Before They Were Trading Card Stars: Kris Bryant

By: Christopher, Founder & Owner
March 28, 2017

SOPHOMORE SENSATION SUPERSTAR ON THE FIELD AND ON TRADING CARDS

Kris Bryant, Autograph, Baseball Card, Trading Cards
Ivan Lovegren of The Breaks proudly displays his Kris Bryant autographed baseball card.

If you haven’t heard the name Kris Bryant before, you’re about to be introduced to perhaps the most recognizable new name in baseball and trading cards since Bryce Harper. (If you don’t know who Bryce Harper is, you might have to wait until we do an article about him.) In high school, he played (and even pitched) for the Bonanza Bengals in Las Vegas, Nevada. As you might have guessed, his talents did not lead him to the mound. What he did at the plate, on the other hand, made impressive waves.

In his Sophomore year in high school, Bryant hit home runs in six consecutive games[1]. He finished out his high school playing career with a .447 batting average[2]. In his Junior year at Bonanza, he had a ridiculous 1.045 slugging percentage. Who does that? Kristopher “Sparkles” Lee Bryant from Las Vegas, that’s who.

That kind of hitting and his imposing 6′ 5″ 200 lb. frame helped get him selected in the 18th round of the 2010 MLB Draft—right out of high school! He didn’t sign, however, and chose to continue his education (and playing dominating the game of baseball) with the University of San Diego. While there, he was named West Coast Conference co-player of the year as a Freshman, was selected by USA Baseball’s national collegiate team the summer of his Sophomore year, and was named College Baseball News National Player of the Year as a Junior[3].

FROM HIGH SCHOOL PHENOM TO TRADING CARD STAR

Kris was drafted in 2013 with the second overall pick and made his professional debut on April 17, 2015. Coming off his Sophomore season in the bigs, he’s already a two-time All-Star and was awarded Rookie of the Year honors. In 2016, he helped lead his team to a World Series championship and was named league MVP. Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages—this is one impressive kid.

What may be more impressive is just what he’s done to help reinvigorate the trading card industry and hobby. Since his first professional cards were produced and distributed, Bryant has been one of the most sought after subjects in the hobby. Sure, if you look hard enough, you can find knock-off non-Varsity Trading Cards versions of custom trading cards from his high school days. His autograph cards continue to be in high demand, and his regular cards (what those in the industry refer to as “base cards”) are enough to make kids so happy that they cry. Seriously. Check out this video below and tell me that doesn’t just warm your heart like a fresh bagel.

Know what this tells me? This tells me that trading cards are important to both adults and kids. Hey, I used to collect baseball cards when I was a kid, and as an adult I still do! It’s very rare, though, that a player comes around that reminds you just how awesome trading cards can be. Twenty years from now, I bet that kid still feels the same way about that same Kris Bryant card.


Be sure to visit the Varsity Trading Cards home page, then learn about Baseball Week!

Baseball Week 2017


Sources

[1]
R. Brewer, “All eyes on Bonanza slugger Kris Bryant, a likely first-round draft pick,” can be found under http://lasvegassun.com/news/2010/mar/06/all-eyes-bonanza-slugger-kris-bryant-likely-first-/, 2010.
[3]
“Kris Bryant, Wikipedia,” can be found under https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kris_Bryant, 2016.

Before They Were Trading Card Stars: Dak Prescott

By: Christopher, Founder & Owner
February 13, 2017

ROOKIE’S VALUE ON THE RISE

Dak Prescott, Autograph Card, Football Card, Trading Cards
Trading card collector @BrettsCards shows off his Dak Prescott autograph card.

Sometimes the misfortunes of some lead to great opportunities for others. That’s exactly what happened for Dak Prescott. Before he became a household name in professional and college football, Rayne Dakota Prescott was a virtual unknown. Unless you lived in and around Haughton, Louisiana, Dak Prescott was likely not on your radar. He created his own opportunities in his early years there and capitalized. If not for that, the misfortunes of one particular individual might have lead to a great opportunity for someone else altogether.

