The George Mikan PSA 10 rookie card that sold for over $218,000 early Sunday morning changed hands at least once before…for a lot less.
The private collector who paid $218,500 for a 61 year-old basketball card created some collecting history. The sale of the 1948-49 Bowman George Mikan in Memory Lane’s latest auction is now on record as the most ever paid for any basketball card.
SCP Auctions bought the card on behalf of one of its clients, who is choosing to remain anonymous for the moment and according to company president David Kohler “is putting together important pieces of high end sports memorabilia in basketball and baseball.”
The Mikan card certainly fits that description. The card is not newly graded. In fact, SCP revealed Monday that it sold the card once before. The purchase was believed to have been made in the 1990s and cost the buyer $32,000. Even with the economic changes that have taken place, that’s some serious appreciation.
“Yes, that was a lot of dollars 12 years ago for a basketball card,” Kohler recalled to Sports Collectors Daily. “But as the market grew for the best of the best low population important cards graded by PSA we knew it would be a six figure card some day.”
The sale of the Mikan card illustrates the demand among wealthy collectors and investors for extremely limited issues. While some portions of the vintage sports card market continue to be relatively flat, rare high-grade items seldom fail to ignite bidding wars, especially cards that are seldom offered for sale. They are attractive to those competing to put together the finest sets in existence and to those who are looking for hallmark pieces for their collections of individual items.
Issued by the Bowman Gum Company, the Mikan card as part of what was the first basketball-only series of cards ever produced. Pro hoops was barely a blip outside a select few cities and it was the only basketball issue Bowman attempted in its eight-year run producing cards. Its legacy has reverberated throughout generations of collectors, though, because of the Mikan rookie card. The bespectacled graduate of DePaul University was a groundbreaking player, a 6-10 center at a time when the game was usually played well below the rim. Even 50 years later, Mikan’s impact was recognized with his inclusion on the roster of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all-time.
Publicity over the sale of the Mikan card could trickle down to inflate the values of other iconic basketball cards, an element that has lagged behind football, baseball and sometimes even hockey, something not lost on Kohler, who owns what is likely the best collection of Lakers’ memorabilia in the country.
“it makes collectors take notice that rare sports cards and memorabilia in the vintage basketball market is very much in demand. There is significantly less vintage basketball memorabilia than baseball for sure.”
Only four other examples of a Mikan rookie card have been graded at the “Mint 9” level by PSA. In 2008 a Mint 9 example sold for more than $52,000.