Top selling Bryce Harper Rookie Cards baseball cards 2
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Investing in Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper recently signed a 13 year 330 million dollar contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. That’s $25,384,615 a year over 13 years. Which equals $156,695.16 per game if he plays every one. Harper is getting paid, roughly, $45,000 every time he steps up to the plate. 

Let us tell you why he is worth it.

By the time he was 16 in 2009, Harper was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as “the most exciting prodigy since LeBron James.” His prospects continued upwards, and he started at the College of Southern Nevada in 2010 after graduating high school at 17.

In his 66 games of college ball, he had 98 RBIs, with a .443 batting average, .526 on-base percentage, and .987 slugging percentage. The previous home run record at the College of Southern Nevada was 12. Harper destroyed that record by hitting 31. Naturally, he was the SWAC (Southern Nevada’s conference) Player of the Year.

Harper went into the draft as the consensus number one pick, and he was selected at the number one position by the Washington Nationals.

Although he played catcher in college, Harper was selected as an outfielder in order to prolong his career. From the beginning, Harper has been a long term player, and he has been treated accordingly. By positioning him in the outfield in the beginning, the Nationals intention was steady and long term production from Harper. This theme carries on today.

Record breaking contracts from the start

A similar precedent was that Harper signed record-breaking contracts from the get-go. The two parties agreed at the last minute to a five-year contract worth $9.9 million, which also included a $6.25 million signing bonus and eight semesters of college tuition. It was the highest paid rookie contract for a non-pitcher who had not become a free agent since 2001.

Finalizing Frenzy

The deal was finalized right before midnight of the deadline. It was nothing out of the ordinary for the Nationals who had had a similar last-minute deal with the 2009 No. 1 pick, Stephen Strasburg. In 2008 the Nationals had failed to agree with No. 9 pick Aaron Crow. General Manager Mike Rizzo remarked, “It was both sides compromising and knowing that we were so close it would be fruitless not to get a deal done.” However, it is clear from the history of the Nationals that they had a history of difficult dealings with signings. As we will see, Harper had to seek outside the franchise.

Minor League leader

After leading his team in hits, home runs, RBIs, and walks, Harper was selected from the Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions. He was the second youngest prospect ever to play in the AFL.
Harper began his career in the minor leagues for the Class-A South Atlantic League team the Hagerstown Suns. He had a remarkably slow start, but this quickly turned around when he visited an optometrist. The eye doctor told him, “I don’t know how you ever hit before. You have some of the worst eyes I’ve ever seen.” With a pair of contact lenses, Harper thundered for .480, seven home runs, and 23 RBIs in the next 20 games.

2011 All-Star Futures Selection

His career continued to blossom with a selection to the 2011 All-Star Futures, and he was then promoted to the Harrisburg Senators of the Class AA Eastern League. There was another setback which ended his season. He injured his hamstring, and it was so severe that he had to be carried off the field.
Harper was back at it in 2012, starting the season with the Syracuse Chiefs of the Class AAA International League. On April 27, 2012, Harper was promoted to the major leagues by the Nationals. He was only nineteen years old.

Major League Debut

Harper’s rookie season is filled with memorable moments. A walk-off RBI in the bottom of the 12th against the Mets, becoming the first teenager to steal home since 1964, and a 438 feet home run in Toronto. After that home run, a reporter asked him if he were going to drink beer since he was in Canada and 19. He replied, “I’m not going to answer that. That’s a clown question, bro.” The phrase was repeated on television, the internet, and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid.

Harper placed third for the All-Star Final Vote, and after two injuries to those ahead of him, he became the youngest All-Star selection ever. After a rocky August, Harper won Rookie of the Month in September, and he went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year with 112 votes

"The Chosen One"

By the time he barely turned 20, Harper had been dubbed “The Chosen One” by the cover of Sports Illustrated, signed a massive rookie deal, worked his way up through the minors, dealt with horrible eyesight, stolen home, was selected as an All-Star, and had won NL ROTY. It is ridiculous to not expect him to one day sign a record deal in his prime.
Harper started off the 2013 season with two home runs on the Home Opener. In fact, he would become known for home runs on Opening Day, hitting five by the time he was 25. He would go on to lose in the finals of the Home Run Derby, where he was the youngest to make it.

For the 2014 season, he only played in 100 games after a thumb injury but he had 13 home runs, 32 RBIs, and batted .273. Which isn’t all that bad. 