The Haughton Buccaneers already had a couple of standout Prescotts on their team. Dak’s brothers, Tad and Jace, helped cultivate the star he is today. Playing full tackle football with the older boys may have toughened him while also earning their respect. His older brothers might be better athletes, but Dak seems to have the “it” factor.

Prescott’s leadership and drive led to a District 1-4A Championship in 2009. The following year, he impressed a Mississippi State University scout during another District Championship game while playing with a torn MCL.[1] In his senior year, Dak would go on to pass for nearly 3000 yards and would rush for nearly 1000 yards.[2]

In Haughton, Dak was often impressive yet humble. Despite this, many prospective colleges would pass him by. It was the scout from MSU, offensive line coach John Hevesy, who recognized Prescott’s “it” factor.

FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS TO COLLEGE STANDOUT

Dak’s first big opportunity came in 2013. MSU starting quarterback, Tyler Russell, suffered a concussion. Prescott, then a backup, would then take over as starter. He would help lead the Bulldogs to a Liberty Bowl victory that year[3] while earning that game’s MVP award. In 2014, Prescott would take MSU to their first ever #1 ranking while leading his team to the Orange Bowl. He would also garner many accolades during that season, including being named 2014 SEC Offensive Player of the Week on three occasions. Prescott would also go on to both earn the Conerly Trophy and be named First-Team All-SEC in 2014 and 2015[4]. Not to be outdone by his athletic skill, he would also excel in academics. Prescott did, in fact, earn a spot on the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll three consecutive years.

The list of accomplishments by Dak Prescott in his college years alone is extensive. In fact, he currently holds a total of 38 records at MSU. One could draw the conclusion that his success at MSU would boil down to two things; opportunity and “it.” Without those factors, Dak may still be a humble, relatively unknown name.

STARS ALIGNED FOR DAK PRESCOTT

Prescott would somehow manage to fly under the radar for much of the pro football draft in 2016. His accomplishments at Haughton and Mississippi did not catch the eye of teams early on. However, the Dallas Cowboys would select Dak in the fourth round to develop him as a backup to starting quarterback Tony Romo. Battling for the backup position, Prescott would not waste his opportunities.  During a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, Tony Romo would suffer a significant injury. Due to his impressive preseason play and Romo’s unfortunate injury, Dak Prescott was named starting quarterback to begin the Cowboys’ 2016 season[5].

Under Dak Prescott, the Cowboys would finish the season 13-3 and would become NFC East Champions. They would also secure home field advantage for the playoffs. The tandem of Prescott and first round draft pick, Ezekiel Elliot, seemed nearly unstoppable. Dallas quickly became favorites to win the NFC Championship and Super Bowl LI. In his rookie season, Dak would earn a spot in the 2016 Pro Bowl and on the PFWA All-Rookie Team. Prescott would also win the 2016 Pepsi Rookie of the Year award, while the NFL would honor him with the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

DAK PRESCOTT, TRADING CARD STAR

It’s not yet clear what the future holds for Dak Prescott. If his past is any indication, one could assume many will continue to underestimate him and he will continue to shine. One thing is clear, however. His trading cards are hot right now. That was not the case to start the football trading card collecting season. Many collectors would instead chase Ezekiel Elliot over Prescott. However, Dak’s success on the field would quickly translate to his popularity on cardboard[6].

Prescott’s ability to take over the team and lead them to the playoffs currently make his trading cards some of the most valuable[7]. His humble beginnings make his rise in trading card popularity all the more impressive. Prescott’s “it” factor and ability to capitalize on opportunity, however, make his popularity in trading cards seem inevitable.


