From the 1909 Honus Wagner card that fetched more than $2.5 million to the first Reggie Jackson cardboard to break the million-dollar mark to the Zion Williamson NBA Top Shot that became the first digital moment to sell at auction, the past, present and future of sports collecting collided during the final weekend of February to drive Heritage Auction’s latest Platinum Night Sports Auction past the $32.7-million mark.
That’s a record-shattering mark for the world’s leading sports auction house, which only two months ago set the all-time sports auction record with a $22-million event. The weekend’s $32.7-million figure also includes more than $1 million in post-auction sales, which are likely to continue in coming days.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the results of this auction, across the board,” says Chris Ivy, Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions. “Putting together an event like this is a monumental task, but it’s worth it when we see these types of results for our consignors. It’s also a testament to our industry when we see hundreds of new collectors flocking to this hobby – and pushing it to new and previously unimaginable heights.”
With the conclusion of the Feb. 27-28 Winter Platinum Night Sports Auction, which attracted more than 24,000 bids to HA.com, Heritage Auctions’ sports category realized more than $42 million during February alone. That includes Heritage’s inaugural Modern Sports Cards event, which kicked off the month by realizing more than $7.5 million; almost $2 million in sales via Heritage’s Make Offer to Owner feature; and the weekly auctions that continue to attract new bidders to the ever-growing sports collectables category.
To keep up with that extraordinary demand, in fact, Heritage will launch its brand-new Monthly Showcase Sports Auctions on March 4, with the auction concluding two weeks later in order to provide a quicker turn-around option for consignors. In the words of the O’Jays, “You got to give the people, now.”
And what they wanted this weekend were Holy Grail cards and Hall of Fame-worthy artifacts, hundreds of which exponentially exceeded their estimates – including the only Reggie Jackson 1969 Topps rookie card graded PSA Gem Mint 10. It sold for $1,005,600, more than five times its $200,000-plus estimate. The last time this card sold was 2012, when it realized $115,000, which at the time was considered an extraordinary number.
Says an understated Ivy of this weekend’s Jackson sale, “This is a good example of the growth of the sports card market in less than 10 years.”
That was evident, too, when the 1909 T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner, deemed Authentic by SGC and once owned by ballplayer-turned-broadcaster Joe Garagiola, blew past the $2.5-million mark Saturday night during a heated back-and-forth between bidders clamoring for the coveted card. Its final sale price of $2,520,000 shatters the previous record, also held by Heritage, for an Authentic T206 Wagner, which was $540,000. That highwater mark was set less than two years ago.
Wagner had another big hit, if you will, during the two-night affair, when his game-used bat from the 1912 season – the only photo-matched Wagner bat in existence – realized $900,000.
A 1916-18 Babe Ruth game bat, representing one of his earliest gamers to hit the hobby, realized $1,020,000 last weekend – yet another highwater mark at Heritage for the Sultan of Swat’s lumber, and another title to add to Ruth’s list of triumphs.
In recent months, the extraordinary ascent of sports cards to the top of the collectibles list has garnered worldwide attention; and, certainly, this event wasn’t short of headline-makers, including the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle graded PSA NM-MT 8, which sold for $885,000.
And until this weekend, Hank Aaron’s 1954 Topps rookie card graded PSA Mint 9 usually sold for between $200,000 and $350,000. But Saturday night, Hammerin’ Hank’s debut cardboard realized $645,000 – once an unfathomable number.
And only five months ago Rickey Henderson 1980 Topps debut graded PSA Gem Mint 10 sold at Heritage for $60,000. This weekend it scored a new auction record price of $168,000.
But it wasn’t merely baseball’s long-ago greats garnering big numbers: Last weekend, a 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractor Kobe Bryant Rookie graded BGS Pristine 10 realized $516,000. The only basketball card that sold for more in this auction was Michael Jordan’s now-iconic 1986 Fleer rookie debut graded PSA Gem Mint 10, which realized $588,000. Only one year ago, Jordan’s gem-mint rookie cards regularly sold for less than $50,000.
This year’s Winter Platinum Sports Auction will also be known as the first auction to feature an NBA Top Shot: a Zion Williamson Rookie Debut moment, numbered 1/192. The consignor known to the world only as Pranksy brought the card to Heritage to spotlight the emerging collectible, and was rewarded with a final price of $162,000.
And it wasn’t merely cards – or non-fungible tokens – that attracted collectors last weekend: A pair of star-spangled, game-worn Adidas Kobe Bryant gifted to a high-schooler named LeBron James realized $156,000 – more than 10 times pre-auction estimate. And the basketball hoop once attached to Bryant’s childhood home outside Philadelphia realized $39,600, almost four times pre-auction estimate.
Indeed, though it’s cards that garner the headlines these days, memorabilia very much remains in demand among collectors looking to own one-of-a-kind keepsakes from indelible moments in sports history. Look no further than the Edmonton Oilers sweater Wayne Gretzky wore during his first home game in the National Hockey League, among others. The photo-matched jersey now belongs to a collector who paid $624,000 for this incomparable keepsake.
Another historic jersey also found a new home this weekend: the one worn by Boston Redskins offensive lineman George Hurley in 1933, which realized $108,001.20. This is an extraordinary collectible: In 1932, Boston was awarded its NFL franchise, which began as the Braves and in 1933 was renamed the Redskins, which makes Hurley’s game-worn top the very first jersey to bear the insignia of the team now called the Washington Football Team.
That was but one of hundreds of museum-quality items to realize significant sums during the Winter Platinum event, including Mark Johnson’s hockey stick used in 1980, when the United States Olympic hockey team bested the Soviets during the Miracle on Ice. The signed stick was estimated to sell for $50,000-plus; instead, it realized $168,000, befitting its place in sports immortality. And the championship ring awarded to Miami Dolphins safety Jake Scott, after Miami bested Washington in Super Bowl VII, realized $138,000, also well above its estimate.
This sale, too, will become known as the one during which graded photographs finally began to receive their due. Two photos of Jackie Robinson used to make his early baseball cards realized more than $500,000 combined. The photo used to create Robinson’s 1948 Leaf rookie card realized $360,000; and the one used to make his 1949 Bowman card brought $204,000. The latter’s pre-auction estimate was $10,000-plus
“I am immensely proud of our team at Heritage Sports, as well as of our industry as a whole,” Ivy says. “The success of this auction and the growth of this hobby as a whole is a reflection of the fact we are all a part of something very special, and it’s gratifying to see so many others are beginning to feel the same way.”
Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer a