuoso from Footy Stars 2023 30/60, with #30 being his jumper number. The fact that this card can only be obtained via the 'Instant Win' redemptions, made me think that the Charlie Curnow copy must command some coin? The card was listed for $300, untouched for days, no public cash offers or questions about potential trades, nothing! I'd find it hard to believe that this would be the case if Carlton's situation was similar to that of 12 months ago.
Another interesting point to consider is how club success can impact speculation investments. Sticking with the Carlton theme, Sam Walsh was the hobby favourite in 2021 dragging Carlton to 8 wins and posting 32 disposals a game. Not to mention finishing 3rd in the Brownlow that year! Since then, Walsh has been very solid despite battling through a back issue, but we've definitely seen a cooling in his card prices. And whether that's because he hasn't won the 5 Brownlow Medals that people expected him to, or due to the incredibly large shadow that Nick Daicos is creating,, you'd think that Carlton's poor run of form this season is the main contributing factor. So does it mean that when we are wanting to speculate on a particular player, that we also have to speculate that player's team?
Now that I've set the current collecting scene for you, what are your thoughts? Due to our tribal nature, will AFL trading cards always be fluctuated by the success and woes of our supported teams? Or are there other mechanism at play within trading cards that determine card prices?