PSA Set Registry
Collecting Mike Trout
Reeling in the Best Cards of the Angels Superstar
by Kevin Glew
He's the biggest fish in Major League Baseball's talent pond, but you'd never hear Mike Trout say that about himself.
Unlike Bryce Harper, his outspoken National League rival, Trout prefers to remain out of the spotlight, but as he continues to accomplish things that no other big leaguer has ever achieved, that's proving to be difficult.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Angels superstar became the first rookie to smack 30 home runs and steal 40 bases in a season. In that same campaign, he also became the first major leaguer to slug 30 homers, swipe 45 bases and score 125 runs in a season.
Those feats are at the top of a résumé that also includes All-Star selections in his first four major league seasons and being the first to be named MVP in back-to-back Midsummer Classics (2014 and 2015).
The five-tool center fielder also won the American League MVP Award in 2014 and has finished second in his three other seasons. And on April 17, 2015, he became the youngest player to register 100 home runs and 100 stolen bases in their major league career.
"Mike Trout is one of the greatest young players to come along in quite some time," said Mike Hollenbeck, who owns the No. 4 Current Finest Trout Master Set on the PSA Set Registry. "He's a five-tool player who can run, hit for power and play great defense. He reminds me a lot of Ken Griffey Jr."
Kevin McHolland, who has assembled the No. 3 Current Finest Trout Master Set on the PSA Set Registry, agrees.
"He's been very consistent in all elements of the game," he said. "He just does everything well. There are no real holes in his game."
Mike Maida, who owns the No. 1 Trout Master Set on the PSA Set Registry, offers a similar assessment.
"If he doesn't get a major injury, he could put up some serious numbers. He could be the first 4,000-hit, 600-home run guy ever," he said. "He's like a human highlight reel."
When you consider what Trout has already accomplished, you wonder how he slipped to 25th overall in the 2009 MLB amateur draft. One of the reasons was because he hails from Millville, New Jersey, which is not exactly a baseball hotbed. Scouts tend to favor players from warmer states with longer baseball seasons.
Also, unlike Harper, Trout wasn't solely focused on baseball. As a teen, he also played football and basketball, but he did benefit from good baseball bloodlines. His father, Jeff, was an infielder in the Minnesota Twins organization for parts of four seasons in the mid-1980s. Fortunately for the Angels, one of their scouts, Greg Morhardt, was a former minor league teammate of the elder Trout and was privy to some inside information.
The younger Trout was a pitcher and shortstop in high school before being moved to the outfield in his senior year. He eventually played in the Area Code Games in California, which led Morhardt to assess him as the fastest and strongest 17-year-old he had ever seen.
In the 2009 draft, the Angels held the 25th pick as compensation for the New York Yankees signing first baseman Mark Teixeira in the previous off-season. And remarkably, 21 teams - including the Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington Nationals twice each - passed on Trout before he was selected by the Angels, whom (it should be pointed out) even chose outfielder Randal Grichuk before Trout.
After signing with the Angels, Trout reported to the club's Arizona Rookie League team and hit .360 in 39 games. Over the next season and a half, he excelled at every minor league stop and would earn his first big league call-up on July 8, 2011, when he was just 19.
After hitting .403 in 20 Triple-A contests to begin the 2012 season, Trout was recalled by the Angels for good on April 28. Despite missing the first month of the major league season, Trout proceeded to top the American League in runs (129) and stolen bases (49), finish second in batting average (.326) and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) (.963), and third in slugging percentage (.564) and on-base percentage (.399). For his efforts, he was voted the American League's Rookie of the Year and placed second in the MVP voting to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
In his ensuing three seasons, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound outfielder remained baseball's most consistent five-tool threat. He batted .323 and was the American League's leading vote-getter amongst outfielders for the 2013 All-Star game, and he was named the American League MVP in 2014. Last season, he walloped 40 home runs for the first time and set career-highs (and also topped the American League) in slugging percentage (.590) and OPS (.991).
"The amazing thing is he's not even old enough to be in his prime yet," noted Eric Patmythes, who owns the No. 1 Trout Basic & Collector Issues set on the PSA Set Registry. "They consider a player's prime to be 27 to 31, and he's just 24 now."
Not surprisingly, Trout enjoys a devoted following on the PSA Set Registry. There are six registry sets dedicated to him: Rookie (8 cards), Basic (21 cards), Basic & Collector Issues (128 cards), Master (598 cards), Basic Topps (5 cards) and Master Topps (607 cards).
Given what Trout has accomplished, however, some collectors are surprised there aren't more people pursuing his cards. Playing on the West Coast has probably hurt his popularity.
"People that go to bed on the East Coast at 10 or 11 p.m. don't really get to watch him," noted Maida.
And Trout is also not nearly as charismatic or demonstrative as Harper. He doesn't flip his bat or want to alter the game's traditional unwritten codes, and as a result, he gets less camera time than Harper.
"I think a lot more people see Harper play and hear his sound bites, so I think there are more people chasing his cards right now," said McHolland. "But I think there a lot of collectors who see Trout as a strong, long-term prospect."
That does seem to be the case, because even with his lower profile, some of Trout's prospects and rookie cards still command hundreds of dollars. Here's a rundown of some of his key prospects and rookies cards:
2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects Autograph (#BDPP89). Inserted on a limited basis into packs of 2009 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects, this is Trout's most coveted card. It showcases the multi-talented star in an upright batting pose in an Angels uniform and boasts an on-card signature.
