It seems prices are down across the board in terms of prospects. Trevor Bauer chrome autos have dropped almost 50% despite his inevitable callup sometime this year, mid-tier chrome autos are selling for a few bucks, and I failed miserably trying to "dump" some excess prospects at nice prices. Rather than go through specific pricing to prove it's a buyer's/bear market right now, I'd like to jump ahead and explore why the market seems to be very weak at the moment.
I have a number of theories as to why it seems impossible to sell your prospects right now for what you think they're really worth. These are all theories, and I'd be interested to hear what other collectors think.
In no particular order, here are my theories:
1. Collectors are in standby mode
With the season only a few days away, collectors may have pulled back the reins to see how it all pans out. Who makes the MLB roster, what does my fantasy magazine say about these prospects, why do these stud prospects not even get drafted in fantasy leagues? In other words, collectors are ready to sit back and passively enjoy imminent baseball. Maybe the time for heavy prospecting is put on hold so we can all take a breather.
2. A current eBay promotion
You may have noticed a ridiculous amount of eBay auctions this month, and most having an extremely unrealistic starting price. This is because eBay had a promotion for free auction listings for anyone who has an eBay store. Instead of paying incremental fees depending on your starting value, you can start an auction at any price you want, for free. You have nothing to lose.
So, why would that affect pricing? I think the fact that eBay is inundated with overpriced listings (the new auctions and the always over-priced Buy It Nows), collectors are just giving up looking through listings. It's like finding a needle in a haystack right now, unless you know exactly what card you want and can search through the 50 or so listings of that exact card. But, either way, if there are collectors out there who did in fact give up searching and buying on ebay, that's a decrease in demand and money in the market. That alone makes prices decline.
3. Flow of Funds
Another theory could be that funds are flowing into pre-sales of 2012 Bowman Chrome, which is due to be released this summer. Since a case would run you a hefty penny, and thousands of pre-sales are made, all that money is taken out of the market. This is also technically decreased demand, and results in lower pricing.
4. Increased Supply
Maybe prices are shrinking right now because supply has hit a pivotal point. As more cases are busted, more cards hit the market. It seems to make sense that as time goes on, this phenomenon inevitably causes prices to decline because supply increases exponentially. When 2011 Bowman Chrome Draft first came on the scene, if you liked a player, there were limited cards to buy. So sellers could set their price. Now, try searching for any specific auto from the set and you'll see hundreds of listings.
5. Attention is focused back on stars and veterans
Finally, the last theory I have has to do with hype for the start of the season, and is the theory I put most of my belief in. Simply put, with the prevalence of fantasy leagues and MLB previews, there really isn't that much focus on prospects. They're more of a side note. During the offseason, the stars are out golfing. We can focus on prospects and speculate on the future. But now, we're thrust back into reality and the plain truth is that Matt Kemp is more important than a potential SP2 named Nate Eovaldi. And as crazy as it sounds, if you're a Nats fan, whether Jayson Werth can live up to his contract is way more important to your club this season than Bryce Harper right now. So, in the offseason our heads are in the clouds of prospects. Now that baseball is back, we stop daydreaming and realize we'll be spending the upcoming season rooting for old reliable veterans, not prospects.
Which leaves us with one question... so what? Well, if you're smart, you're buying a ton of prospects right now. There are incredible deals everywhere if you know where to look. Ironically, a "weak" prospect market is the perfect time to buy.