2015 - Breakout Season

2015 was Harper’s breakout season. He became the youngest player to be unanimously selected to the National League MVP, the first player to win from a team from Washington. Harper was named ESPN’s MLB Person of the Year. He hit .330, with .460 OBP, .649 SLG, and 42 home runs and 99 RBIs.

Perhaps most impressively, he had a 10.0 WAR. Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Eddie Collins, and Mike Trout are the only other players to have a 10.0 WAR or higher by 23 years old. Bryce Harper is part of these ranks; players who do exceptionally well young, and they are destined for fruitful careers.

2016 - 2017 Seasons

2016 was less of a success than 2015 because all of his numbers went down a bit from HRs, RBIs, OPS, BA, etc. However, a slight decrease from an MVP season is still impressive, and Harper was easily selected into the All-Star Game. A notable statistic is that he was walked 108 times, 20 times intentionally which led the MLB. Also, Harper’s first career grand slam happened to be his 100th career home run.

His stable career continued in 2017, and Harper bumped his OPS back up to 1.008. Harper’s strikeouts went down while his HRs and RBIs went back up. He received the most votes of any player for the All-Star game. He was the exact same age (to the day) as Mike Trout when he hit his 150th home run.

Harper Stayed Consistent

Harper stayed solid and consistent for 2018, except that his walks doubled from 68 in 2017 to 130 in 2018. He also had 100 RBIs which was his first season doing so.

Bryce Harper knows he brings value

In December of 2018, Harper turned down a $300 million offer from the Nationals because it was too low. It was a smart move in which he knew he could get more on the open market. The bet paid off, and Harper signed for $330 million on March 2nd of this year with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Some have been questioning the decision of the Phillies to offer Harper so much money. However, these questions are ridiculous. It is an argument of longevity.
Harper’s contract is only $25 million per year. The whole contract is spread out over thirteen years. So, when people question the contract, they are ignoring the whole picture. Right now, Harper is worth more than $25 million per year. He is a former MVP, decorated with stats, and perennial All-Star.

What about inflation?

Furthermore, when he is slowing down in several years, $25 million today is not 25 million in 2032. Inflation is always increasing, the salary cap is going up, so $25 million at the end of his contract in 2032 is not $25 million in 2019. Many speculated that Harper would command $30 million per season, like Mike Trout who is bringing in $35 million per year.

Bryce Harper’s contract currently ranks as the second largest contract in total in MLB history. However, on a list of the 30 biggest MLB contracts, Harper ranks 12th in dollars per year.

Big time contract for big time players

Finally, these are the kinds of deals that baseball players command. It is what the market decides. Look at the contracts given to Alex Rodriguez, Nolan Arenado, or Miguel Cabrera. Of course, the two recent signings, Manny Machado for $300 million and Mike Trout for $426 million.

When you consider the impressive career that Bryce Harper has had at such a young age, the fact that he will have a long stable career (outside of a freakish injury), that the deal is a lower yearly amount, and then that this is what baseball players command on the market, the answer becomes clear.
Is Bryce Harper worth the money?

Of course, he is, that’s a clown question, bro.

Top 15 Bryce Harper Rookie Card List

#15

2012 Topps Finest Red Refractor
Bryce Harper Rookie Card #ed /25

Sold for: $474

2012 Finest has many different color parallels to their base card. The red refractor has only 25 copies printed and is very rare. Red refractors are the third rarest in the set, not including the printing plates. Atomic refractors are limited to only five copies and of course the superfractor which is a one of one. So, it’s no wonder this example sold for nearly $500. 

Three red refractors are in population so far. Only two were found to be in gem mint condition with the other grading out in mint. This set is looking to be a fairly easy set to pull cards in gem mint condition. If you have some pack fresh cards, consider submitting them to PSA for grading. 

#14

2012 Topps Finest Gold Refractor Autograph
Bryce Harper Rookie Card #ed /50

Sold for: $449

Topps Finest produced a beautiful on-card Bryce Harper rookie card autograph in their 2012 set. Harper is shown in an actions style shot preparing to launch the ball to 1st base. He is perfectly positioned to allow the collector to get a view of both his jersey number 34 and his last name. All-around, this card is an amazing specimen of what a rookie card auto should look like.

Why so cheap?

You’re probably looking at the price of this card and wondering why it sold for only $449. Well, the auction took place in 2017 way before Harper’s 330 million dollar contract. Being limited to only 50 copies, what would this bad boy sell for on today’s market? 

