Tiger Woods has GOAT status in the game of golf. So, why do Tiger’s trading cards only sell for a fraction of the price of Michael Jordan’s and Tom Brady’s?
Most of us don’t remember the first time we broke open a pack of golf trading cards.
It’s likely because we never did.
Exploding on the national scene at 1997 Masters, the kid from California broke barriers and records for his first major win. At only 21 years of age, he became the youngest player ever to win at Augusta — making good on his decision to leave Stanford to go pro after only two seasons of play.
As a multicultural athlete who described himself as “Cablinasian,” Woods became the first non-white golfer to win the tournament in its previous 61 years of existence.
Establishing himself as the No. 1 golfer in the world, Woods won by The Masters by 12 strokes — the largest margin of victory in course history still standing today. He finished 18 under par — a tournament record that stood for 23 years.
While the memory of Woods in 1997 is shared by many and the experience of opening a pack of golf cards is shared by few, Jesse Craig’s origin story in regard to Tiger and collectibles is much different.
“I watched him win an amateur tournament at Waverley Country Club,” the Director of Business Development at trading card and collectible marketplace PWCC told Boardroom.
Taking home the trophy in Oregon in 1993 as only a high schooler, a teenager Tiger impressed the nine-year-old Craig who spent his spare time rollerblading to the local LCS to buy baseball cards. Soon, Craig started golfing and kept collecting, playing the sport all through high school, and eventually landing a job in the sports card space upon graduation from college.
Over time, it was clear to the world that Tiger Woods was special and even today it still is. However, while Tiger ranks amongst the greatest golfers to ever play the game and one of the most decorated athletes in regard to endorsements, a disconnect remains between his excellence and the perceived value surrounding his collectibles.
“From a GOAT or minimum of top two all-time for their sport, his cards were worth nothing,” Craig reflects on collecting Tiger cards in his teens and young adulthood. “Golf is a wealthy sport with a lot of wealthy people involved in it. So, from a collecting and investing space I just thought his stuff was too cheap. I just started buying it up.”
For Craig, the “buying it up” began from a young age. It continued until he landed in the card industry as a professional and his investments in Woods trading card stock became a conflict of interest.
“I would always tell people what I owned and collected,” recalls Craig. “But once your client wants to start buying your cards from you? It gets a little funky. So, I just started selling everything to get out.”
As the buzz around collecting and cards increases and Craig’s position at PWCC ascends, his position on Tiger’s cards being dramatically undervalued remains the same now as it always has.
“I still think that’s the case with Tiger,” Craig notes. “We just sold a Gold SP95 for under $100,000. You look at that compared to a Tom Brady, where even a champ ticket at a 7.5 is worth a half a million.”
Though Craig notes the condition-sensitive nature and the gradability differences between the Tiger card recently sold versus the value of said Tom Brady “Championship Ticket” card, their respective GOAT status is where the pricing proves so unbalanced.
“You compare the two and it makes you feel like Tiger’s stuff is just really cheap,” says Craig. “Tiger’s even more recognizable internationally than Brady is. That also plays into it because theoretically, his stuff should probably be worth more than Brady’s.”
Keep in mind, Craig’s perspective on Tiger is personal in nature, but professionally informed.
“Remember, this is my honest opinion,” begins Craig, “I have no Tiger Woods cards anymore — I don’t own a single one. But I just still believe that his stuff is too inexpensive for how he transformed the game. He made golf popular; internationally, he put golf on the map. His stretch where he owned all four majors? That’s never going to happen ever again.”
What also may never happen again is the chance to own Tiger cards at such a low price.
“I used to own a Tiger Gold BGS 9,” reflects the lifelong Woods fan. “I sold that, but I’d like to eventually buy it once it’s not a conflict. It was definitely an emotional experience, partly because I didn’t want to sell them — I just felt like it was the right thing to do. I felt they still had a ton of upside, which they did. I had about five of the PSA 10 SPs and the value at the time was about $13,000 to $15,000. I still felt like they had a ton of legs.”
As of this writing, a Gold, autographed Tiger Woods card in the same grade Jesse once owned is now listed on PWCC for a mere $21,000 — a fraction of the cost compared to Brady, Michael Jordan, and other GOATs of global sports.
Despite the relatively low starting point in comparison to Woods’ all-world peers, the starting price is almost double its previous valuation.
Furthermore, Craig sees the final price coming closer to $50,000 or $60,000 when the auction ends in two weeks.
PWCC tells Boardroom that in November, a Gold Tiger card with a BGS 9.5 sold for $90,000 while a “standard” version numbered to /900 scored at a PSA 10 sold for $55,200.
Big numbers? Yes. Growing value? Totally. On par with Brady and Jordan in price? Not even close.
Still, there is time.
As Woods considers his golf comeback to the course and Craig proves years away from retirement, one has to wonder what that a Gold Tiger Woods card could go for years from now.
After all, it was just only 24 years ago when the wiry kid from Stanford made history at The Masters, breaking barriers in golf and changing the entire trajectory of the sport.
On that day in Augusta in 1997, Woods took home a check for $486,000 — a small amount in comparison to the Tom Brady rookie card that just sold for $3.1 million or the autographed Michael Jordan card that recently fetched $2.7 million.
In impact, Tiger Woods is unequivocally the GOAT of golf, a title Tom Brady and Michael Jordan hold in their respective sports — but arguably not to the same extent.
So, when will Tiger’s cards carry the same weight on the market?
For a generation of golfers and card collectors who grew up on Woods like Jesse Craig, the spike in his stock seems apparent for reasons related to market trends and the tenderness likened to Tiger as a trailblazer for the sport.
“I followed him for a long time,” closes Craig. “He was part of the reason I got into golf like a lot of kids. There’s an emotional attachment you have to a guy like that.”