Some would say a baseball card should always hold the top ranking among the highest priced sports memorabilia, but if 2022 tells us anything, it’s that Honus and Mickey can peacefully co-exist with soccer jerseys, boxing belts and tickets to watch Michael Jordan play basketball.
There were plenty of seven-figure sales this past year—even an eight figure one—and while cards still dominated the landscape, there was a feeding frenzy for some other cool pieces, too.
In Part 1 of our sports collecting year in review, we covered some of the business news from the hobby –and some of the criminal activity. Today, it’s about the stuff that sold for big bucks and some of the incredible collections of cards that entered the hobby for the first time.
If you wanted a T206 Wagner and had the money to bid, you had plenty of chances. In April, the Wagner with perhaps the best story behind it, sold for $3.1 million. How many others can say they once belonged to Charlie Sheen, went on display at a restaurant owned by stars and then got stolen?
Two more sold later in the year, including an SGC 2 that changed hands privately for $7.25 million.
Mint Mickey Mantle rookies only hit the market once in a blue moon, partly because there aren’t many of them. When one finally hit the block in the fall, bidders circled like sharks. The winning bid at Memory Lane was nearly $3.2 million, nearly four times the old record.
There were multiple modern cards that changed hands for $2 million and up including the November sale of the 2018 National Treasures Luka Doncic Logoman Patch Autograph that netted over $3.1 million. That’s a lot, but if he makes a habit of 60-point triple doubles…
Of course, the granddaddy of all card sales was the wild war that raged over the SGC 9.5 1952 Topps Mantle that sold at Heritage Auctions for $12.6 million, a new record not just for a trading card but for any piece of sports memorabilia. It broke the trading card record that had been set just three weeks earlier by the SGC 2 Wagner.
The price broke a record set earlier in the year when Sotheby’s sold the jersey worn by Diego Maradona when he scored perhaps the two most famous goals in World Cup history for over $9.2 million, blowing past the $5 million+ pre-sale estimate.
2022 saw the first million dollar soccer card sale when a PSA 9 1959 Alifabolaget Pele found a new home for $1.3 million.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay continued his efforts to gobble up historic items with the purchase of Muhammad Ali’s WBC championship belt, awarded after the boxing icon reclaimed boxing’s heavyweight title with a 1974 knockout of George Foreman. Irsay, who takes his traveling museum of artifacts to various cities during the year, spent $6.18 million.
The buyer was Indianapolis Colts owner and avid collector Jim Irsay.
Golf memorabilia took a big leap forward in 2022.
A set of irons used by Tiger Woods joined the ranks of the most valuable pieces of sports memorabilia in April when Golden Age Golf Auctions sold them for over $5.1 million.
Used by Woods during a stretch of play in 2000 and 2001 when he won four consecutive major championships, the Titleist irons and two wedges also set a record for the most expensive golf memorabilia lot ever sold.
That same auction saw Ben Hogan’s MacGregor set from 1953, when he won three of the four Majors and all five tournaments he entered, sell for nearly $247,000.
A full week pass to the first Masters tournament in 1934, autographed by 17 of the 61 players who competed, sold privately in March for $600,000, setting a new record for the most paid for a collectible sports ticket.
The ticket market also saw one of seven known ticket stubs from Jackie Robinson’s big-league debut in the spring of 1947 go for $480,000. The same auction held the only known full ticket from Michael Jordan’s NBA debut in October 1984. It netted $468,000.
That ticket was kept in a manila envelope for 37 years before being authenticated and encapsulated by PSA. It belonged to Michael Cole, who hung onto it after he couldn’t find anyone to accompany him to the Oct. 26, 1984, game at Chicago Stadium.
The game-worn sector also grew noticeably in 2022. Among the top pieces: A jersey worn by Michael Jordan in Game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals— the Chicago Bulls’ “Last Dance” season. The photomatched shirt soared to $10.1 million at Sotheby’s.
A jersey photo matched to use by Kobe Bryant during some of the first playoff games in his career brought over $2.7 million through SCP Auctions in June.
Work as a dealer or an auction company and you’ll sometimes get a chance to lay eyes on some phenomenal collections that have never been graded…
We just took in this incredible raw collection at the Long Island National 😮 It will be coming up in our Summer Card Auction pic.twitter.com/IuK6b9fpnd
— Heritage Auctions Sports (@Heritage_Sport) April 23, 2022
Actually, it was kind of the “year of the Goudey and tobacco find.” Some descendants of Goudey Gum employees had hung on to a stash of 1930s cards including high-grade copies of Babe Ruth’s quartet of cards in the set, Lou Gehrig and a couple of the Nap Lajoie rarities. They wound up at auction, too.
Another family collection of Goudey and other 1930s cards surfaced in the fall. This time, Just Collect got the call from Arizona and arrived to find a pair of brothers with a mind blowing stash of Ruth, Gehrig and others.
Then there were the tobacco cards. Jeff Weisenberg of National Card Investors finally landed a deal from a family heirloom stash of T206s that included 16 Ty Cobb cards and a Sherry Magie. Not long after that, another big group walked in, including a bunch of rare backs.
During the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City, a dream like hoard of T206 and other tobacco cards arrived at the Goldin Auctions booth.
There were thousands of raw T206s including hundreds of Hall of Famers, most tucked in 800-count boxes.
Maybe next year it’ll be your turn. We should all be so lucky.