Three-day sports memorabilia auction scores $33.5M

Michael Jordan’s University of North Carolina jersey from his 1982-83 NCAA Player of the Year season, which sold for more than $1.38 million

Michael Jordan’s University of North Carolina jersey from his 1982-83 NCAA Player of the Year season, which sold for more than $1.38 million

DALLAS – One could say there were millions of reasons why Heritage Auctions’ three-day Spring Sports Catalog Auction was a newsmaker, beginning with the final tally: more than $33.5 million, a new record high for the world’s leading sports auction house.

This new highwater mark, set May 6-8, comes just two months after March’s $32.7-million Platinum Night Sports Auction – and only five months after Heritage’s first $22-million sports auction. In fact, December’s total set what was then the all-time record for any event ever held featuring only sports cards and memorabilia.

It would seem every sports auction now is a best-ever event.

“I am extremely proud of the hard work the team of experts at Heritage Sports put in to this record-breaking auction,” says Chris Ivy, Director of Heritage Sports. “And I am extremely thankful for the thousands of consignors and bidders who continue to entrust us to handle the sale of these precious sports collectibles. The future looks very bright for this hobby as it continues to attract new collectors from around the globe.”

Indeed, more than 3,300 worldwide bidders helped set the latest record during the Spring Sports Catalog Auction, a near-sellout in which saw more than 40 lots among almost 2,900 surpass six figures – chief among them the headline-grabbing sale of Michael Jordan’s University of North Carolina jersey from his 1982-83 NCAA Player of the Year season. That Carolina-Blue-and-white top, the only one ever to come to market, sold for more than $1.38 million.

That amount smashed the previous record for a Jordan jersey set in October, when Heritage Auctions sold a complete, photo-matched Jordan-worn Chicago Bulls uniform from the 1986-87 season for $480,000.

“Over the last several years Heritage has set dozens of world records in the red-hot Michael Jordan collectibles market, and now we’re extremely proud to have shattered the records for a Jordan game-worn jersey,” Ivy says. “As the final price tag proves, this jersey has everything any serious collector could possibly want.”

Two cards in the May 6-8 event likewise realized more than $1 million, among them the 1909-11 T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner graded PSA Fair 1.5, which sold for $2.28 million. As Sports Collectors Daily notes, that’s a new high for the Holy Grail graded below a PSA VG 3.

It’s worth noting, too, that a Wagner-signed ball, circa 1940, more than tripled its pre-auction estimate when it sold for $120,000. Extended bidding on that lot went well into the early morning hours.

The auction’s other seven-figure sale was the latest addition to the list of most covered cards: a 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Championship Ticket. The seemingly ageless quarterback’s card, numbered 34 out of 100 and graded 8.5 by BGS with the autograph receiving a perfect 10, sold for $1.59 million.

And one piece of cardboard came mighty close to crossing the million-dollar mark for the first time: Jackie Robinson’s 1952 Topps card graded PSA Mint 9, which sold last weekend for $960,000. Less than four years ago, that card sold for $72,000.

Hall-of-fame cards featuring Hall of Fame players performed well, too, among them some old favorites, including the two 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle rookies: One graded SGC 9 sold for $690,000, while another graded PSA 8 realized $528,000, slightly above its pre-auction estimate.

1958 Alifabolaget Pele card, graded PSA NM-MT+ 8.5, which sold for $372,000

1958 Alifabolaget Pele card, graded PSA NM-MT+ 8.5, which sold for $372,000

One Mantle that far exceeded its pre-sale estimate was the 1954 Bowman graded SGC Mint 9. There are but three of those known, with none higher; accordingly, it sold in the Spring Sports Catalog Auction for $126,000, twice its estimate. And a signed 1952 Topps Mantle, graded PSA Authentic, likewise exceeded its pre-sale estimate when it realized $216,000. In fact, several signed cards performed exceptionally well in this auction, among them the autographed 1909-11 T206 Polar Bear Ty Cobb (Bat Off Shoulder) graded PSA/DNA Authentic, which brought $96,000, also above its estimate.

Speaking of The Georgia Peach, another extraordinary rarity also hit its pre-auction estimate out of the park: the 1910-11 M116 Sporting Life Ty Cobb Pastel Background graded PSA Mint 9. As there are but two known to exist, and none graded higher, it sold last weekend for $264,000 – which was more than 3.5 times its estimate.

And the only 1948 Leaf Warren Spahn graded at PSA 10 hit a new record when it sold this weekend for $252,000. Three years ago, Heritage sold the lefty’s rookie card for $192,000.

One of the greatest leaps came courtesy the man who made the bicycle kick look easy: soccer great Pele. Only five months ago, Heritage sold his 1958 Alifabolaget card, graded PSA NM-MT+ 8.5 for $132,000, at the time a staggering sum. This weekend saw that previous record was shattered when another 1958 Alifabolaget in the same grade sold for $372,000.

While cards continue to hit towering numbers, memorabilia shone in this sale, as evidenced by the 1958 Willie Mays game-worn San Francisco Giants jersey that sold above estimate for $81,000. This one is an especially significant article: The Say Hey Kid wore it in 1958, his first year in the Bay Area after coming of age in New York City.

The ticket stub, too, proved itself a highly coveted item in this sale, as evidenced by the $44,400 one collector paid for 1962 Wilt Chamberlain 100-Point Game Ticket Stub (PSA Authentic), which came with a piece of the floor from the Hershey Sports Arena. That was more than four times its pre-auction estimate.

But the highest-price stub came from – who else? – Michael Jordan, who signed a 1982 NCAA Finals UNC Tar Heels Championship Ticket Stub following that title game. That little sliver of Carolina Blue sold for $90,000, almost four times its estimate. How appropriate that it came in the very same sale as that record-smashing jersey. Player of the year, indeed, this or any other year.