The best known example of the “Honus Wagner of Boxing Cards” has hit the auction block.
Heritage Auctions is selling one of perhaps fewer than ten 1948 Leaf Rocky Graziano cards in its Fall Trading Card Catalog. Graded PSA 6.5 (EX/MT+), the card stands as the highest graded in the hobby and could sell for as much as $150,000 or more when bidding concludes next month.
A PSA 5 example sold for $72,000 in 2017.
A knockout artist from Brooklyn, Graziano was among the most well-known athletes of the 1940s, battling Tony Zale in three fierce middleweight title bouts.
Like the famous T206 Wagner, the scarcity of the Graziano card is a bit of a mystery. Many have speculated his card was pulled early in Leaf’s print run because he wasn’t satisfied with whatever compensation Leaf may have offered at the time. Some believe his card may have been created ahead of production as a salesman’s sample but inexplicably was never created for the set.
Uncut sheets of surviving ’48 Leaf show seven rows of seven cards for a total of 49. Graziano would have been a 50th card. The set is skip-numbered to 102 but only 49 subjects—plus Graziano—exist. The set is generally considered complete without him.
Graziano is also absent from Topps’ 1951 Ringside boxing set.
For its part, Heritage states, “We suspect that Graziano cards never actually made it into retail markets, and that the few surviving examples–most estimate the full census in the single digits–went out the back door of the Leaf factory.”
Bidding in the auction, which includes more than 3,000 lots, concludes December 5.