Heritage Auctions’ Sports Department recorded the most successful fiscal year in the history of the industry in 2016, building upon over a decade of sustained growth to surpass $57 million in annual sales. Dozens of pricing records were shattered en route to the unequaled annual sales mark, including the first post-war trading card ever to command a seven-figure winning bid, a PSA NM-MT+ 8.5 example of the fabled Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card.
The Charles Conlon Collection, an unrivaled collection of baseball photographs, set the mark as the most valuable lot that Heritage Sports has sold at auction. Significant high-grade and low population sports cards dominated the sports auction landscape as seen below with the remaining Top 10 prices realize
Among the top lots of the year:
- The work of Charles M. Conlon, considered by many to be baseball’s biographer for much of the first half of the 20th century, served as the primary visual record of Major League Baseball. Images from the Charles Conlon Photographic Archive, which sold for $1,792,500, populated early Reach and Spalding guides, syndicated newspapers and iconic trading cards spanning the days of tobacco to bubble gum, essentially creating a historical paper trail for what are considered by many to have been baseball’s “glory years.”
- Competitive bidding drove a rare 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 PSA NM-MT+ 8.5 card up to $1,135,250, the highest price ever paid for a post-WWII card. One of just 12 examples of this card to earn such a high grade, this card harkens back to the Rosen Find of pristine 1952 Topps cards that resonated throughout the card hobby in the mid-1980s.
- A 1909-11 T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner PSA Good 2 card pulled in $776,750. Wagner, called “the greatest ballplayer of all time” by Hall of Fame manager John McGraw, is known as one of the players whose cards are most coveted among all players in baseball history, in part because of his refusal of the American Tobacco Company’s request for permission to use his image.
- A Topps card featuring four 1963 Rookie Stars, including all-time hits leader Pete Rose, drew $717,000, making it as historically significant as any card from that decade. Of the more than 3,500 cards submitted to PSA, this one earned a PSA Gem Mint 10 grade.
- A card depicting one of baseball’s all-time immortals – a 1916 M101-5 Blank Back Sporting News Babe Ruth Rookie #151 PSA NM 7 card – was the object of several collectors’ eye, racing past its pre-auction estimate before eventually pulling in $717,000. This card is one of just six with a grade of NM 7 or higher.
- One of the most coveted “rookie stars” cards of all time is the 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan – Mets Rookie Stars #177 Gem Mint 10, which reeled in $612,359.83.
- The market for elite rookie cards skyrocketed in 2016, with Heritage at the forefront of the hobby trend, making the demand for this card – highlighting the career of the fireballing pitcher whose durability over 27 years was exceeded only by his record-breaking strikeout and no-hitter totals – more than understandable.
- The top non-baseball card Heritage sold in 2016 was a 1969 Topps Lew Alcindor #25 PSA Gem Mint 10, which sold for $501,900. The card marked the start of the career of Alcindor, who ended up becoming the most prolific scorer in the history of the National Basketball Association after changing his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
- Another top baseball prize was a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 NM-MT 8 card that sold for $501,900, a price made possible by Mantle’s status as one of the game’s all-time greats. But the success of this particular card also stems from the fact that it launched the “high-number series” of the 1952 Topps issue, a portion of the set that fell victim to unrealistic deadlines and therefore failed to meet expected distribution quotas. Only a few made it to counter displays, while the rest were dumped in the Atlantic Ocean to clear warehouse space for newer models.
- Three other lots – a 1952 Topps Willie Mays #261 PSA Mint 9, a 1947 Jackie Robinson Game-Used Bat, PSA/DNA GU 10 and a 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente #164 PSA Mint 9 card – were in such high demand that they each realized an ultimate sale price of $478,000.
Strategic growth continued as:
- The company expanded its national footprint, opening an office in Palm Beach, Florida, and a full-service showroom in Chicago, Illinois.
- For the first time, Heritage’s clientele now includes more than 1 million online registered bidder-members, with nearly 90,000 new members added in 2016.
- The firm also maintained its online lead, with the total number of unique visitors to HA.com holding steady at nearly twice the combined total number of unique visits the websites of Heritage Auctions’ five closest competing web sites.
- Online sales (reported in early 2016 for 2015) were $344 million – surpassing all other auction houses; 2016 online sales figures are now being compiled and will be released soon.
Heritage Auctions is the largest auction house founded in the United States and the world’s third largest, with annual sales of more than $850 million, and over one million online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and receive access to a complete record of prices realized, with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.