Of the 50 gold refractors printed, only seven have been seen by PSA. Of those seven, five were found to be in gem mint conditions with the other two grading out in mint. Regardless of the grade, this is still one of Harper’s best looking rookie cards in my opinion.

#13

2011 Bowman Platinum Gold Refractor Autograph
Bryce Harper Rookie Card #ed /50

Sold for: $511

Bryce Harper Rookie Card 2011 Bowman Platinum Gold Autograph

Bowman Platinum has some sweet looking refractor autographs in their 2011 set. Harper is shown crushing the ball out of the park in his full-blown hitting stance. His on-card signature takes up an ample amount of real estate on the card and sits just offset the middle. The gold refractor parallel is limited to only 50 copies and are fairly hard to come by. 

On-card autograph

Bowman Platinum had their autographs done the right way, on-card and with blue ink. Furthermore, the card was designed to have an autograph with a designated white area. This allows the signature to really pop off the card and show the full details. Topps did an excellent job with the overall design and is definitely one of my favorite Bryce Harper rookie card autos. 

#12

2010 College South Nevada Juco World Series
Harper Rookie Card - BGS 9.5

Sold for: $860

During the photo shoot for the 2010 Juco World Series, Bryce Harper asked the photographer to take a “variation” photo of him holding the bat with proverbs Luke 1:37 showing. Of course the photographer obliged Bryce and took the photo. There are only reportedly 25 of these photos in existence and Bryce Harper has many of them. They are very rare and not many have been seen on eBay yet. One did sell at auction as shown below and ended at only $860. Now that his monster contract has settled, one can only imagine how much this ultra rare card will go for, especially in gem mint condition. 

#11

2012 Topps Heritage #H650
Bryce Harper Rookie Card - PSA 10

Sold for: $1,100

2012 Topps Heritage Bryce Harper rookie card graded psa 10

Topps Heritage is a set devoted to recycling earlier iconic Topps set designs such as 1952 Topps, ’84 Topps, ’69 and so on. For the 2012 set we see the classic 1963 Topps design re-purposed for modern-day collectors and it they stunning. The red circle encasing a photo of Harper set on top the contrasting green bottom border creates a look that screams vintage. A traditional player portrait of Bryce takes up the majority of real estate on this card but because of the loud colors the bottom demands your attention. Furthermore, the team name in yellow font over the green border, in today’s media, is a huge no-no but in the 60’s it worked great on baseball cards for this purpose.

Population report

Topps Heritage is notorious for having pack fresh cards with soft corners. In order to attain the vintage look and feel, the card stock used is meant to mimic the card stock used in the past. This makes for soft corners and we all know what soft corners mean, right? It means weak grades. You can see this in the population report for this Harper rookie. Of the 120 examples submitted to PSA for grading, only 32 (roughly 31%) were declared to be in gem mint condition. these odds aren’t very good when compared to other Topps sets. The majority of the cards submitted were found to be in mint 9 condition with a population of 47. 

#10

2012 Topps Archives Fan Favorites
Bryce Harper Rookie Card Autograph - PSA 10

Sold for: $1,190

The 2012 Topps Archives Bryce Harper rookie autograph is a throwback tribute to the 1984 Topps baseball card set. There are two major design aspects that allows us to distinguish this set from other 80’s sets. The boxed-in player portrait in the lower left hand corner of the card and the vertically aligned team name offset to the left just above it. 

On-card autograph

One of the most notable features of the Topps Archives autos is that they’re on-card. Furthermore, Topps used blue ink on these autographs, which really allows the signature to pop. 

Population report

PSA has graded 24 of these Harper autographs so far. Of those 24, the conditions appear to be roughly 50/50 with 11 being in mint condition and 11 in gem mint. The other 2 copies landed a PSA 8 which could have been due to a soft corner or possibly a centering issue. 

#9

2012 Topps Archives Bryce Harper Short Print #241
Bryce Harper Rookie Card - PSA 10

Sold for: $1,225

2012 Topps Archives Bryce Harper Rookie Card graded psa 10 gem mint condition

The Bryce Harper rookie card is a super short print in the 2012 Topps Archives set. Undoubtedly, this is why his #241 rookie sold for more than his autograph card. Raw un-graded copies sell for upwards of $400, which is a significant amount of money for a base rookie card. Additionally, if you haven’t noticed already, Topps recycled this photo from his Finest rookie autograph cards. 

