We spend a lot of time during the offseason talking about market value. What’s the market on free-agent closers? When will the starting pitcher market set itself?
And then there’s the market on this year's Orioles FanFest autograph vouchers, which went on sale Satrurday morning on the club’s website. Some sessions sold out in a matter of minutes, and the entire schedule sold out in 64 minutes, according to the team.
I received several emails Saturday from some frustrated fans who said they were unable to purchase vouchers even though they tried right at 10 a.m. Their frustration piqued when they saw the vouchers immediately being posted on Craigslist and eBay for profit.
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For the past few years, the Orioles have sold the vouchers -- each one is good for an autograph from each of the three or four Orioles at the station for that time -- for a fee. This year, they went up from $15 to $20 each, which also caused a bit of a stir from the some fans. Neither the team nor the players are pocketing that money. It goes to local children’s charities through the OriolesREACH foundation.
The vouchers are limited to 250 for each session at the annual event -- this year’s FanFest is Feb. 1 at the Baltimore Convention Center -- so there is obviously more demand than supply.
And a quick check on eBay revealed that vouchers for sessions involving the team's most popular players are already being sold for more than five times the face value.
The most popular players are Chris Davis and Manny Machado. An eBay auction for a session that included Machado that ended late Sunday morning, just more than 24 hours after the vouchers went on sale, sold for $137.52 after 25 bids. Another auction for a session with Davis has a high bid of $124.50 with less than an hour left.
It was slightly different on Craigslist, where some fans had posts hoping to trade vouchers one for one -- there was a two voucher per person limit. Most are trying to score a Davis voucher on that site. But one post on the site asked for $100 for a Davis session and others just said to contact the seller to negotiate a price.
Regardless, that has to be frustrating for fans. FanFest is the one event every year in which they can be guaranteed to get their favorite player’s autograph. Even when you go to a game, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get an autograph. And as someone who grew up collecting autographs, the club’s $20 charge is a bargain given what you’re getting -- autographs from at least three major league players or coaches in person.
It should be noted that the Orioles will have an autograph station solely for kids ages 4 to 14 that will operate all day free of charge. Also, the first 250 season ticket holders through the door will receive a voucher for a special early autograph session.
And it’s not the team’s fault that some people are trying to make money off of the autograph sessions. That concept is as old at time. It happens every day to some degree outside every college and professional sporting event in the country.
Still, it has to be frustrating that it’s happening at an event that is really dedicated to the true fans.
This won’t make frustrated fans feel much better, but here’s one way to look at it. Of the money that scalpers are pocketing, at least the Orioles are receiving $20 of that for charity, which didn’t happen when the vouchers were free.