We are entering the pointy-end of the AFL season, which is usually the period where the AFL trading card market begins to heat up. Sports card prices fluctuate for a variety of reasons, but some of the driving factors include on-field performance and increased collector sentiment. Both these variables are heightened come finals time, as teams and individual players try to etch their names into AFL history. Now that we know which teams will be participating in this years finals series, now could be a good time to cast your eye across to this season's contenders. By starting to acquire cards of teams and players you believe will perform strongly, you might be sitting on some nice profit when the final siren blows on the last weekend in September.
Looking back on previous seasons, the players whose card prices generally rise are those who possess that 'X-factor' quality. Players with flair, and who impact the scoreboard are the ones who are looked upon most fondly, in games which can be decided by single moments of brilliance. It's also important to be able to identify where the value in certain teams lies, as current performances can be already priced into certain players' cards, which can ultimately impact the success of your speculation. But with that being said, here are some player's you should be watching to potentially look to buy before they make a big impact on the stage of finals.
Much of this season has focused on the feats of Nick Daicos, but his brother Josh has become an integral part of the Collingwood lineup. So much so, he was named alongside his brother in the All-Australian team, he's been that good! Not only does he rack up plenty of the footy, but features plenty in the 'score involvements' column which helps his collectability. Oh, and the fact he's a Daicos probably doesn't harm his stocks either. Collingwood were able to lock up top spot, so whilst you might be paying a slight premium on your speculation, you're guaranteed at least 2 weeks for the older Daicos to 'strut his stuff' in finals footy. I'd be looking at cards such as his Virtuoso from 2022 Footy Stars, Marquee from 2021 Footy Stars, and his Rookie Card from Certified 2017. If you are feeling good about the Pies chances this postseason, you could be tempted by his Supremacy 'Future Franchise' Signature, but it won't come cheap.
This bloke should honestly be a household name by now, and I think it would be hard to find a player that sums up the term 'X-factor' more perfectly than Zac Bailey. Probably a victim of 'too many mouths to feed' in a stacked Brisbane Lions midfield, Bailey can make 20 touches feel like 35, and has created a reputation for himself as a known goal-kicker, and a clutch moments player. If you're confident that Brisbane will be able to retain their home final advantage and make significant inroads in September, then I really do think that Zac Bailey will be your man. Featuring in releases as early as Future Force 2017, which includes his only signature cards to date, that is probably the place I'd start looking if you can snag one for cheap!
You could so easily throw a blanket over 4-5 players from the current Port Adelaide lineup who fit the description of investable players this postseason. But in acknowledging the likes of Butters and Rozee, I'm overlooking them both in favour of Port's newest pride and joy, Jason Horne-Francis. Not only do I think his game will translate to 'finals conditions', but you also have the added heat of the North Melbourne trade-saga that has plagued his first 2 years in the league. All of that could be forgotten should he string together a few impactful performances like the one's we've been exposed to in various patches this season. I really do believe that JHF will one day be the face of both the AFL and the trading card hobby, but could this prophecy be fulfilled sooner rather than later? His 'Virtuoso' from the Instant Win redemptions from Footy Stars 2023 is my FAVOURITE card that's been printed all year. Horne in Port colours, performing in finals for Port Adelaide is a combination that I think will resonate with collectors, should Port Adelaide have a successful finals campaign.
