Bryce Harper is the reigning National League MVP and easily one of the first names mentioned when someones asks “Who’s the best player in the game today?”
Collectors who have been around have known his name for several years now — he made his cardboard debut way back in the 2008-09 USA Baseball boxed set as a member of the 16U National Team — but the high demand for his autographs arguably hasn’t waned since his dramatic entry into the national consciousness on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old.
He’s signed plenty of autographs, but there’s still plenty of demand. Check eBay or COMC and you’ll see the lowest asking prices for his ink pushing or topping the $200 mark and that puts him out of reach for a lot of collectors.
But there are a few brands out there that offer an affordable but also realistic shot at a Harper auto — and the best just might be in a box of 2009 Upper Deck Signature Stars.
This brand includes a dozen different Harper cards and seven of those are certified autographs. Four of the remaining cards are game-used cards, while one is just standard cardboard. These are among the earlier crops of Harper cards, though he was a grizzled veteran of the 18U squad by this point.
The standard version of his Future Watch auto is limited to 899 copies. Its patch parallel (top) is limited to 50. Added bonus here (besides the generous print run)? The card shows him playing his original position, catcher.
Atop both of these cards is a By the Letter auto limited to 100 copies per letter (they can be found as U, S and A) as well as a Prospects Auto Jersey (above) limited to 399. It has a patch version limited to 25, while his Star Prospects Signatures card is not numbered and a Winning Big Materials card is limited to only 10.
That’s a minimum of 1,683 autographs and then the un-numbered card’s volume atop that. Sure, a good chunk of these have been pulled from packs in the years since its release and the wax print run may not be all that short, but the boxes remain very, very affordable (and available) compared to even the USA box sets from around that time. (Good luck landing those.) And these should be redemption-free, unlike some of his earlier MLB appearances.
There are nearly 700 different certified autos out there for Harper fans to consider, but the volume signed per card is undoubtedly lower than nearly all of these because his signing cost per sig can’t be as little as it was during his USA days. (Back then, it didn’t exist.) It’s also inevitable that, as his paycheck rises, he’ll either command more for his signing time or, conceivably, stop signing altogether at some point.
Barring career-derailing injury, demand for Harper’s ink won’t wane, either, meaning chances at pulling his autograph from a pack won’t get any easier.
At least until retirement … sometime around 2030 or so.
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