Population report

A total of 49 of the short prints have been graded and encased by PSA so far. 2012 Topps Archives cards, like most years, teeter on the fence between an even distribution of mint and gem mint condition grades. The #241 Harper SP has twenty gem mint 10’s in rotation along with twenty mint 9’s. Eight cards can be found in a near mint to mint 8 case with the remaining card grading out at a disappointing PSA 6. If you’re in the market for one, I suggest purchasing a copy that has already been graded and encased by a third-party grading company. It’s difficult to judge the condition of the edges and corners on a screen because of the bright white borders. 

#8

2010 Bowman Aflac All-American Auto #ed /230
Bryce Harper Rookie Card Autograph - PSA 10

Sold for: $1,601

Higher up on the Bryce Harper rookie card list is his 2010 Aflac All-American Autograph. This photo was taken during Harper’s senior year at Las Vegas High school in Las Vegas, Nevada. The back states that he  has received his GED and will be attending the college of Southern Nevada in the fall. This is really the first Bryce Harper auto available and is widely collected int he hobby because of that. 

Reprints, fakes and phonies

When purchasing a Harper Aflac autographed card, look for the silver stamped serial number in the upper left-hand corner. This is a sure sign that the autograph is authentic and the card was pulled from a Topps pack. Cards without a signature were handed out at the game in order for fans to get autographs from the players. Be cautious about purchasing one without a serial number because fakes have been known to surface. 

Population report

33 of the 230 copies printed have made their way into PSA for grading. So far, the average condition seems to be fairly decent with 19 of those 33 submitted receiving a 10. Twelve were found to be in mint condition with the other two in near mint conditions. 

#7

2012 Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor Autograph #ed /50
Bryce Harper Rookie Card Autograph - PSA 10

Sold for: $1,650

2012 Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor Bryce Harper Rookie Card Autograph Graded PSA 10 gem mint condition

If your a fan of the refractor shine and glow as much as I am then you’re drooling at the sight of this beauty. Not only is this Bryce Harper rookie card from a great set but it’s a Gold refractor parallel with only 50 copies in existence. In addition to the magnificent glow, it also features an on-card signature in thick blue ink. Furthermore, this example sits in a PSA gem mint 10 case. What more could a collector ask for?  

2012 Bowman Chrome Refractor Parallels

Now, the gold parallel is a super short print with only 50 copies available but it’s not his rarest rookie autograph from the set. There is a one of one superfractor and four printing plates limited to only one copy each as well. But, regarding the colored refractor parallels, the gold is third on the tier. Orange is second with only 25 copies with red being the rarest with only 5 copies. So look out for the orange and red as well as the gold. These could prove to hold massive profits if Harper’s career pans out as well as the Phillies are hoping for. 

Population report

PSA has graded ten of Harper’s gold refractor autographs to date. So far, there are six gem mint examples, three mint examples and one near mint example in existence. Orange refractor’s aren’t far behind on their pop reports with eight total graded so far. One of the five red refractors has been pulled and graded also, it did not however land a 10. 

#6

2011 Topps Certified Game Used Ball
Bryce Harper Rookie Card Autograph One of One

Sold for: $1,681

Want a piece of the baseball used in Bryce Harper’s first Arizona Fall League game? Keep a look out for the 2011 Topps Bryce Harper Rookie card auto on eBay. It pops up off and on. The most recent auction finished at $1,608. Not bad for a autograph piece of memorabilia of one of MLB’s greatest modern-day players.

#5

2012 Topps Update Red Border (Target) #US183
Bryce Harper Rookie Card - PSA 10

Sold for: $1,812

2012 Topps Update Target Red Border Bryce Harper Rookie Card PSA 10

Topps Update cards are insanely hot among many players like Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts, Juan Soto and so on. Bryce Harper is no exception. Of the many colored parallels to choose from, the red border parallel, found in Target packs only, is of the hottest. There are no other distinguishable features of the parallels other than the color of the borders. Wal-mart, for example distributed blue bordered cards which sell for considerably less than the red. 

Population report

PSA has seen just 25 of the Harper Target red bordered parallels so far. With a mere 11 being declared gem mint 10, it’s safe to say they are fairly rare in such conditions. Purchasing a raw, un-graded copy will set you back around $250 in today’s market. Be on the look out for whitening on the edges and soft corners if you plan on submitting to PSA. Topps packages their cards pretty loosely and let’s be honest, we’ve all seen how most Target stores don’t keep their sports card sections very well organized or protected. 

