So what’s a sports fan supposed to do when there are no basketball, baseball, hockey or football games for the foreseeable future, or at least none with fans in the stands? Of course you can re-watch games from years ago, but you already know the outcome…is it the same as watching your favorite movie again? (I guess if you love the ending it is.) Furthermore, what are you going to do with your additional disposable income (ha, like that’s a thing these days) now that you won’t be buying your season tickets; could the answer be as easy as buying trading cards and sports memorabilia!? Really, prices have been going crazy this month. Here are a few examples of recent sales and, thanks to an avid fan (thanks again G.B.), a chart of the percentage increase in a few trading card prices since 2010.
First let’s look at some of the sports memorabilia that just sold, starting with the sale of Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl ring from 2016. This ring represents the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history when the Patriots beat the Falcons in overtime with a 34 -28 win (Patriots were down by 25 points late in the third quarter). The Super Bowl ring was part of an ongoing charity auction on the Fanatics.com website to raise money for organizations that are helping feed people during the Covid-19 crisis; 100% of the proceeds from this ring (and all items offered) will go to Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, World Central Kitchen and No Kid Hungry. Bidding started at $75K and ended up with a touchdown, selling for $1.025M!
Another exceptional item was Michael Jordan’s signed, game-worn, sneakers from 1985 that were auctioned on the same day as the final episodes of the ESPN documentary The Last Dance, the story of Michael Jordan’s career. Estimated to make $100-150K, the result was really remarkable as 10 bidders competed and pressed the final price to $560K!
In 2000, the LA Lakers won the NBA Championship, and Kobe Bryant was part of that team, a rising star just 3 years out of high school. Upon winning, Bryant ordered a championship ring for his mom, Pat Bryant. According to the auction house’s description, this ring is exactly the same as the rings all the Lakers players received, only smaller to fit Pat Bryant – usually rings that are made for people other than the players, are slightly different. The ring already had a sales record from 2013 when it sold for slightly over $107K. This time around, with bidding starting at just $15K, it rebounded and sold for $206K.
A few pieces of used clothing made some great prices too. A game-worn jersey belonging to LeBron James, supposedly the only one of his jerseys known to be photo matched to 2 games from his rookie season (2003-04) with the Cleveland Cavaliers, ranked as one of the top lots. Bidding started at an amazing $50K, 24 bids were tossed, and when the buzzer sounded, the final price was $363K. Another highlight in the sale was a game-worn road uniform (jersey and shorts) worn by Michael Jordon on April 13, 1997, as documented by a photo. (Apparently, the shorts from this set had a little more wear and tear as they were photo matched to at least 12 other games). For the set, bidding started at $75K, and when the final shot was taken, the uniform sold for $288K!!
Now onto some trading card results – recent sale prices demonstrate the strength of the card market, and here are just a few examples: In 1933, the Goudey Gum Company, the first company to sell baseball cards with a stick of gum, produced a 240 card set that was called “Big League Chewing Gum.” One of the rarest cards from the set was #106, featuring the retired player Napoleon Lajoie. Lajoie played second base for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Athletics, and the Cleveland Naps between 1896 – 1916, as well as managing the Naps from 1905- 1909. Bidding began at $50K and was a solid hit when it sold for $192K.
Who has unopened boxes of trading cards stored away in their basement – I know we have quite a few, although I am sure they are not worth much. Six unopened boxes of 1986/87 Fleer Basketball cards were found in a storage facility and then offered by a storage liquidator in 2 separate lots consisting of 3 boxes each. According to the lot descriptions, each box might contain Rookie cards for Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Hakeem Olajuwon, and of course, they should all be in mint condition, since they are untouched. Each lot started with a $50K bid and escalated to a final selling price of $264K each…that’s about $204 for each card – based on the fact that there are 36 packs in a box and 12 cards to a pack. I hope it was worth the gamble for the lucky new owner.
But the real MVP of the auction goes to a 2009 Bowman Chrome Signed Rookie Card, with the face of an angel on it…a Los Angeles Angel, center fielder Mike Trout. Trout is an 8-time MLB All-Star, a 3-time American League Most Valuable Player, and a 7-time winner of the Silver Slugger Award. The card received 28 bids, starting at $75K, and one bidder made solid contact as they hit it out of the park with a final bid of $922.5K, just slightly less than Trout’s signing bonus of $1.2M in 2009. Trout is just 28 years old, and signed a 12-year contract extension with the Angels in March 2019 for $426.5M, making him the highest paid baseball player…for now. The MLB is currently in negotiations for players to take salary cuts during Covid-19 and if that happens, and Trout decides he will play this season, his salary for the 2020 season would be in the $6M range (he was set to earn in excess of $33M this year alone) due to the shortened season and cuts.
Below is the chart I mentioned earlier – it has the return on investment of trading card prices (the chart will give more insight as to why those 1986/87 Fleer boxes were so sought-after). And G.B. was kind enough to include returns on a few notable stocks.