Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2021 Issue

Another Astonishing Record Price for a Sports Card – This Time Hockey

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The multi-million dollar hockey card (Heritage Auctions photo).

In 2016, a baseball card sold for the astonishing record price of $3.12 million. This wasn't any sports card. It was the Holy Grail of all cards, the circa 1909 Sweet Caporal Cigarettes Honus Wagner card. Johannes Peter Wagner was a great baseball player though few would call him the best ever, above Ruth. Still, its age and rarity was enough to generate a price this high. Poor Honus never made over $10,000 in a season for actually playing the game.

 

Less noticed, but that same year, a record price of $465,000 was paid for a hockey card. A hockey card! Hockey is not the biggest sport south of the 49th parallel, less popular than baseball, football, or basketball. Nonetheless, all types of sports cards were then starting to come into their own, and this was the Holy Grail of hockey cards. It was the O-Pee-Chee rookie card for Wayne Gretzky, the most famous and likely the greatest hockey player ever, in mint condition, grade 10. At the time, it was the only one known to exist. Still, this price tag was a bit surprising.

 

Fast forward to December 2020. Now, two are known to exist. Another grade 10 Gretzky O-Pee-Chee rookie hockey card comes up for sale at Heritage Auctions. It establishes a new record for a hockey card, $1.29 million. How high can they go? We just found out. Considering that previous high, it is beyond astounding. This time a Gretzky grade 10 rookie O-Pee-Chee card sold in a private sale arranged by Heritage. The price was $3.75 million. That is almost three times the price as the record price established for this card just 5 months earlier. That price also exceeds what was the highest price for any kind of sports card just 5 years ago.

 

The buyer and seller have chosen to remain anonymous. Heritage quoted the buyer as saying, “Throughout many years of collecting, this card has always been our 'white whale.' Our family is thrilled to become the new guardians of this world-class hobby treasure.” I would have said, “What was I thinking?”

 

I wonder whether Wayne Gretzky owns one of these himself. Do sports figures collect their own cards? Here is an oddity that makes me wonder. Wayne Gretzy once owned a Honus Wagner card. He paid $451,000 for it in 1991 and sold it in 1995 for $500,000. He probably thought that was a good deal. It wasn't. What is now known as the “Gretzky card” sold in 2007 for $2.8 million.

 

How high can these prices go? Who knows? How high can bitcoin or Tesla stock go? As long as people keep bidding them up, they will go higher. So far this year, cards for all of America's favorite sports, baseball, football, basketball and hockey, have reached record prices. None of these prices was even close to the previous record. A Tom Brady football card sold for $1.32 million, eclipsing the previous record $840,000 for a Patrick Mahomes card. A basketball card for 22-year-old Luca Doncic went for $4.6 million, more than doubling the previous record $1,857,300 for a Giannis Antetokuonmpo card. And, a record for all types of cards was set for a 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card, besting the then record $3.93 million for a Mike Trout card. It sold for $5.2 million. The previous records were set either earlier this year or last year. All of those record holders, either old record or new, besides Gretzy and Mantle, are still active. These aren't historic, Honus Wagner era cards, but mostly very recent ones.

 

You might say this madness has to stop. This is a bubble. Prices must fall back to earth. You are probably right, but we all would have said the same thing a year ago and missed on an opportunity to double our money. Some people say that bitcoin will go to half a million dollars. Others say it will become worthless. Maybe both are right.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Graphic Design<br>May 19, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, <i>Triplex,</i> pencil maquette, 1930. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Claude Fayette Brandon, <i>The Chap Book,</i> circa 1895. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Various Artists, a complete set of <i>Das Plakat,</i> set of 10 hardcover volumes, 1912-21. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Javier Gómez Acebo & Máximo Viejo Santamarta, <i>San Sebastian / XI Circuitto Automovilista,</i> 1935. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Ephraim Moses Lilien, <i>Berliner Tageblatt,</i> circa 1899. $12,000 to $18,000.
  • <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>26th May 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Birds.- Gould (John). <i>The Birds of Great Britain,</i> 5 vol., first edition, [1862-]1873. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Canadiana.- Cockburn (Maj. Gen. James Pattison, 1779-1847), After. [Six Landscape of Quebec City and Six Views of Niagara Falls], 2 suites in 1 vol., comprising 12 aquatints, 1833. £30,000 to £40,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Ulysses,</i> number 218 of 150 copies on verge d'arches, Paris, Shakespeare & Company, 1922. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>26th May 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> first paperback edition, signed by the author, 1997. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Du Maurier (Daphne). <i>Rebecca,</i> first edition, signed presentation inscription from the author to her governess, 1938. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Magna Carta.- An exact copy of King John's Great Charter of 1215, transcribed from the fire damaged but legible manuscript in the Cottonian Library, British Library, J. Pine, 1733. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>26th May 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Woolf (Virginia). <i>Mrs Dalloway,</i> first edition, Hogarth Press, 1925. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Tudor exiles opposed to the Marian regime.- Mary I (Queen of England) Letter signed "Marye the Quene" to Lord Paget, signed at head, titled at head "By the King and Quene", 1556. £8,000 to £10,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> America.- Newfoundland.- Whitbourne (Sir Richard). <i>A discourse and discouery of Nevv-found-land…,</i> second edition, By Felix Kingston, 1622. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>26th May 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Cervantès Saavedra (Miguel de). <i>El Ingenioso Hidalgo Do Quixote de la Mancha,</i> 4 vol., Madrid, Por Don Joaquin Ibarra, 1780. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Stubbs (George). <i>The Anatomy of the Horse,</i> first edition, first issue, Printed by J. Purser, for the Author, 1766. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum, May 26:</b> Cardiology.- Lower (Richard). <i>Tractatus de Corde item De Motu & Colore Sanguinus et Chyli in cum Transitu,</i> first edition, 1669. £5,000 to £7,000.
  • <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>Initial A on vellum, Cologne around 1300. Est: €25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>J. Androuet du Cerceau, <i> Bastiments de France,</i> 1607. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>E. Cerillo, <i>Dipinti murali di Pompei,</i> 1886. Est: €2,500
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>L. de Austria, <i>Compilatio de astrorum scientia,</i> 1489. Est: €9,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>B. Besler, <i>Hortus Eystettensis,</i> around 1750. Est: €50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br><i>PAN,</i> 1895-1900. Est: €15,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>F. Colonna, <i>Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,</i> 1545. Est: €40,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>F. Schiller, <i>Die Räuber,</i> 1781. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>J. Albers, <i>Formulation : Articulation,</i> 1972. Est: €18,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>G. B. Ramusio, <i>Delle navigationi e viaggi,</i> 1556-1613. Est: €14,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>M. Wied Neuwied, <i>Reise in das Innere Nord-America,</i> 1839-41. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b><br>E. Paolozzi, <i>Bunk,</i> 1972. Est: €25,000
  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br> The Library of Henry Rogers<br>Broughton, 2nd Baron Fairhaven<br>Part I<br>18 May 2022</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> John James Audubon and James Bachman. <i>The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.</i> New York: J.J. Audubon, 1845-1848. £150,000 to £250,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Thomas and William Daniell. <i>Oriental Scenery,</i> London, 1795-1807 [but 1841], 6 parts in 3 volumes, folio. £150,000 to £200,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Mark Catesby. <i>The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands...</i> London, 1731-1743, 2 volumes. £100,000 to £150,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Gould and Lear. <i>A monograph of the Ramphastidae,</i> 1854; <i>Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae,</i> 1832. £60,000 to £90,000.

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