A forgotten cache of unopened boxes and packs of decades-old baseball, football and basketball cards turned turned into a high six-figure windfall for a Tennessee-based consignor early Friday morning as Mile High Card Company’s auction came to a close.
As we first reported last month, the group was headlined by a one-of-a-kind partial box of 19 packs of 1948 Bowman baseball, the first post-War baseball bubble gum card set. The packs and well-worn box sold for $521,180, the highest price ever paid for unopened material in a public auction. The cost per pack was $27,430. They sold for a nickel in 1948.
The name of the buyer wasn’t immediately revealed.
The lot even included the original display insert, meant to be stuck in the back of the box as a sales enticement to youngsters. Each pack contains five cards and three sticks of 69-year-old gum. No unopened packs of 1948 Bowman had previously been known to exist.
Also part of the auction were numerous other full and partial boxes of rarely seen unopened material. A 1961-62 Fleer basketball complete box, likely containing high-grade examples of the rookie cards of Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West soared to $108,039 while a rare 1961 Topps football box, also complete with 24 packs, netted $119,978.
In all, the unopened material sold for over $900,000.
“While it’s always risky to speculate on where the final prices for items that are unique to the hobby will ultimately land, we were pleased that our estimates were virtually spot-on,” said MHCC President and CEO Brian Drent.
Other complete and partial boxes sold included:
- 1962 Topps football partial box of 20 packs $45,256
- 1962 Fleer football box partial box of 19 packs $30,325
- 1961 Fleer football box full box of 24 packs $24,947
- 1959 Fleer Ted Williams full box of 24 packs $20,522
- 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats partial box of 20 packs $9,833
- 1960 Fleer Baseball Greats partial box of 20 packs $5,540
- 1961 Nu-Card Scoops Baseball full box of 24 packs $3,443
- 1960 Topps Football Group of 6 Wax Packs Plus Display Box $16,814.
All prices include a 20% buyer’s premium.
The boxes were discovered following a family member’s death. After doing some online research, a relative reached out to the auction company. The family had once been associated with a business that produced non-sport trading cards and it’s believed the boxes were acquired as part of market research they’d done decades ago.
The boxes and packs from the consignment were examined and authenticated by Baseball Card Exchange.
The story, rarity and potential value of the boxes, easily one of the top discoveries in the sports memorabilia world in recent years, became national news.
Other areas of the auction included the breakup of the #12 PSA Set Registry ranked 1952 Topps set, which sold for a total of $152,368, the #1 ranked 1956 Topps Super Set, which sold as individual lots for a total of $135,084 and a pair of elite Mickey Mantle cards; 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle PSA 6 EX/MT that sold for $71,106 and a 1951 Wheaties #G Mickey Mantle Premium Photo PSA 10 GEM MINT, a rookie year Mantle issue that is the one and only PSA 10 on record, that changed hands for $33,734.
Other notable cards sold included 1952 Topps #312 Jackie Robinson PSA 8.5 NM/MT+ that hammered at $25,587, 1953 Topps #82 Mickey Mantle PSA 7 NM sold for $15,311, 1955 Topps #123 Sandy Koufax PSA 8 NM/MT at $10,496, 1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente PSA 7 NM that went for a near record $12,897, a pair of Mickey Mantle records that set all-time price records: 1958 Topps #150 Mickey Mantle PSA 8 NM/MT that sold for $8,112 and 1960 Topps #350 Mickey Mantle PSA 8 that netted $5,958, 1968 Topps #177 Nolan Ryan PSA 9 MINT that changed hands for $23,207, 1957 Topps 377 Bill Russell PSA 8 NM/MT that sold for $25,587, 1961 Fleer #3 Elgin Baylor PSA 9 MINT at $29,872 and 1961 Fleer #36 Oscar Robertson PSA 9 MINT that found a new home for $28,449.
A Jackie Robinson Single-Signed ONL (Giles) Ball (sold for $15,836) and a Jimmie Foxx Single Signed AOL (Cronin) Ball ($6,307) headed up an extensive list of team and single-signed autographed baseballs.