With the 10-time All-Star’s career winding down, here’s what collectors need to know about the Pujols card market.
The Los Angeles Angels took over the baseball headlines last week for less-than-fortunate reasons when they ended their relationship with future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. In the final season of his 10-year, $240 million deal, he was designated for assignment — fancy baseball speak for “we’re giving your 40-man roster spot to someone else.”
While this may not be the official career-ender for the three-time National League MVP and two-time World Series champ — Pujols wants to continue playing, and he’s a valued veteran who put up five homers in 24 games — he’s 41 years old and nearing the finish line.
But regardless of whether Pujols suits up again in the bigs, he will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
“The Machine” earned his nickname thanks to an incredible career, sitting in the top five all-time in home runs, doubles, RBIs, and total bases. Pujols’ 11-year run with the St. Louis Cardinals was one of the finest individual stretches in baseball history, and positions him well for a potential unanimous Hall of Fame selection.
And with all that in mind, trading card investors need to think long and hard about how to approach the market for the greatest first baseman since Lou Gehrig.
Let’s get situated by taking a look at the five most expensive Pujols cards as of today. They don’t come cheap, but collectors are already lining up to secure them on the assumption that their current price tags will end up looking like absolute steals in the years to come.
2001 Albert Pujols Bowman Chrome Auto Rookie /500
As with so many modern players, the Bowman Chrome Auto prospect card is king.
The crown jewel for Pujols collectors, its value is dictated in large part by its scarcity. There are only 500 of the 2001 Bowman Chrome Auto in circulation, and just seven PSA 10s. A BCG 9 recently sold on eBay for $25,000.
For reference, Nationals phenom Juan Soto’s Bowman Chrome Auto Refractor prospect card already commands around $4,700 as a PSA 9, with list prices as high as $13,500 on eBay for a PSA 10. By the time Pujols is enshrined in Cooperstown, collectors who didn’t jump on this card early will have missed the boat.
2001 Topps Traded Gold Albert Pujols Rookie
Aesthetically, there are few cards more appealing than the Topps Gold Pujols rookie. Financially, there are few unnumbered modern cards that are more expensive. The 2001 Topps Traded card is Pujols’ first MLB rookie card to be released by Topps. There are just 19 PSA 10s in existence, with one selling earlier this year on eBay for $15,000.
Even the base version of this Prince Albert rookie card is going for around $7,000.
2001 SP Authentic Albert Pujols Rookie /1250
From the tail-end of Upper Deck’s golden era in baseball comes another slick, attractive Pujols card. With only 1,250 produced, the limited-edition version of this SP card is truly scarce. There are just six PSA 10s in existence, with price listings on eBay currently going as high as $12,000.
As a nice bonus, the back of the card offers collectors an early take on Pujols’ potential. “He has the skills to become an All-Star,” it reads.
Ten appearances in the Midsummer Classic and three MVP awards later, it’s safe to say that that prediction aged pretty well — just like the card itself.
2001 Topps Chrome Traded Albert Pujols/Ichiro Suzuki Gold Rookie
Albert Pujols wasn’t the only future Hall of Famer to debut in 2001. Pujols shared the headlines with a certain Japanese superstar who took the American League by storm. Ichiro landed both the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in ’01, while Pujols won NL Rookie of the Year honors and finished fourth in MVP voting.
The 2001 Topps Chrome Traded Gold card is split down the middle, with the two stars sharing the special rookie card. With a PSA 10 population of six, you can find this highly-coveted dual rookie card listed for as much as $15,000 on eBay.
The next time these two share real estate like this, it will be in the halls of Cooperstown.
2001 Donruss Signature Series Albert Pujols Rookie Auto /330
By the 2000s Donruss was not quite as big of a player in the baseball card market, but autographed rookie cards featuring one of the best to ever do it will always hold value, especially with scarcity in the equation.
Although it is not the most valuable of the Pujols rookie cards (it’s estimated around $5,000 a pop), this Donruss auto is extraordinarily difficult to find due to its limited release. The sticker autograph format has become less popular over the years, but that has not deterred collectors from pursuing the rarest Pujols signatures. With only 330 Pujols editions produced for the 2001 Donruss Signature Series, this is his rarest autograph card by production.
Although Pujols suddenly finds himself at a career crossroads, the mark he’s made on the game of baseball is indelible. Over the coming months and years, his dropoff in production over the course of his time with the Halos will fade from view — as this happens, keep an eye on these cards as they appreciate in value.
Collectors may have some difficult to make related to Pujols’ card market here and now, but the barriers for entry will only get higher as the Hall of Fame draws nearer.