By now, seemingly every NFL fan has an opinion about Brock Purdy. Some think the 24-year-old quarterback is a star and a major reason the San Francisco 49ers have advanced to Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs. Others say he’s overrated and a product of the talented roster and coach Kyle Shanahan’s system.
Sports card collectors are benefiting from all that attention, at least by one metric.
Since the start of this year, Purdy’s cards have been the most submitted of any NFL player to PSA, the leading third-party authenticator and appraiser of cards and other collectibles such as autographs, tickets, memorabilia and photographs. And as of Aug. 1 of last year, Purdy ranks behind only Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence in terms of letters submitted to the PSA.
For all of 2023, approximately 50,000 Purdy cards were submitted to PSA. But this year alone, in less than six weeks, 10,000 Purdy cards have been handed out.
“I think it’s an indication of cultural relevance and popularity,” PSA president Ryan Hoge said.
People who want to sell their cards, usually online via eBay or another platform, often send their cards to PSA, which has employees who rate the cards on a scale of 1 to 10. A grade from PSA serves as a seal of approval to buyers that the cards they are purchasing are legitimate and plays a large role in determining card values. Cards in good condition sell for much more than cards that are damaged in some way.
PSA processes more than 14 million cards annually and has operations in Orange County, California, Jersey City, New Jersey and Tokyo, Japan. Hoge said trading card games like Pokemon are the most popular, followed by baseball cards. Football and basketball cards are behind these two categories.
For sports cards, fans and collectors typically gravitate toward two main categories, according to Hoge. They want to collect Hall of Famers like Michael Jordan, Tom Brady or Wayne Gretzky. Or they prefer rookies or young players who could one day become all-time greats. Purdy belongs to the latter group.
“It’s similar to people investing in the stock market or doing private equity,” Hoge said. “They want to participate in either IPOs or seed investments. I think everyone has hopes and dreams of what could happen with this player. They want to connect a little bit, so they feel invested.”
This time two years ago, no one could have predicted Purdy’s ascension. He had just finished his career at Iowa State, where he finished as the school’s all-time leader with 12,170 passing yards, 81 touchdown passes and a 67.7% completion percentage.
However, Purdy wasn’t seen as much of a pro prospect. The 49ers selected him with the last pick (262nd overall) of the 2022 NFL draft, a slot usually associated with people who never play in an NFL game. But Purdy made the team as a rookie last year and started the final five games of the regular season, all of which were San Francisco victories. Purdy then led the 49ers to playoff victories over the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys before suffering an elbow injury in the first quarter of the NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Purdy returned to the game in the second half, but he only threw two passes and the 49ers lost.
After the season, Purdy underwent elbow surgery, but he returned to practice in late July and resumed the starting job. During the regular season, Purdy completed 69.4% of his passes (second in the league) for 31 touchdowns (third) and 4,280 yards (fifth). He led the NFL with 9.6 yards per attempt and a 113.0 passer rating.
Along the way, collectors picked up Purdy’s papers. Some have sold for five and six figure sums. For example, a Panini National Treasures card with a game-worn NFL patch and autograph sold in December for $186,000, while a Panini Prizm Black Finite card sold last month for $125,723. Both of these are so-called 1 of 1 cards, meaning they are the only cards on the market.
“It shows you that there is definitely demand at the highest levels for the rarest Purdy cards out there,” Hoge said.
On Sunday, Purdy will once again be in the spotlight in the biggest game of his life. More than 110 million people are expected to watch the Super Bowl, so how Purdy performs could not only affect whether the 49ers win their first title since January 1995. It could also determine the interest and value of Purdy’s cards.
“A lot of people are excited that he’s going to be at the helm of this really good football team for several years to come,” Hoge said. “There could be multiple Super Bowl appearances, let alone maybe wins, in the future.”
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