I could've gone boring and selected Christian Petracca for Melbourne's 'one to watch', but I'm a massive sucker for value, which is what 'Kozzy' Pickett's cards currently offer. Melbourne's dynamite small forward, and nephew to a previous finals hero in Byron Pickett, can turn literally "nothing" into a moment of sheer brilliance. The fact he's a human highlight reel is exactly the reason as to why I'm such a strong believer in Pickett as a finals investment, as it's only a matter of time before he completely tears apart a final. I think Melbourne have gone slightly under the radar in terms of 'flag fancies', and I don't expect a relatively intact premiership side bowing out in the early stages of finals. Funnily enough, Pickett doesn't have too many "relevant" cards to his name, with outside his rookie card, and more recently with his GEM Emerald, his Supremacy 'Future Franchise' cards are his only real notable card to date, and includes his only signature card. If you can find one of those at a reasonable price, which I have seen a few floating around recently, that's where I'd be putting my money
The world works in mysterious ways, the Blues are playing finals, and Sam Walsh cards pose decent value? How does that work? I'm not sure, but due to Sam Walsh's interrupted season, we've seen a downturn in his card prices which rivaled Dustin Martin as the most expensive hobby wide. Still only 23, Walsh has his whole career ahead of him and with his proven match-winning abilities, I expect his game to translate seamlessly when faced with a tightly contested final. While Walsh cards are cheaper than what they once were, it doesn't mean that they are comparatively cheap to the other names featured on this list. In fact you'd probably find yourself spending the most money on Walsh compared to any other name previously mentioned. But the positive spin to that argument is that we've already witnessed the ceiling that Walsh cards can ultimately reach. It's just a question of; is now the time for another Sam Walsh "bull-run" in the trading card hobby?
The Saints continue to knock back the haters, and found themselves finishing 6th on the AFL ladder, locked into a home final against GWS. It seems as though week after week, supporters league wide are expecting the bubble to finally burst on St Kilda's season. But what if that moment never comes, and in fact we are missing out on an astute buying opportunity? You could include players like Mitch Owens as a player to watch down at Moorabbin. However, Mitch Owens cards have completely skyrocketed in price throughout 2023, and I don't think you'll find available cards in a small window of time that pose real value. So I recommend moving to St Kilda's next big thing; Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera. Not only does he carry two famous footballing surnames, but the kid is a genuine freak. Yes he plays at half-back, but what he does with the footy rivals few when it comes to ball use. His run and carry playstyle along with the surgical foot skills makes him box-office viewing, and hence a decent buying opportunity. Besides his Optimum rookie stamped cards, Wanganeen-Milera also has a 'Futures' card which is becoming increasingly difficult to source. But being a part of the Optimum release with 3 variants of Draft Pick Signatures, I don't think you can go too astray with picking up any of his rookie signatures should the price be right. You might even look towards his 'GEM' Emerald insert numbered to 55 should the opportunity arise.
If the trading card hobby prices were dictated by 'pound for pound' talent, Toby Greene cards would be recognised within the top echelon of players across the league. But the reality is that he's the captain of the smallest marketed team in the AFL, and that does impact the ceiling of which his trading cards can reach. In saying that though, I have previously had success buying/selling Toby Greene cards, but as with all flips it depends at what price point you buy them at. So don't expect to buy Toby Greene cards at market value and expect an exponential return, cause it's likely Greene will need a Grand Final berth in order for his cards to noticeably appreciate. In saying that, it feels as though if any team were to shock the world this postseason, GWS would be the ones to best fit that description.
I'm writing this very tentatively as I'm well aware of how far Errol Gulden cards have climbed over the past 12 months. But it's seriously hard to ignore his form after being selected in the All-Australian team for 2023! Finishing 17th overall for total league disposals, whilst adding almost a goal a game, Errol 'fits the bill' of a high impact player who hits the scoreboard. Would you be able to find Gulden cards that present short term upside? I'm not 100% sure, as he's no longer Sydney's 'best kept secret', but if the Swans are to somehow walk away with an Elimination Final against Carlton in a weeks time, you'd surely think that Errol would be having a major say in the outcome. Speculate carefully given the price tag and the fact he plays interstate, but as he's been for the entirety of his career, Errol's a seriously fun watch.
As always with speculation of any kind, proceed with caution. However I must admit player speculation is a lot less treacherous in comparison to 'predictor speculating'. Especially if you are investing in players that you enjoy watching, or players you're happy to hold onto for a little while. Hopefully you enjoy what this years finals series has to offer, and happy spec