You can always expect some big-ticket items to sell but the top sports memorabilia-related stories aren’t always about what stuff sells for. There were plenty of interesting happenings over the last 12 months. From a wild moment at the National to a newly uncovered and virtually untouched collection of decades-old cards and some notable business moves, there was a lot to read about (and thankfully for us, you keep doing so).
Here’s just some of what was making news in 2018.
I’m not sure how you measure it, but it’s hard not to think this might have been one of the best years ever for high value cards entering the market for the first time.
The finds came in droves.
After the $2.88 million sale of the PSA 9 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, the floodgates opened. There was the “cards mom didn’t throw out” find of high-grade 1940s and ’50s cards including five (!?!) 1952 Mantles that netted over $1 million. Then, another group of high numbers including two more Mantles.
There was a huge find of tobacco and other vintage cards by a long-time dealer/collector.
A group of seven 1986-87 Fleer basketball card boxes worth well into six figures that still carried the price tag stickers from the toy store where they were purchased over 30 years ago.
There was the stash of 1954 Wilson Franks cards owned by the son of one of the people associated with their production in Chicago.
And I suppose you could call it a “find” since it had gone unnoticed for the better part of three decades. Over the summer, someone noticed that one of Mark Jackson’s old Hoops cards shows the image of two people who appear to be parent killers Lyle and Eric Menendez sitting in the first row at Madison Square Garden. When a Twitter post went viral last month, a junk wax era product suddenly became a hot commodity.
Not surprisingly to long-time collectors, there seems to be plenty of cards to meet the demand.
Ticket sales for National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland boomed. So did space for next year’s show in Chicago. Cleveland is back on the docket after dealers voted to return in 2022.
SGC helped facilitate a multi-million dollar exhibit of sports cards and memorabilia at the 2018 National. They also rolled out some major changes just prior to the show, opting to ditch the 100-point scale in favor of a 1-10 rating for trading cards and starting its own game-worn uniform authentication division.
There were some changes in the corporate structure at PSA and PSA/DNA. The company reported record revenue in 2018 as backlogs continued. They also opened an office in Japan and debuted new holders for larger sized items.
Topps will continue to be the sole source of MLB and MLBPA licensed baseball cards after announcing extensions of its deals with both earlier this year.
Panini, which maintains its NFL and NBA licenses, finally lassoed Charles Barkley to sign autographs for its products.
The Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA and Goldin Auctions announced a new partnership,featuring an annual auction.
Robert Edward Auctions announced it would move from two auctions per year to three and add a west coast presence.
Hunt Auctions and Babe Ruth’s granddaughter announced plans for a big auction of Babe-a-bilia at Yankee Stadium next summer.
Collectable announced some angel investors had jumped aboard its plans for a new online buying and selling platform set to debut sometime in 2019.
Some guys in Argentina had World Cup fever so bad they grabbed masks and guns and held up a printing plant, making off with over $360,000 worth of Panini stickers.
A Nebraska man was sentenced to 2 ½ years in federal prison and restitution for a fake vintage card scam he pulled on eBay.
Late in the fall, some eagle-eyed online forum members spotted some signed T206 cards that were purchased as unsigned raw cards, with phony signatures added later. The hunt goes on for more fakes and law enforcement has been alerted.
A dealer was booted from the floor of the National after complaints about the authenticity of the autographed items he was selling. “They’re real, but I don’t sell ‘em as real,” was his explanation to the undercover videographer.
Vintage Breaks sold spots for $500 and then opened a 1955 Bowman cello pack on stage at the National. It turned out to be a good investment for collector Chris Rothe. A wild celebration ensued when a minty card of Mantle emerged as Rothe’s spot in the break came up. It was eventually graded 9 by PSA and we’ll likely find out its fate sometime this coming year. The other cards in the pack fared well, too. The event accelerated a fast-growing part of the hobby: vintage pack breaks–and prices.
A Sacramento, CA collector landed THE card of 2018 baseball products when he opened the pack containing the 1/1 Bowman Chrome Ohtani Superfractor. It eventually sold for over $184,000 to a buyer who is banking on the injury suffered by the Japanese two-way star to be just a temporary blip.
Another strong rookie class in baseball helped push sales and the year’s NFL rookie crop did the same.
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been chronicling the top 10 auction items for most of the major auction houses. Several made headlines including the $2.88 million 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, a seven-figure Mantle jersey, a 1939 signed baseball from the original Hall of Fame inductees, a Lou Gehrig game jersey that sold in a private transaction for over $1 million, a high-grade set of T206 cards that was broken up and sold for over $8 million in all and Heisman Trophies once presented to Rashaan Salaam and Tim Brown.
The Hobby on Display
The hobby was in the spotlight in several different locales in 2018.
A terrific T206 collection was put on display in Detroit, with big crowds turning out to see 500+ cards affixed to a wall.
The 1952 Topps PSA 10 Mantle owned by Marshall Fogel went on display as part of the Play Ball! exhibit at History Colorado during the summer. Demand to see it was strong and the card returned this past week for a brief engagement.
The Baseball Hall of Fame also announced plans for a permanent baseball card exhibit. The Hall kicked off a fundraising campaign to make it happen.