#4

2010 Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor 18U USA #BC8
Bryce Harper Rookie Card - PSA 10

Sold for: $2,125

2010 Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor Bryce Harper Rookie Card PSA 10 Gem Mint condition

A great early Bryce Harper refractor can be found in the 2010 Bowman Chrome set. Harper is shown donning his USA team uniform in a powerful hitting stance. Similar to other Chrome products, there are numerous parallels with different tiers of print runs. Gold refractors are of the rarer with only 50 being printed. This is a great option for Bryce Harper rookie card collectors wanting an early authentic rookie card. 

Population report

Grading has been relatively tough for this set so far. Base refractors have 80 cards in their population with only 22 receiving a PSA 10 grade. Five orange refractors have been submitted and not one of those were declared to be gem mint. Regarding the gold refractors, only 16 have been submitted with 3 being in gem mint shape. Those are pretty bad odds if submitting one yourself. If you have one, you should definitely submit it though. A  Bryce Harper refractor from this set will still hold value even if its in a PSA 9 or even an 8 case. 

#3

2009 Upper Deck USA Baseball Red #ed /25 #USA83
Bryce Harper Rookie Card - PSA 10

Sold for: $4,100

2009 Upper Deck USA Bryce Harper Red Parallel rookie autograph graded PSA 10

Another one of Harper’s early rookie cards is the 2009 Upper Deck USA autographed card. They can be found randomly inserted in the 2009 Upper Decl USA baseball national teams hobby set boxes. With only 2,665 sets produced this set is considered to be a fairly rare product. These boxes were loaded with seven autographs per box including five on-card autos. Plenty of patches and swatches were inserted as well. But more importantly is how the ink used in this Bryce Harper auto is red. Red ink was used for on-card autos and limited to only 25 copies per card, making them incredibly rare. The icing on the cake is how the card graded out to be in PSA 10 gem mint condition. Making it even more rare. 

Population report

Surprisingly, only two of the 25 red autographs have been submitted to PSA for grading so far and they were both found to be in gem mint 10 condition. Another interesting fact is that of the two green ink autographs PSA has seen 1. The card graded out a mint 9 but still, can you imagine what that would sell for at auction? 

#2

2010 Bowman Chrome USA Buyback Autograph #ed /100
Bryce Harper Rookie Card - PSA 10

Sold for: $7,999

2010 Bowman Chrome USA buyback autograph Bryce Harper RC card autograph ultra rare

One of Bryce Harper’s more valuable and sought after rookie cards is the 2010 Bowman Chrome buyback auto. Due to surface issues this card is a tough one to find in gem mint condition. When one does hit the auction board, prepare to spend some big bucks. This card also features an on-card autograph and limited print run of only 100. Not to mention it’s a true Bryce Harper rookie card year. 

Population report

Currently, there is only one of the Bryce Harper buyback autographs graded PSA 10 in existence. Of the two submitted to PSA one landed a 10 while the other fell short and graded out at a 9. Still, very valuable and collectible regardless of the case that it’s in. If you’re in the market for one, consider purchasing a BGS 9 or lower and re-submit to PSA. You may luck out and land a 10. 

#1

2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects Blue Refractor Autograph #ed /150
Bryce Harper Rookie Card #BCP111 - PSA 10

Sold for: $9,715

2011 Bowman Chrome blue refractor Bryce Harper rookie card autograph graded psa 10 gem mint condition

So far, the highest recorded Bryce Harper rookie card sale was recorded ending on 6/3/2018 for $9,715 by auction on eBay. This same card was sold two more times within the next month with a lower final sale of $5,322. Because eBay has flaky buyers (and sellers) its tough to tell if this auction was legitimate or not. It would make sense for this card to sell for that amount now that Harper has signed his monster contract but back in the middle of 2018 would have been a huge gamble. 

Population report

With there being 150 blue refractor autographs available, it would seem that plenty have made their way into PSA, right? Well, according to the PSA population report only ten blue Bryce Harper refractor autographs have been graded. Of those ten, four were in gem mint condition, four in mint, and two graded out near mint. For chrome cards, this ratio seems pretty common. There has been one of the red autographs graded which have only five in existence. If that example ever hits the market it will surely soar past the price of this card. 

What are your thoughts?

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