It was sealed at Bowman Gum Company’s Philadelphia plant 63 years ago and stayed that way until Friday afternoon. A 1955 Bowman 20-card cello pack, now valued at somewhere around $10,000 was opened on the main stage at the National Sports Collectors Convention.
The hope was that the pack of the condition-sensitive issue would at least contain some common cards that were worth grading.
The dream was that there might be a high-grade star card inside.
Sometimes reality is better than the dream.
At the 2017 National in Chicago, Leighton Sheldon purchased the pack from a long-time dealer. His hope was to sell spots for his new venture, VintageBreaks.com, which specializes in putting an old card twist on a new card game. He put the spots on sale for $500 each–a hefty sum–but eventually all 20 spots in the break were taken.
This year’s National provided the perfect backdrop and Friday afternoon, he and his crew of three joined Rico Petrocelli and Tom Zappala, the hosts of the Great American Collectibles Show, on stage. The break was conducted in front of a few dozen people watching live and broadcast live online.
Most of the cards were truly near mint or better, with some potentially grading mint with low enough populations that they’d be expected to bring strong prices at auction.
Then out popped a Hall of Famer. An Ernie Banks, produced when he was still a very young Cubs shortstop. The card had sharp corners but was a bit off-center. Still, a strong pull out of the PSA 7 graded pack.
It turned out that was just the warmup.
As the pack rip wound to a close, a roar went up from the stage as the back of the 19th card in the pack showed itself.
Flipped over and showing its face for the first time since Eisenhower resided in the White House, the card remained perfectly preserved. The corners were pristine. The centering wasn’t perfect, but well within the range of a high grade.
The card was graded Saturday morning and received a 9 from PSA. It carries a “2018 National Break” pedigree on the label.
Maryland resident Chris Rothe was the lucky collector who had spot #19 in the random break draw and now owns one of the hobby’s current most famous cards.
On Saturday night, ESPN reported that Sheldon had received a $50,000 offer for Rothe’s card, which now carries a “2016 National Break” pedigree on the label. While there was no word on whether the offer had been accepted, Rothe did indicated he was planning to sell. It’s one of just eight 1955 Bowman Mantle cards ever graded 9 by PSA and the first in over 20 years. Only three have ever been rated PSA 10.
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