"That's 100% his key card," said Maida. "The most important thing about it is that it's his first card and the autograph is on the card itself [not a sticker autograph]."
Its black borders and glossy finish make it difficult to find in pristine condition. There are 27 PSA GEM-MT 10s out of 74 total graded examples.
Collectors must also track down five refractor parallels - regular (#/500), Xfractor (#/225), blue (#/150), orange (#/25) and red (#/5) - for the Trout Master Set. A PSA 10 Xfractor commanded $3,750 on eBay in April 2016.
2009 Bowman Sterling Prospects Autograph #BSPMT. This single pictures Trout in the follow through of his mighty swing in an Angels uniform. It's somewhat less coveted than his Bowman Chrome single because it has a sticker autograph.
Hobbyists must hunt down three additional refractor parallels - regular (#/199), gold (#/50) and black (#/25) - for the Master Set.
2009 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Autograph #57 (#/495). Donruss didn't have a major league license, so the fact that there are no major league logos on this card hinders its desirability. But it's still sought after because it offers an on-card autograph and is serial numbered out of 495. Maida says the dark borders on this single make it tough to find in top grade. One of the 26 PSAs 10 fetched $850 on eBay in April 2016.
Five limited-edition parallels of this single are also required for the Master set: Aspirations (#/200), Aspirations autograph (#/100), Red Status autograph (#/50), Status (#/100) and Turn of the Century autograph (#/149). Trout also has a Throwback Threads insert card in this series that presents both a piece of a jersey and a sticker autograph. Just 250 of these were produced.
2010 Bowman Platinum Autograph Refractor #BPAMT. This is the most desirable of Trout's 2010 releases. Like the 2009 Bowman Sterling single, this card highlights Trout in his major league uniform in the follow through of his swing. It was manufactured in limited quantities, but it's not serial numbered.
"I really like the 2010 Bowman Platinum card," said Maida. "It's an on-card autograph and it's really cool. It's a horizontal card, and it's got a really nice shine to it."
One of the PSA 10s garnered $549 on eBay in March 2016.
There are three additional serial-numbered refractor parallels hobbyists must uncover to complete their Master Sets: green (#/199), blue (#/99) and red (#/10).
2011 Bowman Sterling #22. Part of a high-end series, this card pictures Trout in a throwing motion in his white Angels uniform. It's not serial-numbered, but it's in extremely high demand and has also evolved into his most coveted official rookie. McHolland says this card is hard to find properly centered.
"I've probably sent in five or six of them for grading, and it took me a while before I got a [PSA] 10," he said. "It's just hard to find it centered well enough to qualify for a [PSA] 10."
There have been 37 PSA 10s and one sold for $707.74 on eBay in May 2016.
Collectors must also track down four refractor parallels of this card to complete the Trout Master Set: regular (#/199), gold (#/50), black (#/25) and purple (#/10).
2011 Bowman Chrome #175. This card flaunts a photo of Trout batting that's similar to the photo on his 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects autograph card. Though not rare, this card's glossy surface and black borders can make it challenging to find a perfect example.
"I don't think the Bowman Chrome card gets the credit it deserves," said Patmythes. "It's a staple brand and it's a key rookie. And for a Trout rookie, you can still pick them up for a relatively low price."
Of the 496 submitted, there have been 139 PSA 10s. One PSA 9 fetched $98 on eBay in May 2016.
Hobbyists must also track down four refractor parallels of this card to complete the Master Set: regular, blue (#/150), gold (#/50) and orange (#/25).
2011 Playoff Prime Cuts #37 (#/99). Limited to 99 copies, this is Trout's rarest Rookie set single. Panini did not have a major league license, so this card does not highlight Trout in a big league uniform.
"For me, this is Trout's 'Holy Grail' card," said Hollenbeck. "It's a tough card to get in a [PSA] 10. They only issued 99 of them and it's on the thick cardboard, even though there's no autograph or piece of memorabilia on it. And with that cardboard, it's very difficult to get a perfect grade just because the corners are so prone to bending. I've had three graded and received two [PSA NM-MT] 8s and a [PSA MINT] 9. I was happy when I got the [PSA] 9."
Of the 21 evaluated, there has been just one PSA 10. One PSA NM-MT+ 8.5 sold for $308.74 on eBay in May 2016.
2011 Topps Update #US175. This rookie once again pictures Trout in the follow through of his powerful stroke. It's by no means rare, but hobbyists say it's a key card for any Trout collection.
"It's an essential Trout rookie," noted Patmythes. "It's like the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie. It's the most produced one of them all, but it's also the most popular."
While there's no shortage of PSA 10s (1,685 in total), this card still regularly commands between $150 and $200.
Five parallels - Cognac Diamond Anniversary, Diamond Anniversary, gold border (#/2011), red border (Target) and blue border (Walmart) - must be sought out for the Master set.
For more information on Mike Trout trading cards and autographs, please visit http://www.PSAcard.com/facts.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Thanks to Kevin McHolland and Mike Maida for providing images for the article. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of June 2016.
Copyright © 2019 PSA – A Division of Collectors Universe. Nasdaq: CLCT. All rights reserved.