It’s only August but Chris Rothe is probably a hands down favorite for “Luckiest Collector of the Year.”
The Maryland resident dropped $500 on the 20-spot 1955 Bowman cello pack break conducted by Vintage Breaks and landed the now famous Mickey Mantle card with a value that might be more than 100 times that amount.
While a few dozen in the audience at the National Sports Collectors Convention and many more watched online through the Great American Collectibles Show last Friday afternoon, Rothe, a third generation book binder from Maryland, had no idea what was happening.
“I got the email that the pack would be breaking at 3:30 but I had such a busy work week, I wasn’t actually able to actually view the video until 5:30,” he said on a follow-up broadcast Wednesday night. “Much to my surprise when I logged into VintageBreaks.com to see a replay of the video I accidentally clicked the recap (portion). I saw the Ernie Banks pulled, had no knowledge of where my number fell in the break and thought ‘holy cow, a ’55 Bowman Ernie Banks, that’s phenomenal!’. So I stopped there and went back to watch it all.
After realizing his position in the break was 19 out of 20, he sat back and watched it unfold as if live, not wanting to ruin the suspense. Since each card cost participants $500 and even the commons were worth a comment or two, he had a lengthy wait.
“It was arduous.”
Collation in some vintage packs often resulted in duplicates and as he watched the first 15 spots unfold in that direction, he thought maybe there was a chance a second Banks might pop up when his turn came. He began to get excited, but never dreamed he would wind up with something a lot better.
As the 18th spot was unveiled, Vintage Breaks’ Mike Eisner, who had opened the pack and was revealing each card, pulled his hands back in shock. Clearly something big was going to happen with spot #19.
“When he asked everyone to pull out their phones because they were about to witness history, I started to think maybe this was going to be better than an Ernie Banks.
And there it was. The best possible card that could emerge. Even though his allegiance is with the Orioles, he felt like a 10-year-old Yankee fan in 1955.
“I was weak in the knees. There are no words that describe the emotions that were going through me when I actually laid eyes on that card.”
Rothe thought it was fitting that the best card in the pack was the last one that was unknown to the audience. The top and bottom cards, #1 and #20, were visible through the cello.
Having been graded PSA 9 with a good story behind it, the card is now a valuable commodity. Rothe has fielded calls from national and local media outlets asking him to share the story—and reveal his plans for the card– but he’s not quite ready to make a decision. Interest inside and outside of the hobby is strong and he’ll meet with Vintage Breaks’ Leighton Sheldon next week to decide on a plan of action. He’s been building a Mickey Mantle collection and already owns a lower grade ’55 Bowman.
For now, the card remains securely stored in New Jersey but Rothe and Vintage Breaks want to show it off and share the story with the public—at least those who haven’t heard about it yet.
“I don’t want to drive up there, grab it and just lock it up in a safe. I want people to see it.”