There’s no young player more polarizing to WNBA collectors and investors than Sabrina Ionescu.
On one side you have those who applaud the attention (and rising prices) she’s bringing to the hobby.
On the other, those look on with bewilderment as her card prices skyrocket beyond those of hall of famers and current all-stars.
The two sides of the debate inevitably slip into the age old question posed about the cards of every young, hyper player; is investing Sabrina Ionescu cards smart?
Sabrina led the market reset
It’s important to start by considering the role the Sabrina Ionescu rookie card plays in the WNBA card market.
Her general popularity, and the hype surrounding the anticipation of her on-court performance, lead to some recently unheard of price activity around WNBA cards, with the main beneficiaries being her rookie card and sealed Prizm boxes.
The resulting price points for WNBA Prizm drove many WNBA card collector / investors over the past nine months into HOF rookie cards from the early and middles years of the W.
As a result, prices for key WNBA rookie cards have soared across the board. (Bringing out the price is too damn high party in full force.)
This is similar to what we saw happening in early 2021 with the modern and vintage basketball; high prices for unproven young players lead to the eventually rise of HOFs whose prices had lagged behind.
However, in a card niche with extremely low production run and ultra low POP’s, comping is often done based on other player’s sale prices, much of of the current market pricing is set in relation to Sabrina Ionescu’s card prices.
Sabrina is a smart buy
If you believe me that the prices for other WNBA players have been set as a result of where Sabrina’s rookie card is priced, then you probably think she is a smart buy.
You are also probably pretty convicted that the rest of the overall WNBA market will continue to rise.
With continued interest in the game, increased exposure, more casual (and hardcore) collectors would be expected to enter the market, increasing demand and thus prices across the board.
WNBA are still criminally underpriced relative to the other four major professional sports leagues despite the insane increases in card price across the board.
Then there’s the wild card that few bring up; Sabrina’s fan base. She has the most Instagram followers of any WNBA player.
There’s over a million and counting.
The combination of these three things are certainly capable of maintaining and driving Sabrina’s card prices higher for a while.
You will inevitably see some sort of pullback when her play fails to drive big price events, but if you’re holding for 3-5 years her current play holds much promise for bigger prices down the road.
(As a Liberty fan, I’d like to say they are building something strong which is another reason to be confident in buying Sabrina.)
Sabrina is not a smart buy
You can totally believe me when I say that the prices for other WNBA players are set as a result of where Sabrina’s rookie card is priced and totally think she is not a smart buy today.
In many ways, I agree. At least at the prices today (~$90 for base raw, $650 for a PSA 10, June 2021).
The prices feel topy based on what’s realistic to expect from on-court play which are going to by and large dictate her price moves her in on out.
Sure, Sabrina has played well and had a few splashy games. If it continues she will be an All Star this year. The Liberty are of course much improved as well.
They’re just not going to compete for a title this year. And many (including myself), don’t even think she is the MVP on her team, so she seems a long way from being league MVP.
With no chip and no MVP in sight, it’s tough to see the type of price movements we’ve seen recently around her cards in the foreseeable future.
Many long term collectors point to cautionary tales of earlier phenoms such as jackie Stiles that failed to eclipse the hype that drove her early prices to the moon relative to the rest of the market.
What’s a collector or investor to do?
The morale of the story is that if you’re looking to get in and out of Sabrina Ionescu for the short term your profits are likely to be slim (or none).
If you’re more of a investor collect that missed on being early and find yourself committed to the buy for the next few years to see how she shakes out, it’s not a crazy buy.
However if you’re the patient collector type, you’re probably best to sit on your wallet for now because you will likely find yourself able to buy a dip in the future.