Why is the Mike Trout Rookie Card So Expensive?

icons of trout fish on green background
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I’ve seen this conversation pop-up from time to time, and I think it warrants deeper debate in order to help especially those who are newer to the hobby. And while the topic of “why is card x so expensive?” can go a million different ways (usually when it involves comparing the value/worth of prospect cards; players who have never taken a big-league swing versus hall of famers), I think there are specific reasons why the Trout rookie value makes sense. 

Why is the Mike Trout Rookie Card so Expensive?

Here are some reasons why Mike Trout’s rookie card could be relatively more expensive.

Trout is one of the greatest to play the game

We will get the “easy” reason out of the way first—the Mike Trout rookie card is so expensive because he’s one of the greatest ever play the game.

Now, I realize that that argument doesn’t hold much water on its own when you look at rookie cards of other all-time greats. Yes, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, and others have valuable rookie cards, but take a look at other players who came later to the league.

How about Ken Griffey Jr.? More on Griffey to come, but also Rickey Henderson, Pujols, Ichiro, and more.

Which brings us to our second argument…

Trout’s rookie card is relatively scarce

Now scarcity is one main reason why any card is expensive, right? And not just cards but anything in particular—supply and demand.

So when you think about the rookie cards of the players I just mentioned versus those of someone like Ken Griffey Jr. and others who had their cards produced in the mass production or “junk wax era” there are simply going to be a lot more of those cards available.

But with Mike Trout, his rookie card wasn’t in the main release of the 2011 Topps set. Instead, it was in the Update series which, compared to now, was probably printed in lesser quantity.

And then another note for scarcity is the fact that there weren’t as many different rookie cards that could be produced back when his rookie card was released.

For instance you look at some of the great up-and-coming players of today, whether it’s Juan Soto, Acuña, Tatis and others. They not only have their main RC, but also a number of different variations of those cards as well. On top of that, you not only have the base RC, but also the Update “Rookie Debut” and the Complete Set Variation, and more. And that’s just Topps!

That wasn’t really the case when Trout was a rookie. Yes there was Bowman, and yes there was Panini, but there were far fewer releases and thus far fewer cards that featured Trout as a rookie, or featured Trout with an RC shield or rookie designation of some sort.

And not to beat this fact of scarcity into the ground, but one more point under the heading is the fact that you can’t just go out and purchase 2011 Topps Update in hopes of pulling a Mike Trout rookie card. Sure you can find them, but once again, they’re scarce, and those packs are expensive. But perhaps the strength of this reason pops up when you compare availability of those packs and boxes featuring all of the other stars mentioned—there are tons currently available both at initial release and after.

For example you won’t have any trouble when it comes to seeking out a 1989 Donruss pack of cards for Ken Griffey Jr. And you can easily buy a complete set of other rookie stars of today’s game

Anyway, all that said, I think it’s a valid question, and especially for those who have just entered into the card collecting game the last couple years, and thus haven’t really seen Mike trout in his prime like a lot of us have.

So here are some arguments as to why the Mike Trout rookie card shouldn’t be as expensive as it is.

Reasons Why Mike Trout’s Rookie Card Shouldn’t be as Expensive

“Why is this guy’s rookie card so expensive? He’s been hurt, he doesn’t play for a great team he’s not really a big vocal or “look at me kind of guy.” What gives?

For those thinkers, here are some reasons why the Mike Trout rookie card shouldn’t be as expensive as it is.

He’s had recent injuries

To start, Mike Trout has been hurt as of late, so for those who are just getting in the cards over the last couple of years, between the pandemic, Trout being hurt, and everything else, they haven’t seen him much, and it could really be a head scratcher to them as to why his rookie card would be so expensive—especially when they see the values of all of the other up-and-coming great players’ rookie cards that are available on the market.

Trout has had a lack of playoff success

Two, Trout hasn’t played for a great team. In fact, he hasn’t made the playoffs with the Angels since 2014, and that was his only playoff series appearance.

Unfortunately, it’s a shame for a player of his caliber, and then you look at other players who possess far less ability and haven’t put up close to the numbers Trout has who have received a playoff “bump” from their appearance on the big stage. Trout has never really had that, but still holds tremendous value.

For me personally, I don’t really hold the lack of postseason experience or rings against a player, especially in baseball, but many do, which is why some might use that argument against Trout’s card value.

Is Trout really one of the greatest?

Next comes the argument of whether or not Trout is really one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Let’s take out the above mention and lack of playoff appearances because again, that’s not something I would really hold a player to even though I know many people do.

And let’s not even debate him being the greatest in the game, but rather, just compare him to some of the other greats who have rookie cards of lesser value.

Here is Ken Griffey Jr. vs. Mike Trout through 10 seasons.

First of all, this is pretty cool right? Next, you have to ask are we comparing apples to apples, and that answer comes down to games played and plate appearances, where Griffey has an edge of 123 games and 468 plate appearances. (And yes, Trout has all of the ability in the world, but the best ability is availability, right? Some say so.)

So, with so many more at-bats, you can’t just look at number comparisons and need to dive deeper into stats per at-bat, but still, fun to look at.

All this is just to say, Griffey’s numbers are certainly in the same conversation, but his rookie card values aren’t. So again, is scarcity the greatest determining factor?