This was a conversation brought up during the last episode of the Card Authority Podcast (click link to conversation), which is commonly raised when Select Footy decides to print a premium product. "When are Select going to do 1/1's?", "Do you think 1/1 cards would work in AFL?". Not only are we of the opinion that 1/1 cards aren't something you should expect from Select moving forward, but in fact we believe that they would NEVER work in the AFL trading card hobby.
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of 'One of One' cards, they are relatively self explanatory; a numbered card which is the only one in existence. These cards have varying desirability depending on the player, set, type of 1/1 (auto, non-auto, printing plates), rookie year, etc. But it can't be argued that 1/1 printed cards of superstar players can go for extraordinary amounts of money, as we saw with the Lebron James 'Triple Logoman' that sold in 2022 for 2.4 million dollars.
When those types of cards get global publicity, and with increasing levels of crossover between the AFL hobby and other trading card communities, it's easy to understand why people bring up the question of AFL 1/1's. And whilst I'm completely in favour of continual innovation of AFL trading cards, I'm also of the belief that AFL cards should NOT go down the route of single unique cards, as it would have detrimental consequences to what is still a developing market.
You couldn't deny that introducing 'One of One' cards would attract a number of new eyes to the hobby, but you'd suspect that for every new collector it would introduce, it would comparatively displace more. And those who'd be affected the most are essentially the 'back-bone' of the AFL trading card fraternity; 'team-collectors'. It's no secret that the AFL collecting landscape is underpinned by different types of 'team-collectors'. In recent times 'team-collectors' have had to come to terms with increased checklists and singles prices, which has led to a number of people re-evaluating the way they collect. However despite all this, a significant amount of collectors have stayed loyal to their collecting styles, and whilst at times a juggle, many have found themselves caught up to date with their collections.
By introducing 1/1 cards, not only does it prevent those who have successfully completed a 'team-master set' to continue on their collecting journey, but you also threaten to alienate the fabric of the AFL trading card community altogether. Whilst it can be acknowledged that its been increasingly difficult to accomplish, at least those collectors who have the time to dedicate, or money to spend, are still given the opportunity to create master-sets. But when 1/1's are thrown into the equation, the dream is over. It's unrealistic to believe that one person will be able to attain every 1/1 card printed, so I assume a lot of 'team master-set collectors' will give up entirely.
So while in the short term new and old faces could be enticed by the glamour of 'One of Ones', when you have new "collectors" eventually becoming disinterested, coupled with a core portion of the hobby feeling alienated, what are you left with? A broken ecosystem.
However here at Card Authority, we like to provide balanced opinions on contentious hobby discussions. That's why yesterday we decided to create a public poll where collectors alike could leave their honest opinions on the matter. And while it's our firm belief that 'One of One's' should not be introduced in the future, we also acknowledge that a significant number of you would like Select Footy to head down this route.
I think those who believe 1/1's will add a new improved layer to the hobby are caught trying to compare apples with oranges. When I first started collecting, I too was trying to push the cart for a greater shift towards the US model of collecting, and the way I collect probably is a testament to this. But now with greater time and understanding of the market, I acknowledge that there would need a complete revamp of collector behaviour for this to occur.. And it's led me to believe that there will probably never be an instance where the pendulum swings from team collecting to outright player collecting, which is the essence of the US trading card landscape. And even then, the market for 1/1's in the US has exponentially grown in recent years when even single serial numbered cards are being diluted. Take Zion Williamson's Panini licensed trading cards, in his rookie year a total of 64 'One of One' Zion Rookie Cards were produced across 33 separate products in a 12 month window. So even in player centric markets, have 'One of One's' REALLY become that unique?
But to humor you all, I'm willing to propose the following scenario. Imagine that tomorrow Select decided to announce a brand new release containing a Nick Daicos 1/1 signature trading card. Within the first week of the release the card appears and is placed onto the secondary market. Thinking about what prices Nick Daicos' signature cards have recently been fetching, what do you think this card would be realistically listed for? If his GEM Diamond signature numbered to 35 is approximately a $2,500 card, extrapolating that number for scarcity, it wouldn't be illogical to suggest that the 1/1 is an $80,000 card? What happens when that card is sold for only $15,000?
While the math in calculating the potential value of a Nick Daicos 1/1 isn't illogical, when comparing it to current levels of market depth and the ceiling at which AFL trading cards have previously reached, that 80k price tag would seem crazy. Not to mention that your market depth would've now been further thinned when you take away the 'master-set collectors' and 'team-master set collectors', who make up a large chunk of the big spenders within AFL trading cards. What are you left with? A bunch of 1/1 cards being bought for far less than their theoretical worth, or not being bought at all. Everyone wants the opportunity to hit a Nick Daicos 'One of One', but how many are willing to spend to purchase one?
So what happens to the rest of the market? By having 1/1's sell for significantly less than their true values, it starts a chain reaction which begins to devalue the entirety of peoples collections. Why would someone pay $2,500 for a Nick Daicos GEM Diamond Signature /35, when a 1/1 signature costs 15k? They won't. Not only will the number of buyers for cards of that magnitude be diminished, but why pay overs for cards when the ceiling is quantifiable? Moving further down the chain, extracted value from sealed boxes plummets, singles values plummet, the value of your hard earned PC, plummets. All from placing a number, whether it be accurate or not, on the value of cards in single existence.
In theory, I like the idea of 'One of One' cards for what they represent. A truly unique collectors piece that a single individual can cherish and enjoy. But attempting to translate the mechanisms of the AFL trading card hobby into that of international markets would be a costly mistake. Not only would it displace so many collectors who've been engaged in the hobby since its inception, but it would threaten to derail the progress of our growing market back to its beginnings. For the new population the innovation engages, it doesn't come with the guarantee that the money would be recirculated back into the market nor guarantees their future participation. It could mark the beginning of the end to AFL trading cards as we know it, which would be a travesty to both collectors and the wonderful community that's been fostered.
Written by Thomas Butters