A T206 Honus Wagner sold for a record $3.75 million late Saturday, setting a new record price for the world’s most famous baseball card, regardless of condition. The price for the PSA 2 copy offered by Goldin Auctions surpassed the $3.25 million paid for a PSA 3 Wagner in a private transaction conducted by Mile High Card Company last October. In February, a Wagner card owned by the late Joe Garagiola sold for over $2.5 million.
The famous image of Wagner has proven to be a profitable investment for just about anyone who’s purchased one over the years, with nearly every succeeding sale surpassing the last, but the strong market for rare sports cards has pushed prices to even greater heights.
“Every time we have the opportunity to handle the sale of a T206 Honus Wagner card, we know we’re in for something special,” stated Ken Goldin, founder of Goldin Auctions. “This is the type of card that reminds collectors why we love this hobby so much. To own one is to own one of the rarest and most significant pieces of sports memorabilia in history.”
The Goldin auction also included the $2.1 million sale of one of the 23 1997 Upper Deck Game Jerseys autographed Michael Jordan cards that represented the most ever paid for any piece of Jordan memorabilia. The card carried an 8 grade from PSA (9 for the autograph).
Representing the first basketball relic cards ever produced, the hand-numbered, signed Jordan cards have also been strong with Heritage selling a PSA 7/8 copy selling for $1.44 million in February.
A third item also crossed the seven figure mark when a game-worn and signed Lakers jersey dating to Kobe Bryant’s rookie season soared to $3.69 million, the most ever spent on a basketball jersey. It’s earliest photo-matched jersey from Bryant’s Hall of Fame career.
Bidding for the jersey went back and forth until about 5 AM Eastern time, with the final tally breaking a record set earlier this month when Heritage Auctions sold a Michael Jordan college jersey for nearly $1.4 million.
Modern basketball cards once again generated a lot of attention from bidders around the world.
A 2014-15 Immaculate Collection Bryant 1/1 Logoman card graded 9.5 by BGS paced a slew of cards in the auction that featured the late Hall of Famer, bringing in $615,000.
A 1996-97 Flair Showcase “Legacy Collection” Row 0 Bryant rookie card sold for $430,500, also setting a record for the issue.
A 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph (RPA) LeBron James signed rookie card numbered 48/99 and graded 8.5/10 by BGS netted $934,800, while a PSA 10 1980-81 Topps rookie card of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson went for $553,500–the most ever paid at public auction for one of the hobby’s most famous basketball cards.
A PSA 10 copy of Derek Jeter’s most popular rookie card–the 1993 Upper Deck SP–netted $492,000, the most ever paid for any Jeter card. Another bidder spent over $369,000 for a mint Sandy Koufax 1955 Topps rookie card, also a record for any card of the Hall of Fame pitcher.
Vintage card collectors chased a PSA 7 1921 American Caramel E121 Series of 80 Babe Ruth, which sold for a record $270,600 and a PSA 8 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle ($840,000).
Collectors rolling the dice on prospect cards chased a 2019 Bowman Wander Franco Red Refractor (#3/5), which rocketed to over $198,000.
Prices quoted above reflect a 23 percent buyer’s premium but prices are reduced by three percent if winning bidders pay on time and don’t use a credit card.
The second half of the auction closes Sunday night.