A Murderers’ Row of vintage cardboard, led by Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente, pushed Heritage Auctions’ latest Winter Sports Card Catalog Auction past the $10.1-million mark over the two-day event. But the legendary sluggers weren’t alone atop the Jan. 26-27 hits list as more than 2,300 bidders worldwide also staked their claims to some of the most coveted football, basketball and hockey cards ever offered. Among the notable offerings from the nearly sold-out auction: a vending box of first-series 1959 Topps football cards that trampled pre-auction expectations and what’s now the world’s most valuable 1968 Joe Namath card.
“Numerous records were once again achieved during last week’s event, and it’s always a thrill to see which ones become collectors’ latest favorites,” says Chris Ivy, Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions. “Some you know will top the list, like the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle – especially one of the very few signed by The Mick. Others, like that vending box of football cards or the PSA Gem Mint 10 1973 Roberto Clemente that became the first to crack six figures, remind us why we do this: because it’s just so much fun.”
The two-day affair proved an exhilarating run-up to next month’s Winter Platinum Night Catalog Auction, which is likewise full of historic cardboard alongside some of sports’ most significant game-worn, game-used memorabilia, much of it signed.
Speaking of: Alongside a 1952 Topps Mantle graded Near Mint-Mint 8 by SGC, which sold for $600,000, this auction also featured one of fewer than 10 ’52 Mantles autographed by The Commerce Comet. The card itself is graded a PSA Good 2, but its true value could be found in the perfect autograph that drove its final price to a staggering $288,000.
Not far behind was an even rarer card: a 1952 Topps Jackie Robinson signed by baseball’s color barrier-breaker. PSA counts more than 1,300 unsigned Robinsons from this year in its population report, but the Brooklyn Dodgers’ infielder signed only six. And of those, only one is graded higher than the PSA Very Good+ 3.5 that realized $216,000 in this auction.
That was only slightly less than the $228,000 one collector paid for the 1951 Bowman Willie Mays rookie card graded PSA Near Mint-Mint 8. The card’s scarcity is likewise unparalleled, as only nine unqualified examples have been graded higher.
It was only a matter of time before another of baseball’s great rarities broke the $100,000 mark: the 1973 Topps Roberto Clemente graded PSA Gem Mint 10. The card itself isn’t particularly hard to find; after all, there are some 6,300 in PSA’s population report. But only seven have been awarded that Perfect 10. One of the Lucky Seven sold in 2021 for $38,425.20. Less than two years later, this one sold for $105,000 to shatter that previous highwater mark.
Another Clemente likewise toppled its previous record, when a 1971 Topps card featuring the late, great Pittsburgh Pirate graded PSA Mint 9 realized $66,000 – or $49,200 more than it sold for in July 2018.
That signed 1952 Mantle wasn’t the only Mantle cardboard to surpass expectations: A 1958 Topps Mickey Mantle All Star card graded PSA Mint 9 sold during the two-day affair for $63,000. That price shouldn’t surprise, as there are no examples of that card that have ever graded higher.
That’s about what a 1953 Topps Whitey Ford graded PSA Mint 9 used to sell for –$9,000, its price in November 2018. But during this auction, a different example of that Ford card – the highest graded example from that stunning collection – sold for $87,000. Yet another record realized.
That brings us to one of only four known 1968 Topps Joe Namath card graded PSA Gem Mint 10. In the past, this was a card that used to sell for a few hundred dollars in mint and near-mint condition. But collectors tussled over this prized rarity, driving Broadway Joe’s final price to $46,800. Only his 1965 rookie cards, and the only PSA Gem Mint 10 Namath from the ’70 set, have ever sold for more.
Another standout from this auction was the 1959 Topps Football (First Series) vending box filled with cards tightly bound with brown strips of paper. Heritage had never before offered this extraordinary rarity, which meant there was nothing to compare it to; hence, the $8,000 pre-auction estimate. Significant interest in this auction first-timer drove the bidding into six-figure territory, enough to generate media interest – and a final price of $117,000.
Hockey cards, too, scored high on the six-figure list in this event, with a 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card graded PSA Mint 9 realizing $156,000. Always a great one from The Great One.
Click here for complete results from the Jan. 26-27 Winter Sports Card Catalog Auction.