Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2021 Issue

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

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

  • Gonnelli:
    Auction 50
    Books, Autographs & Manuscripts
    March 6th-7th 2024
    Gonnelli: Cramer, [Picasso, Chagall , Miró], Trente ans d'activité. Starting price 4800€
    Gonnelli: Futurism
    Gonnelli: Avienus, Opera. 1488. Starting price 1200€
    Gonnelli: Vimont, Relation de ce qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France, en l'année 1642. Starting price 5000€
    Gonnelli: Goedart, Metamorphosis et historia naturalis insectorum. 1662.
    Gonnelli: Il Petrarcha con la spositione di M. Giovanni Andrea Gesualdo.
    Gonnelli: Poblacion, De usu astrolabi compendium.
  • Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] DAVID BURLIUK WITH ORIGINAL DRAWING and Signed twice. David Burliuk Rare ACA Gallery exhibition catalogue, undated. CA$400 – 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] KAWS: COMPANIONSHIP IN THE AGE OF LONELINESS. Text by Margaret Atwood. National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, 2019. $CA400 - 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: SIGNED. LAWRENCE WEINER: POSTERS. Nova Scotia College of Art, Canada,1987. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: WILBUR SMITH: THE DARK OF THE SUN. Heinemann, UK, 1965. Signed First edition. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: ROBERTSON DAVIES: LEAVEN OF MALICE. SIGNED Clark, Irwin, & Co., Canada. 1954. 1st edition. CA$400 – 600
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [THE NOTABLE TRAILS LIBRARY]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: THE TRIAL OF DR. X; ROE V. WADE; THE GALILEO AFFAIR; THE TRIAL OF BERNHARD GOETZ… CA$300 – 500
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [MILITARY FICTION]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: Canada's Royal Military College. REVIEW, THE STONE FRIGATE, A HISTORY OF THE RMC… CA$300 – 400
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [WW1] CANADIAN (C.S.E.F.) SIBERIA 1918-1919 PHOTO ALBUM. With approximately 303 original official war photographs, photo-postcards, and personal photographs. CA$8,000 – 10,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: HANS BELLMER: THE DOLL. 1995, 1st Ed. CA$150 – 300.
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: FAN HO; HONG KONG YESTERDAY. ModernBooks edition, 2006. First edition. 4to. CA$300 – 600.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: TARYN SIMON: AN AMERICAN INDEX OF THE HIDDEN AND UNFAMILIAR. Hatje Cantz, Germany, 2012. Third edition. CA$600 – 1,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: BARBARA KRUGER PICTURE/READINGS. [Self-Published], 1978 First edition. CA$800 – 1,200.
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions