Like the ultimate center jump, what many consider the world’s greatest vintage basketball card is about to be tossed up for grabs...a PSA 10 with a minimum bid of $50,000.
A mint condition 1948 Bowman George Mikan rookie card, the only one ever to be professionally graded as a PSA Gem Mint 10, hits the auction block next month. The card has been consigned by a private collector to Memory Lane Inc’s Hidden Treasures Auction with a minimum bid of $50,000.
The card is the key to the earliest basketball-only set in sports card history, a one-year offering that features the legendary Mikan as its unquestioned centerpiece. Often described as the “T206 Honus Wagner of basketball cards,” the Mikan card was printed in Bowman’s more scarce second series.
How rare is a high-grade card of this Hall of Famer? Just four Mikan rookies have been graded at a ‘9’ (mint) level in the history of PSA. Collectors will recall that a ‘9’ graded example sold in 2008 for over $52,000. The 1948 Bowman Mikan was recently rated as one of the top 20 sports trading cards of all time.
The '48 basketball set was the first Bowman sports card set produced in color and represents the last mainstream basketball card set until Topps first dipped its toes in the water in 1957-58. It is the only basketball set Bowman would produce before going out of the sports trading card business in 1955. While basketball players were occasionally featured on sports cards prior to the 1940s, the ’48 Bowman set was the first all-basketball card set ever created.
The story of Mikan's climb from gangly youngster to Pro Basketball Hall of Famer is remarkable. He stood over six feet tall at age eleven and endured taunting from classmates who saw him as a freak. Turned down by high school coaches and by the University of Notre Dame, the Illinois native finally found a home at DePaul University where legendary coach Ray Meyer helped mold him into a three-time All-American.
After a year with the short-lived Chicago Gears professional team, Mikan landed in Minneapolis where he would lead the Lakers to five Basketball Association of America titles in six years, averaging 23 points per game. He was the game’s first dominant big man, a 6-foot-10 inch bespectacled wonder who became basketball’s first real star attraction. Madison Square Garden’s marquee advertised games between the Lakers and the New York team as “George Mikan vs Knicks Tonight”.
Mikan later became the first commissioner of the American Basketball Association and helped bring the Minnesota Timberwolves into the NBA in the 1980s. Not long after that, he received the ultimate honor by being named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of All Time.
Mikan appears on so few sports collectibles, anything dating from his days as a player is very much in demand. Measuring the standard Bowman size of 2 1/16” x 2 ½”, the card features Mikan’s biography on the back.
Memory Lane's auction will feature hundreds of vintage sports cards and memorabilia inicluding a run of vintage unopened boxes, signed checks from the original Hall of Famers and graded sets from the 1950s and 60s. The auction will close December 12.
Memory Lane Auctions on eBay