When we started producing Sports Collectors Daily back in 2006, it was partly because there seemed to be enough going on to warrant a site that was updated more than once in a while. 2017 once again validated that assumption.
There were phenomenal discoveries, remarkable auction items, rookies that set the hobby on fire, long sentences for those who tried to cheat collectors and, sadly, some well-known figures who passed away.
Everyone loves a great “find” story and there was none better than Beer Box and Beer Box II. A Tennessee family’s stash of full and partial boxes of sports and non-sports cards from decades ago was like one of those dreams we all have now and then. Only this was real.
A 1948 Bowman baseball partial box? Two boxes of 1965 Topps football? A box of 1961-62 Fleer basketball? Drool was left on many a keyboard as Mile High Card Company showed off the consignments that brought home a seven-figure total over the summer.
Among the other fun discoveries was the 1914 Chicago Cracker Jack find and a 1958 Topps football wax box, untouched and still sitting inside the original case that was originally sent to an Oklahoma candy wholesaler nearly 60 years ago. The 1890 Players League documents aren’t a new find, but their arrival at Memory Lane was the first time they’d been revealed. They’re on the auction block now.
We don’t have any total numbers to go by, but it was a big year for most major auction houses who saw their volume and total sales grow. Here’s one illustration: Heritage Auctions sold over 4,000 items for over $17.3 million–in a four week span late this fall.
“This has been the busiest period in our history,” Chris Ivy, director of Sports Collectibles said of the months spent in preparation for the three auction sequence. He saw it as “confirmation that the market can absorb this high volume of elite material.”
Heritage sold only known Jackie Robinson rookie year jersey and a copy of the document that sent Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees sold for over $2 million each.
Two low-grade Honus Wagner cards and a couple of high grade Ruth rookies were part of our complete list of most expensive sports memorabilia sold in 2017.
Baseball is on fire—and so were baseball cards in 2017. Thanks to some fresh faces, box sales were strong throughout the year and that may well carry over into 2018. Aaron Judge was the big rookie card story with millions of dollars changing hands on eBay alone, but Cody Bellinger, Andrew Benintendi and Rhys Hoskins—among others—were also attracting a lot of interest.
Card Company Capers
One of last year’s big rookie stars caused a stir when collectors discovered some of his autographed cards in Panini Prizm carried what appeared to be an Autopen signature, rather than the real deal. Eventually, Panini got Prescott’s name on a contract extension and he made things right but no one really admitted what happened or wanted to talk about it much. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first such issue. Some of rookie Takk McKinley’s early autographed cards bore some sort of ink–but not his autograph.
Panini landed the rights to put Mickey Mantle cards inside its baseball products after reaching a deal with his estate during the first quarter of 2017 and NBA and Panini will remain partners for the next several years after announcing a renewal of their exclusive contract.
While still shut out of basketball, hockey and football, Topps held fast to its MLB license and if you acquired a special invite through the debut of the most expensive baseball card box ever created, you could go to Las Vegas and meet Kris Bryant. The Topps NOW program expanded with Judge a big seller and newcomer Shohei Ohtani setting a one-day sales record earlier this month.
Upper Deck, which maintains the NHL trading card license, got into the coin business with its Grandeur Hockey series, launched with much fanfare at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Tom Brady’s game-worn Super Bowl jersey became an international saga in early February when it disappeared from the Patriots locker room. It was found in Mexico several weeks later, in the collection of a newspaper executive with access to the Pats’ locker room. He’d apparently acquired a couple of other Super Bowl jerseys from prior years in a similar fashion. A 19-year-old collector of game-worn uniforms provided the big tip to authorities. No charges were filed but the jerseys were returned.
Prosecutors put the wraps on a $2 million autograph fraud ring that ran for several years on eBay when a judge sentenced Cliff Panezich to a lengthy jail term. Several other people had also pleaded guilty for their roles in the case. A similar story played out on the east coast where a Maryland man was sentenced for his own bogus signature scam.
No sports memorabilia-related case that we can think of has ever resulted in a sentence longer than the one handed to John Rogers just before Christmas. The Arkansas man ran a Ponzi-style scheme while faking numerous pieces of memorabilia that was sold over a period of several years.
Multiple Minneapolis area card shops and sports card dealers were victimized over several weeks by professional burglars who made off with a lot of valuable inventory. As far as we know, there have been no arrests.
The hobby lost some well-known figures in 2017. Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen, the brash dealer who helped propel sports cards into the national consciousness in the 1980s and 90s, passed away last winter.
Few hobbyists did more for collecting than Bob Lemke. Publisher, catalog creator, researcher…he did it all and then some.
Jeff Fritsch grew up under the guidance of his legendary card collecting father Larry and ran Fritsch cards after his dad passed away several years ago. Tragically, he died suddenly over the summer at age 58.
Most recently, well-known vintage photo collector Jimmy Cantanzaro also passed away suddenly at a relatively young age. He played a significant role in their recent increase in interest and value. We wrote about Jimmy and his passion for pictures a few years ago.
PSA moves included…a move. The grading and authentication company’s growth necessitated obtaining a loan and heading to larger digs just a few minutes from its old place in southern California. President Joe Orlando took on a new role as the head of the parent company, Collectors Universe. PSA also made a move to enhance the security of its trading card labels.
The 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention didn’t look much different than the 2016 show. Or the 2006 show. At its heart, it’s just a giant card and autograph gathering but even without tons of crazy innovations and the absence of long-time promoter Mike Berkus who passed away in 2016, attendance and sales were strong in Chicago.
It was also announced that the show would indeed return to Atlantic City in 2020, following stops in Cleveland (2018) and Chicago again (2019).
If you’re lonesome for the show, you can check out our coverage here.
Here’s hoping it was a good collecting year for you–with more fun to come in 2018.