This article is a glimpse into the past. First published in the Credit Card Collector newsletter, January 1991.
An “Intermediate Mint” St. Louis Cardinals NFL Visa, with an expiration date of 03/89, has sold for a record $200.00—not bad for a credit card that expired only two years ago.
The best part is the original owner paid only $6.25 for it. That’s because he got four of the St. Louis cards for his $25.00 annual fee before the team moved to become the Phoenix Cardinals.
How much are St. Louis Cardinals NFL Visas worth?
The price history of the St. Louis Cardinals NFL Visas is quite amazing, and that’s putting it mildly. The first transaction was in February 1989, when an “Intermediate Mint” card sold for $30.00. That was a shocking price at the time for a card that had an expiration of 05/89. In other words, the card hadn’t even expired before the owner sold it!
The first credit card collector who was offered the $30.00 St. Louis’ card turned it down—but he did make a counter-offer of $15.00. When the first collector turned down the card it was immediately snapped up by a collecting friend of his who couldn’t believe what a bargain he had just gotten. His comment was, “Where else are you going to get one for any price?”’ That seemed like a pretty bold statement at the time.
It was also a very brave move to pay “so much” for a card that hadn’t even expired. But history has proven that that collector has quite a bit of foresight. The collector who bought that “outrageously priced” $30.00 St. Louis card was Noel Levy of Dallas—owner of the world’s greatest known credit card collection.
The second St. Louis NFL Visa sold in August, 1989 for a record $60.00. Again, what a “ridiculous” price! The card had doubled in price in just six months.
That $60.00 card was originally offered for sale at $90.00. The collector who bought it was able to drive the price down to the more agreeable amount of $60.00. It was just too much for the collector’s mind and wallet to shell out the $90.00 since that would have been a 200% increase in just six months!
A third St. Louis Cardinals was offered in November 1989 for $75.00. It was advertised in the Credit Card Collector newsletter. Greg Tunks, who had the card for sale, immediately realized he had priced it too low when two collectors called to buy the one card.
As though that wasn’t enough, in April 1990, a St. Louis card sold for $125.00. The St. Louis Cardinals card had almost doubled in just a five month period.
Then, in October, 1990 a St. Louis card sold for $150.00. Now, with a St. Louis Cardinals NFL Visa selling for a record $200.00, it’s time to understand why collectors are willing to pay so much for that team’s card.
Why are St. Louis NFL credit cards worth so much?
National Football League cards have been popular since their inception a couple of years ago. All but one team’s card is available from Citibank. Citibank is known for its relatively easy credit and generosity with giving out additional cards. Sometimes Citibank is lovingly referred to as “The Big Easy,” which makes it the ideal issuer and the NFL series so popular with collectors.
Citibank issued the St. Louis Cardinals NFL Visa for only a few months before the team moved to become the Phoenix Cardinals. No one knows how many collectors got the St. Louis card or how many cards they each got.
It appears since the St. Louis card was only issued for a short period, many “old” collectors figured they’d work on getting a set of current cards first and “worry” about the short-lived St. Louis one later.
With new collectors entering the hobby on a regular basis, and their interest also focused on the NFL series, there appears to be a pent-up demand. Anyone who wants all the teams for the NFL series must have the St. Louis. Many old collectors appear to have waited until they finished their collections to get it.
The new collectors, seeing the price of it, appear to want it at the start of their collections before prices can increase even more. Everyone seems to want it at once. But as the price rises, will demand subside, or will the St. Louis card take-off to higher prices?
Will St. Louis Visas keep increasing in value?
First, let’s look at the downside. It’s doubtful that prices will drop dramatically any time soon.
The reason: there appears to be very few St. Louis cards available. And the few that are out there appear to be in tight hands. Those tight hands belong to collectors who aren’t known for letting go of cards very easily. To get a collector to part with a prized duplicate usually means you’ll have to “make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
Making offers that are hard to turn down often means having to come up with a piece the collector really wants. The more popular alternative used by those without desirable traders is cash, and in the case of the St. Louis card, it appears to take a lot of it.
Another reason the St. Louis card probably won’t drop dramatically any time soon is that the “hoards” of three and four cards gotten by the original cardholders are being broken down a card at a time. Many collectors would love to own one St. Louis card, but at these levels there are few who want to buy two.
Since the cards are mainly going to collectors who need the cards to complete sets, it’s highly unlikely that many will be coming back onto the market. If a collector only has one it’s unlikely he’ll be willing to break up a set that has taken years to assemble just to make a profit on one card.
Besides, if it was a case where someone would be willing to break with one card then that would probably be an investor doing it, and they wouldn’t be in this hobby in the first place. Investors need liquidity that this hobby doesn’t offer.
So for all practical purposes, forget about investors being in this hobby. You’re mainly dealing with collectors, and collectors can sometimes be a tough bunch to get desirable material from. If you do, you generally have to pay dearly for it.
What does the upside look like for the St. Louis card?
Currently, it looks good. There are very few cards available on the market, and there are several collectors working on the series who don’t have the card yet.
Whether these latest collectors will just complete a set of existing teams and forget the St. Louis card is questionable. But remember again, you’re dealing with credit card collectors here. Sometimes price isn’t a factor when you’re dealing with someone who has worked on forming a collection for years and only needs one piece to make the set complete.
Any collector who’d like to add the St. Louis card to his collection today had better be prepared to pay. The lowest priced “Mint” St. Louis card being offered for sale is $250.00. And remember, that $250.00 will buy you a card that was issued two years ago that the person selling it may have gotten for free by canceling his account when the bill came in.
Or he may have actually paid the fee and got four cards with an average cost of $6.25 apiece.
What the future holds in store for the St. Louis Cardinals NFL Visa is anyone’s guess. But what does seem quite likely is the card will remain foremost on the minds of many collectors.
The St. Louis Cardinals NFL Visa–what an amazing card!
Copyright 1991 by Greg Tunks