The sports memorabilia market is booming. Shirts, trading cards, shoes, even miscellaneous items sold for six-figure sums.
Another memorabilia record was broken on Saturday. A 1952 Mickey Mantle card in mint condition was sold by Heritage Auctions for $12.6 million. Anthony Giordano, a waste management entrepreneur from New Jersey, originally purchased the card for $50,000 in 1991. The sale exceeded the $7.25 million total that a T206 Honus Wagner card, a collector’s item of the Holy Grail, sold out earlier this month.
The record for best-selling sports card has changed three times since January 2021. It was held by two different Wagner T206 cards and another Mantle card from 1952.
Baseball cards aren’t the only memorabilia marking new milestones. Here is a list of recent records.
Athlete jersey — set
Argentinian jersey “Hand of God” by Diego Maradona
Price: $9.28 million
When it sold: May 4, 2022
The shirt worn in the epic 1986 World Cup quarter-final has its own bizarre origin story even before Maradona scored two iconic goals while wearing it.
The jersey was specially designed for this quarter-final, played on June 22, 1986, under the burning sun of Mexico. The story goes that Argentina’s cotton shirts were too heavy for the heat, so manager Carlos Bilardo and Ruben Moschella, the team’s technical assistant, looked for an alternative.
They came back with two choices, one a darker blue and the other a lighter shade. The decision was made by Maradona, who walked in, saw the lightly scratched blue number and said, “We’ll beat England in that one.”
The second place: Babe Ruth Yankees 1928-30 Jersey
Price: $5.64 million
Sale date: June 15, 2019
Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers Last Game Jersey
Price: $1.452 million
When it sold: June 5, 2022
Present at a true turning point in NHL history, it’s the jersey worn the last time Wayne Gretzky lifted a Stanley Cup. It was his fourth in Edmonton. According to Gretzky’s autobiography, he was told two hours after the end of the Cup-clinching game that the Oilers planned to trade him. The shirt was probably still wet with champagne.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tom Brady Jersey Used In Game
When it sold: January 10, 2022
The Brady sale of nearly half a million dollars broke the record set just weeks earlier by another Brady jersey. In late 2021, an autographed and used Brady jersey from an October game sold for $320,500 with NFL Auction – where 100% of the proceeds went to charity (in this case, the Brady’s TB12 Foundation).
Trading Card – Male Athlete Overall
While the Mantle card now holds the record for the highest auction price, even the lore of this card pales in comparison to the Wagner card. It is so elusive and sought after as a collector’s item that a torn half of a T206 sold in February for nearly half a million.
The T206 Honus Wagner is often called the Holy Grail or Mona Lisa of sports cards. There are about 60 known.
Less than 2 inches wide and 3 inches high, the T206 Wagner is, in essence, the story of the entire sports card industry. A story of rarity and ego, with a hint of scandal. A coming-of-age saga for a hobby that transformed from a promotion aimed at children into an investment opportunity.
The mystery of why there are so few Wagners compared to other players is the biggest debate within the sports card community – something collectors love to ruminate on. One theory suggests that the Wagner printing plate broke during production. Another suggests a copyright dispute between the artist and the tobacco company. The most popular and romantic theory, however, was advanced by Wagner’s family and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (which has a T206 Wagner in its collection). They say Wagner didn’t want to promote smoking tobacco to children and asked the company to pull its card from production.
LeBron James autographed rookie card
Price: $5.2 million
When it sold: April 27, 2021
The LeBron James 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection RPA (rookie patch autograph) side card, numbered out of 23, privately sold for $5.2 million with PWCC Marketplace. The card, rated 9 by Beckett Grading Services (with a perfect signing of 10), claims the throne of the most expensive basketball card, removing one of the $4.6 million Panini National Treasures 2018-19 Luka Doncic Logoman RPA sold in March.
According to Jesse Craig, Business Development Manager of PWCC, King James items will only grow in hobby stock.
“There are LeBron cards [still] there, I would say, worth over $10 million,” Craig said.
1 of 1 rookie card autographed by Patrick Mahomes
Price: $4.3 million
When it sold: July 28, 2021
Talk about a worthwhile investment. When the card debuted, Mahomes was just a first-round pick who would start one game of his rookie season. When he was sold, the Kansas City Chiefs QB had thrown 76 touchdowns in two seasons and won an MVP and a Super Bowl.
Second Place: Rookie Tom Brady
Price: $3.1 million
When it sold: February 1, 2022
Another lower quality Brady rookie card was also sold for $2.3 million.
1958 Alifabolaget Pele rookie card
Price: $1.33 million
When it sold: February 12, 2022
Pelé is the only footballer to have won three World Cups and one of the most influential athletes of the 20th century.
According to reports from the people, there are only six such Pele cards that have received at least a rating of 9 (out of 10) by the PSA card evaluator, and none more.
1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card
Price: $3.75 million
When it sold: May 27, 2021
This is Gretzky’s second record. Two versions of the Gretzky rookie cards were made in 1979. O-Pee-Chee was a Canadian company that worked with Topps to distribute similar cards in Canada. Although the cards are very similar, there are some minor differences between the two – and the O-Pee-Chee cards have fetched more money in recent sales.
Formula 1 card
2020 Lewis Hamilton Topps Chrome F1 Superfractor
When it sold: May 1, 2022
In 2020, Hamilton won the most recent of his seven F1 championships. Two years later, Hamilton became part owner of the Denver Broncos.
Trading Card – Female Athlete Overall
Serena Williams’ rookie card
When it sold: January 25, 2022
From Ken Goldin of Goldin Auctions: “The effect you have with Serena is that there are a lot of people putting together GOAT collections. They want Pele, Ali, Jordan, Tiger, Brady…and they include Serena. I think that’s the biggest impact that raises her cards above all other female athletes.”
Second Place: Mia Hamm’s Rookie Card
When it sold: June 28, 2021
MICHAEL JORDAN ARTICLES
Due to Jordan’s resounding legacy and the popularity of “The Last Dance” documentary, Air Jordan collectibles are everywhere and come in a wide variety of forms. Shoes, tickets, cards – if Jordan items were sold in a big box store, they would have their own department.
Jordan’s most expensive item
1997-98 on-map patch map
Price: $2.7 million
When it sold: October 11, 2021
This card features an autograph and crest from Jordan’s 1997-98 All-Star Game jersey. How good was the GOAT this season? He led the league in scoring, winning his fifth MVP and his sixth and final NBA title.
Game Worn Shoes
Jordan Rookie Season Shoes
Price: $1.47 million
when they sold: Oct 25, 2021
The shoes are Nike Air Ships, designed by sneaker icon Bruce Kilgore – who created the Nike Air Force 1 in 1982 and later designed the Air Jordan II. Legend has it that when Nike first struck a deal with Jordan in 1984, their first signature shoe (Air Jordan 1) wasn’t ready. In the meantime, Nike provided Jordan with Air Ships – but Jordan’s were so colorful that the NBA informed him they had violated the Uniform Clause.
Jackie Robinson 1947 first ticket stub
When it sold: February 27, 2022
On April 15, 1947, after paying $1.75, a fan sat in the upper stands at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn for the most important day in MLB history.
The game stub was purchased by Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio.
Second place: Jordan full ticket for his NBA debut
When it sold: February 27, 2022.
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