Sources

[1]
[2]
“Dak Prescott – Wikipedia,” can be found under https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dak_Prescott, n.d.
[3]
“Liberty Bowl – Rice vs Mississippi State Box Score, December 31, 2013 | College Football at Sports-Reference.com,” can be found under http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/boxscores/2013-12-31-mississippi-state.html, n.d.
[4]
“Dak Prescott,” can be found under http://www.hailstate.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=1963, n.d. [Source]
[5]
J. Pantorno, “Dak Prescott Reportedly Named Cowboys Starting QB After Tony Romo Injury,” can be found under http://www.bleacherreport.com/articles/2660165-dak-prescott-reportedly-named-cowboys-starting-qb-after-tony-romo-injury, 2016.
[6]
“Most Valuable Dak Prescott Rookie Cards Ranked,” can be found under http://www.beckett.com/news/dak-prescott-rookie-cards/, 2016.
[7]
“Card Prices Rising During NFL Playoffs – Beckett News,” can be found under http://www.beckett.com/news/card-values-rising-during-nfl-playoffs/, 2017.

Before They Were Trading Card Stars: Karl-Anthony Towns

By: Christopher, Founder & Owner
January 17, 2017

TOWNS TOWERS ON COURT, TOPS IN TRADING CARDS

Karl-Anthony Towns, Rookie Card, Basketball Card, Trading Cards
Trading card collector ThoseBackPages proudly displays his Karl-Anthony Towns rookie card.

While in just his second year of professional play, Karl-Anthony Towns has already made a big impact in basketball and in trading cards. He has racked up accolades that many professional players will never achieve. One such accolade Towns achieved was being named Rookie of the Year in 2016. The year prior, Towns was named SEC Freshman of the Year. In 2014, Karl was awarded Gatorade National Player of the Year. Yeah, that’s pretty good.

Before comparisons to greats like Michael Jordan were made, “KAT” made a name for himself on the high school hard court. The son of a basketball coach, a young Towns would often practice with the JV squad where his father coached. While attending St. Joseph High School, he helped win state championships in 2012, 2013, and 2014[1]. Towns was ranked the top high school basketball player by ESPN in his Freshman year. At the age of 16, he was named to the National Basketball Team for the Dominican Republic[2].

To say this kind of play got Towns noticed is an understatement. If emojis could be posted here, there would likely be plenty of “fire’s” and “100’s” to get the point across. The things he was doing on the court would elicit such graphics. He posted a rare quadruple-double—TWICE[3]. In short, KAT’s strong play in his only year of college play helped put him at the top of many draft rankings.

FROM HIGH SCHOOL STANDOUT TO TRADING CARD STAR

Karl-Anthony was the first overall draft pick on June 25, 2015 (my birthday, incidentally). His professional debut came about in late October of that year, a game in which he helped his team win. Due to his outstanding play, Towns was awarded Rookie of the Month honors each month of the pro basketball season, and he set team records along the way. Towns closed out his first year as a pro by becoming Rookie of the Year.

Towns is now in his second year of professional play and he continues to impress. He posted the first triple-double of his career in late December of 2016 while he scored 15 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and made 10 assists.

This kind of ridiculously impressive play is part of what makes his trading cards so sought after. While he continues to excel in his professional career, his cards remain just as much of a collection centerpiece as ever. I see his name and cards pop up on our Twitter feed more than any other basketball player. It seems his presence in the hobby has boosted interest in basketball trading cards by both collectors and sellers. While many casual collectors may lean more toward baseball or football, Towns has done a lot to get basketball back on the cardboard map.


Sources

[1]
Z. Schonbrun, “Two Parts to His Name, but Karl-Anthony Towns Is One Complete Player,” can be found under https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/04/sports/ncaabasketball/two-parts-to-his-name-but-karl-anthony-towns-is-one-complete-player.html, 2015.
[3]
C. Smith, “Prep superstar Karl Towns Jr. records quadruple double in win,” can be found under https://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/highschool-prep-rally/prep-superstar-karl-towns-jr-records-quadruple-double-223503260.html, 2013.