MLB

Mike Trout Signed a Stack of Baseball Cards 10 Years Ago and Transformed Modern Card Collecting

After an upswing in collecting during the ’80s and ’90s, baseball cards saw a bit of a downturn in the 2000s as technology gave young sports fans other ways to occupy their free time. But there’s been an uptick in card collecting over the last decade — largely because of Mike Trout. Here’s why.

A young Mike Trout signs baseball cards

Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels signs autographs
Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels signs autographs | Rob Tringali/MLB via Getty Images

Trout is the best MLB player today, but he was just a prospect 10 years ago when the Topps Company asked him to sign a stack of “Chrome” cards that would be randomly inserted into packs of the company’s Bowman Draft Picks and Prospect sets.

As Trout — who had just turned 18 at the time — has advanced in his career so has the values of those cards, which have proven to be among the holy grails of modern card collecting.

He signed different styles of the cards, which have different values but they have all managed to bring new life to a hobby that had experienced a period of dormancy. And while card collecting still isn’t to the level it has been in the past, Trout has certainly given it a boost.

How Trout’s career has increased the baseball cards’ values

Trout is a three-time MVP who finishes in the top two in voting virtually every season. And he’s still in the prime of his career at 28 years old. Given the career trajectory he’s on, he will certainly be considered among the sport’s best players of all time.

Naturally, his baseball cards have seen a steady increase in value; collectors will do whatever it takes to get a signed Trout prospect card. Owning one would be similar to having a signed Babe Ruth rookie card a century ago. But if you believed the scouting report on Trout’s prospect cards, you might not have expected to see him have the career that he has had.

The report highlights his “blazing-speed on bases” and his ability to cover ground in the outfield. But it doesn’t really describe him as a great hitter. It mentions he had recently become a switch hitter. It also says he has “flashes power potential.” This potential has turned into an average of 39 home runs per season in his first nine MLB seasons, including a career-high of 45 homers last year.

How much are the signed Mike Trout cards worth?

The big question: What is the value of the cards? Its value is always about how much someone is willing to pay for it. In the case of the signed Trout cards, people are willing to pay as much as mid-six figures.

Trout’s one-of-a-kind signed Superfractor card sold a couple of years ago for $400,000. One of his five Red Refractor cards will be auctioned off soon. Bidding for the Gem Mint 9.5 card expected to reach “a strong six-figure price.”

The founder and CEO of Goldin Auctions, which is offering the card, says it “will be the most valuable Mike Trout trading card ever sold at auction.” He estimated that it could be the first Trout card that sells for half a million dollars. With about two weeks left in the auction, the current bid is $200,000.

Other six-figure Trout cards include the Orange Refractor, which has two cards graded 9.5 each netting more than $180,000 last year. A card that was graded a PSA 9 even getting $147,000 earlier this year.

To give you an example of how much the values have increased as Trout’s career has evolved, one such card sold on eBay in 2010 for just $550. Those cards that were graded a 9 had a max value of $3,500 in 2012. They didn’t surpass the $10,000 mark until a few years later. Then, price guides had a 10-graded card valued at $25,000 just three years ago in 2017.