It’s a ritual as old as time, watching Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Hank Aaron set records every time they step up to the auction block. Heritage Auctions’ Winter Platinum Night Sports Auction wrapped early Monday morning, and by the time the last bid rolled in, the nearly sold-out auction realized $22,291,645. More than 2,800 bidders help set new record highs for some of sports’ most coveted collectibles – cards, photos, bats and jerseys and other tools of the trade.
“You never know what bidders are going to respond to, and this weekend we had a significant number of new records, some of which took us by surprise,” says Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage. “But that’s the beauty – and thrill – of auctions: Every piece gets its day in the sun.”
Look no further than the auction’s top lot: a 1916 M101-4 Sporting News Babe Ruth rookie card graded SGC NM 7, which sold for $1,770,000. That’s the highest amount ever paid for an SGC-graded Ruth rookie. A photo of Ruth from the same era – when he was a scrawny Red Sox pitcher, not yet the brawny, mythic masher – sold for $468,000, a new record for a PSA/DNA Type I photo of Ruth.
Ruth wasn’t the only New York Yankees legend to hit it out of the park over the weekend: One of only 10 examples of Mickey Mantle’s 1968 Topps card graded PSA Gem Mint 10 smashed its $200,000 presale estimate to realize a staggering $510,000. That’s more than double the highest price ever paid for this stunning cardboard marking Mantle’s final season in the sun.
The pride of the Yankees was on full display throughout this auction as other pinstripers’ pieces realized slugged their way past the half-million mark: a 1952 Topps Mantle graded PSA NM-MT 8 realized $1,095,000, and the only known 1948 Joe DiMaggio jersey sporting a black armband in honor of Ruth sold for $564,000.
Hank Aaron also hammered home a few records over the weekend: A slab of Adirondack 63A Aaron used in the 1961 All-Star game sold for $264,000, the most anyone has ever paid for one of his game-used bats. This one was extraordinary, too, as Aaron gifted the prized lumber to a young fan who came to the game wearing a “Henry Aaron” T-shirt.
The game-used bat wasn’t the only Aaron item to rack up record numbers: A 1968 Topps Aaron card graded PSA Gem Mint 10 sold for $174,000.
Also shattering pre-auction expectations was a complete set of PSA-graded 1953 Topps baseball cards, a Murderers’ Row of offerings so exceptional it’s ranked No. 4 on the PSA Set Registry. The collection, which counts among its lot 91 cards graded PSA Mint 9, sold for $705,000.
Ty Cobb likewise slid spikes up into the pile of record-setters over the weekend when the George Peach’s 1911 M116 Sporting Life card with the blue background graded PSA NM-MT 8 sold for $174,000.
A game-used and signed bat from Ken Griffey Jr.’s rookie season of 1989 also sold for a record price: $50,400. But Ken Jr. and Sr. are responsible for one of the auction’s biggest surprises, too, when a Mariners dugout lineup card from Sept. 14, 1990 – featuring back-to-back dingers from father and son – shattered its pre-auction estimate of $8,000 to realize a breathtaking $93,000.
This auction also saw a record price for a graded Sports Illustrated: The April 13, 1964, issue with Sandy Koufax on the cover sold for $32,400, befitting its CGC 9.8 grade. Not only does it feature a stunning rendering of The Left Arm of God, but it’s the highest graded example out there with a population of just one.
Some significant football pieces also tackled the record books during the Winter Platinum Night Sports Auction, chief among them the centerpiece of the James Harrison Collection: the jersey worn by the Pittsburgh Steelers great in Super Bowl XLIII, when he picked off Kurt Warner and returned the so-called “Immaculate Interception” 100 yards for the game’s most storied defensive touchdown. It shattered pre-auction estimates to sell for $216,000. The ball itself realized $126,000.
In an auction that included a photo-matched, game-worn and signed 2010 Tom Brady New England Patriots jersey (which sold for $336,133.20), no football jersey received more interest than the San Francisco 49ers jersey Colin Kaepernick wore in the 2013 NFC Divisional Game. Kaep’s signed jersey, which he sported on two magazine covers after that record-setting game, was estimated to sell for $40,000. But bidders tussled over the 49ers jersey well into Sunday morning, eventually driving its final price to $174,000.
Another item that captured collectors’ attention was Michael Jordan’s exceedingly 1996 Upper Deck U.S. Olympic Champions “Reflections of Gold” autograph card graded PSA EX-MT+ 6.5, Auto 10. There are but four of these in the entire PSA population, which explains why collectors put up a fight over this reflective rarity that eventually sold for $210,000.
Click here for complete results from the Winter Platinum Night Sports Auction.