When it comes to the graded Sports Illustrated market, there are some buys that are predictable and some that are risky, but with a higher chance of reward. Let’s compare two football greats – which is the better long-term investment?
I love Patrick Mahomes. The guy is a freaking rock star and has been called “the future of the NFL” by many. Fearless, incredible arm, Super Bowl Champion, …and he’s pretty likable to boot. But as far as collecting goes, all of these accolades have been priced into the market. His 1st Sports Illustrated cover came out on November 19, 2018, and at the time this article was written, there are 16 copies of that issue graded at 9.8. The last public sale for a 9.8 happened on September 25, 2021 for $10,800, which I believe is “in line” with other superstar modern issues at 9.8
But here’s the problem…
For collectibles, the market has already priced in multiple Super Bowl wins. While only 26, it’s entirely possible that Mahomes never wins another Super Bowl. The loss of Tyreek Hill is big, the Chiefs’ 2022 overall draft grade was a B-, and every team in the AFC looks to be better this year. Russell Wilson, welcome to the Denver Broncos and the AFC West!
Recent history is full of superstar quarterbacks that should have won multiple Super Bowls but only have one. Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers (sorry Packer fans, you guys have two on this list!), Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson. For $10,800, I’m gonna need more than one Super Bowl win out of Mahomes
Now, let’s look at Joe Burrow
His final season at LSU was arguably the greatest season ever for a college quarterback. Most TDs, Most total yards of offense, and 2nd in passing efficiency. These are all-time records, not just the 2020 season! Burrow gets drafted #1 overall by the historically awful Cincinnati Bengals in 2020.
He has a very solid rookie season but only plays 10 games before his season ends with an injury. In 2021, he leads the Bengals from last in their division to the Super Bowl, where they ultimately lose by 3 points to the Rams in an amazing game that could have gone either way.
For 2022, the Bengals are stacked and expected to win their division again.
Burrow’s 1st Sports Illustrated cover came out on December 2, 2019. It’s a very condition-sensitive issue with the entire back cover covered in black ink, which will make any flaw come screaming out for attention to the graders at CGC. That’s why the pop reports are dramatically different from Mahomes with seven at 9.4 and one at 9.2. That’s it! No 9.6, no 9.8, and after the 9.2 the next highest-graded is 7.0. Right now, there’s a 9.4 Burrow 1st cover listed on eBay for $1,750. That means that the market is pricing this issue like Burrow will never win a Super Bowl, and maybe he won’t.
When it comes to buying and selling in this hobby, of course the idea is to buy low and sell high. Joe Burrow is low, and Mahomes is high.
*Full disclosure, I own the Mahomes at 9.8, 9.6, and 9.4. I own Joe Burrow at 9.4 and 9.2.