One of seven known ticket stubs from Jackie Robinson’s big-league debut in the spring of 1947 sold Sunday morning for $480,000, making it the most expensive sporting-event ticket ever sold at auction. The stub was the highest graded of only a small number of Robinson first game tickets known to exist.
The first session of Heritage Auctions’ two-day Winter Platinum Night Sports Auction actually had two ticket headliners in what’s become a hot market with the only known full ticket from Michael Jordan’s NBA debut in October 1984 selling for $468,000. Like the Robinson stub, the Jordan ticket shattered the previous record for a sports ticket set in December, when a stub from his first game as a Chicago Bull sold for $264,000.
Jordan and Robinson had already broken that two-month-old high water mark days earlier, with the Jordan ticket initially outpacing the Robinson stub. But in the final hours of the auction, Robinson eventually slid into home with the new record. Robinson scored the go-ahead run on that April 15 afternoon after reaching base on an error.
Several other significant items associated with Robinson also set records in the wee hours of Sunday morning, among them an American Baseball Bureau questionnaire, filled out in Robinson’s own hand in March of 1946. The one-of-a-kind item realized $1.68 million. For that document, Robinson was asked about his “ambition in baseball.” In the space provided, he wrote: “To open door for Negroes in Organized Ball.” Seth Kaller Inc. was the winning bidder and has arranged for its display at the Jackie Robinson Museum set to open this summer in New York City.
“Interest in the Jackie Robinson material featured in this auction was immediate and came from all over the globe the very moment the auction was opened,” stated Chris Ivy of Heritage Auctions. “Because, of course, he wasn’t just a Hall of Fame ballplayer, but a trailblazer.”
Numerous Robinson items realized far more than their initial estimates, including: a PSA 8 copy of his 1948 Leaf rookie (which sold for $468,000), a 1946 Heilbroner Baseball Bureau Information card filled out and signed by Robinson before his debut as a Montreal Royal (which brought $120,000, three times its estimate) and a copy of Robinson’s book Wait Till Next Year, in which the author penned a note for his teammate – and friend – Pee Wee Reese (which sold for $144,000, nearly five times estimate).
The Jordan debut ticket, kept in a manila envelope for 37 years before being authenticated and encapsulated by PSA, belonged to Michael Cole, who hung on to that sliver of history decades after he couldn’t find anyone to accompany him to the Oct. 26, 1984, game at Chicago Stadium pitting the Washington Bullets against the hometown Bulls. The 21-year-old Jordan scored 16 points, nabbed six rebounds and garnered seven assists in a 106-93 win over Washington. But it’s fair to say Cole had the much better night, even if he had to wait a few decades.
“What an unbelievably great outcome,” Cole said. “I’m incredibly excited and fortunate, and I can’t wait to share my good fortune with family and friends.”
A 1968 Yankees jersey worn by Mickey Mantle, photo-matched to his final game on Sept. 28, 1968, sold for $2.19 million. That’s the highest price ever paid at auction for a Mantle jersey, shattering the previous record of $1.32 million set at Heritage Auctions in August 2018.
“We’ve always known this was an incredibly special jersey, as The Mick wore it when he hit his 535th home run and then signed it for a dear friend,” Ivy says. “But when it was confirmed to be the very jersey he wore when he took his final swing as a New York Yankee, that’s when it became something historic, as evidenced by the night’s results.”
One of the finest-known examples of Mantle’s iconic 1952 Topps baseball card, graded NM-MT 8, sold for $1.56 million – an almost unfathomable number only a few years ago. The same card sold through Heritage 12 months ago for $885,000.
A 1986-87 Fleer Basketball set, with every card graded PSA 10 including Jordan’s rookie card, sold for $690,000 while a Panini National Treasures Rookie Patch Autograph Luka Doncic in the same grade sold for $870,000.
A pair of autographed game-worn Jordan shoes from an April 1, 1986 Bulls-Bucks game in Milwaukee sold for $675,000. They were the earliest photo-matched examples of the Air Jordan 1 ever to be sold at auction.
Tennis great Serena Williams made the news on this night, only one month after her 1999 SI For Kids Series 4 rookie card sold for $117,000. During this first session of the Winter Platinum Night Sports Auction, the 2003 Netpro International Serena Williams (Court Authentic Series A) No. 2A, graded PSA NM 7 and Auto 10 numbered 24/100, sold for $163,200.
Williams wasn’t the only woman in the session to soar past expectations: The cap aviator Amelia Earhart wore when she made her famous first flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928 realized $825,000. A young man found the cap on the ground after Earhart participated in the National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio, in August 1929, and gifted it to a young woman named Ellie Brookhart. The leather helmet had been in her family’s possession ever since.
The second half of the auction was scheduled to conclude Sunday night.