Spread out over four separate sessions closing on successive nights and packing over 3,700 lots, Heritage Auctions’ 2020 Fall Collectibles Auction was the biggest in company history.
It turned out to also be the biggest money maker in sports collecting history.
The auction, with individual sessions ending Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, realized over $22 million, making it the largest sports auction ever held. The Barry Halper Collection auction in 1999 had held the previous mark at $21.8 million.
“The prices were extremely strong across the board, as the auction surpassed our preliminary auction estimates by more than 35%,” said Chris Ivy, Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions. “This auction was a game-changer for sports collectibles, and it is clear that collectors and investors alike view cards and memorabilia as an alternative asset class with plenty of room left to grow.”
For the year, Heritage Auctions’ sports category realized more than $100 million, between online auctions and private sales. That’s the second time Heritage has reached that milestone mark.
From this weekend’s auction, not only did the Canadian card featuring a fresh-faced Wayne Gretzky in his first season as an Edmonton Oiler become the first hockey card to sell for more than $1 million, but more than two dozen lots hit and well surpassed six figures. Among them: a 1997 Michael Jordan card that sold for $915,000; Babe Ruth’s 1933 New York Yankees contract, which realized $300,000; and a sweater Bobby Orr wore during the Boston Bruins’ Stanley Cup-winning season of 1971-72, which sold for $147,118.80.
Not all of the items were for wealthy newcomers or investing groups. A 2016 Patrick Mahomes rookie card, the only known Panini Select ’17 NFL Draft XRC Gold Prizm Redemption graded PSA 10, which was estimated at $12,000 and sold for $192,000. A game photo of Michael Jordan taken for a Wisconsin newspaper in December 1986 opened at $300 and realized more than $2,000.
The first day of the event began with the record-breaking sale of the PSA 10 OPC Gretzky rookie card and the $720,000 paid for the PSA 10 Topps version, which smashed the old mark of $201,000. A 1997 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Michael Jordan (Green version) soared to nearly double the pre-auction estimate when it sold for that $915,000 price. That’s more than twice the price of the Jordan world-record rookie card, an SGC Pristine 10, which Heritage sold in August for $420,000.
Jordan wasn’t the only basketball superstar near the top of the pops this weekend, as two LeBron James cards sold for more than $200,000. A 2003 Bowman Chrome Rookies & Stars Gold Refractor, graded PSA 10 and numbered 50/50, sold for $288,000. Another less rare rookie card — the autographed 2003-04 SP Authentic graded BGS Pristine 10 and numbered 336/500 — fetched $204,000.
The Dec. 10-13 Fall Sports Collectibles auction also featured as a centerpiece the Midwest Masterpiece Collection, which represents one of the hobby’s finest personal assemblies of high-grade rookies and other notable trading cards, with a distinct focus on the greatest figures of 20th century sports. This remarkable assemblage is the labor of love of Wisconsin resident Chris Ladd, who entered the hobby four decades ago.
Ladd’s investments, which included the $288,000 LeBron rookie, a 1979-80 OPC hockey unopened box ($252,000) and the $192,000 Mahomes rookie redemption card, were estimated at a combined $2.82 million. Offered as the second session on Dec. 11, the entire collection realized more than $4.3 million.
“The Midwest Masterpiece Collection’s extraordinary success is a testament to Chris’ vision for his collection, which consisted of highly desirable high-grade, low population, rookie cards of both vintage and modern stars,” Ivy remarked.
A complete list of results from the Fall Sports Collectibles event is available here.