A classic trade of the sports card collecting game is to look for rookie cards that haven’t yet skyrocketed in value. When famous athletes like the NBA’s Jayson Tatum perform well, investors expect their future career to follow suit, and take action in buying their collectibles before they continue to appreciate in value.
This general principle lends credibility to a profitable future for women’s soccer trading cards. With the recent collective bargaining agreement reached for equal pay in US Men's and Women's Soccer, we may be on the precipice of a dramatic change in trading card value for stars of the U.S. Women’s soccer team. By achieving equal pay, visibility, and playing environments, US women's soccer players will garner greater notability, prestige, and social affirmation in addition to their increased net worths.
Earlier this May, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the United States Women's National Team Players Association (USWNTPA), and the United States National Soccer Team Players Association (USNSTPA) agreed to a collective bargaining agreement for equal pay and associated benefits in US soccer through matching terms.
Among details of the agreement, ‘equal pay for equal work’ (including both on-field base/performance pay, equalization of world cup prize money, and commercial revenue shares) will result in equal rates of pay for Senior National Team Players.
This 2021 opinion piece written for cardlines.com details the success of the US women’s soccer team, and analyzes possible reasons to explain why their trading cars sell for much less. Among them, the wage gap. The author provides us with the example of how Mia Hamm card values compare to those of Diego Armando Maradonna, whose career accomplishments are objectively less impressive than Hamm’s. Despite Hamm’s 158 national team goals, two Olympic gold medals, and two world cup championships, at the time of publication a Mia Hamm Rookie Cards was valued at $1,500- approximately 4% of a Diego Maradona Rookie card.
In addition to quantifiable achievements on the field, social media also serves as a platform for players to engage with fans and build their brand, which can drive additional value for their memorabilia. US women's soccer players Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach are among some of the players who have built cult followings as media personalities following their careers, furthering their reach and notability. Wambach’s post-soccer success as a speaker, NYT Best Selling Author, and equity and inclusion activist has made her soccer career a pre-tense in her life story, and her fans now consist of many individuals that hadn’t followed her soccer career. Alex Morgan cards saw a 12,000% growth within the 2019 - 2021 two year timeframe, and other pieces of memorabilia have sold for more than $4,000.
What remains to be decided is how details of the collective bargaining agreement will impact the market’s valuation of the Women’s Soccer players- will fans lend more credibility to the leagues athletes knowing that they’re being paid equal amounts to their male counterparts? How will the equalization of access to best-in-class training and playing environments impact the team’s visibility and fan devotion? And notably- how will society view the cards of US women soccer players who played for the US while knowingly being underpaid? Will key players in advocating for equal pay be noted for their historical contributions, advancing their card value(s) even further?
The question of how the equal pay agreement will impact trading cards can be considered through different lenses- some collectors may purely look at the opportunity as an investment, and others may want to buy these cards out of pure collectors passion. Regardless of the motivation, they’ll both drive demand.
It isn’t much of a question as to whether or not US Women’s soccer cards are overvalued. The question trading card collectors and investors need to ask themselves now is how the market will respond to the newfound equity in pay, playing environments, and additional benefits.