Collecting the "Chicago Crusher"
by Kevin Glew
It's no coincidence that the Chicago Cubs have been one of Major League Baseball's most successful teams ever since Kris Bryant debuted with them on April 17, 2015.
After arriving in Wrigleyville, the right-handed hitting slugger proceeded to belt 26 home runs and record 99 RBI - both franchise rookie records - to help lead the Cubs to a 97-win season and their first postseason appearance since 2008. For his efforts, Bryant was named National League Rookie of the Year.
For an encore in 2016, the 6'5", 230-pound third baseman socked 39 homers, topped the National League in runs (121) and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) (7.7), and propelled the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years. This rightfully earned him the National League MVP Award.
"Kris Bryant ranks right near the top of the list of young superstars, along with players like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper," said PSA President Joe Orlando. "These are all very young players who have proven themselves on an individual level. The one key difference is that Bryant has not only garnered individual recognition, he also won a championship in one of the most memorable World Series battles of all time."
And Bryant thrived under pressure in that historic Fall Classic, recording seven hits, including two home runs, and batting a collective .308 in 17 playoff games. But then again, pressure is nothing new to Bryant. One of the most hyped collegiate prospects in recent history, Bryant was selected second overall in the 2013 draft, and he's one of those rare talents that has lived up to the lofty expectations bestowed upon him.
With his MVP Award last season, he became just the sixth player to capture the Rookie of the Year Award and be named MVP within their first two seasons. The Las Vegas native was also an all-star in his first two seasons and has proven to be versatile for his size. A third baseman by trade, Bryant also played at least one game at first base, shortstop, and at all three outfield positions in 2016.
On pace for another fine season in 2017, the future looks bright for the affable 25-year-old.
"To be fair, it's a little early to be talking about the Hall of Fame since Bryant has only been in the league for a few seasons," said Orlando. "That said, Bryant has accomplished just about as much as one could within those first few seasons. Bryant is a power hitter, which is always a plus since the guys who can hit the long ball frequently tend to captivate fans and collectors more than those who can't. He is just one of those players that is so hard not to like from a baseball or collecting perspective. So far, Bryant has generated attention for all the right reasons. His future is as bright as anyone in the game. "
It's not surprising then that there's significant demand for his autographed items and game-used bats, both of which can command big bucks.
Bryant has tried to be an obliging in-person signer, but it has become increasingly difficult for him to accommodate all the fans who want his autograph.
"Bryant autographs, like everything else related to him, are highly desirable," said Orlando. "We don't see quite as many signed items of Bryant compared to a player like Mike Trout, but that has nothing to do with popularity. Trout, as a signer, has been far more active and for a slightly longer period of time than Bryant, so there is more product available. Of the modern stars under 30 years of age, Bryant collectibles rank in the top handful of names."
Bryant's signature generally consists of a large K followed by a short curved line which extends to the large B that begins his last name. Most of the time, the y and t in his last name are also legible. Like most athletes, however, his in-person signatures are often hurried and the letters are less distinguishable.
In July 2015, the Cubs slugger signed an exclusive, autograph deal with Fanatics Authentic. His autographs on Fanatics items are generally neater because he doesn't have to rush to sign them.
In November 2016, Bryant inked an exclusive, multi-year deal with Topps, which the New York card company hailed as the longest agreement they've ever secured with an athlete. The deal means that Bryant's certified autograph cards will only appear in Topps products for the foreseeable future.
A review of eBay sales revealed that a PSA/DNA authentic, encapsulated 2015 Topps Allen & Ginter card sold for $249.99 in April 2017, while a PSA/DNA authenticated official Major League 2016 World Series ball commanded $187.50 in the same month. Because Bryant autographed items are now commanding these types of prices, collectors have to be wary of forgeries.
"While it would be hard to come up with a specific percentage [of how many forged Bryant autographs PSA/DNA sees], I think many modern-era signatures open the door for forgeries due to their simplicity. This is why credible suppliers and third-party authentication services are so important," explained Orlando.
"If you analyze contemporary signatures, they are often very simple in structure and lack the kind of definition or degree of characteristics that signatures of the past possess. The simpler a signature is, the easier it is to replicate it or at least attempt to do so. Bryant, Trout, Clayton Kershaw, and many others have short and simplistic-looking signatures."
In October 2014, the Cubs superstar added to his legion of followers when a fan asked him on Twitter if the Bryant game-used bat he was about to purchase on eBay for $850 was authentic. Bryant responded and offered to send the fan a bat for free instead.
PSA/DNA authenticator John Taube says Bryant generally uses a 34-inch bat that weighs 31-32 ounces.
"The model of the bat and the specs are essentially the same [since the beginning of his major league career]," said Taube.
The veteran bat expert says Bryant has used bats made by Chandler, and this season, the slugger has employed some bats supplied by Dove Tail (DTB).
"He has also used two-tone Marucci bats with a natural handle and a black barrel," noted Taube.
Many of the Bryant game-used bats that have surfaced for sale have his initials and his jersey number (17) written under the bottom of the knob.
Taube says there's tremendous demand for Bryant's game-used bats.
"If you want to call it the 'Big Three,' you could say Harper, Bryant, and Trout, they're the major young superstars right now. There's always demand for their bats," explained Taube. "Arguably, you could say that Bryant is the most popular. Depending on who you talk to, you could toss a coin between those three guys."
Taube says collectors can expect to pay approximately $1,500 for an authentic game-used minor league Bryant bat and between $3,500 and $5,500 for a regular major league bat. Milestone bats or bats used in important games will command a premium. For example, a PSA/DNA GU 10 bat that Bryant used for his first hit in the 2016 World Series sold for $25,320 earlier this year.
"I think if Bryant continues to perform at the level that he's performing and if the Cubs continue to be a winning ball club, I think there's no reason for the demand for his material [bats] to change," said Taube.
For more information on Kris Bryant autographs and bats, please visit https://www.psacard.com/facts/.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments.