Sports Collectibles Market Off to Hot Start in 2019

A Michael Jordan card recently set the record for the highest price ever paid for a basketball card on eBay.

Sports Collectibles Market Off to Hot Start in 2019

2019 is less than four months old. Yet the sports collectibles world has already seen several high-profile auction results. To no one’s surprise, the names included on the list are giants of the sports world including Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, and Wilt Chamberlain to name a few. Here is a detailed look at items that have rocked the sports collectibles world so far in 2019.

  1. 1997-98 Fleer Metal Universe Precious Metal Gem Green – $350,100

When this product was originally released, the sports card landscape was a much different place than it is today. Autographed cards and those containing swatches of game-worn uniforms were the exceptions and not the norm. In addition, trading card manufacturers began issuing parallel and insert cards with contrived scarcity.

The Michael Jordan card shown above is one of just 10 that were produced. Despite professional grading company designating it as being authentic but altered, the card recently set the record for the highest price ever paid for a basketball card on eBay. The auction ended on February 20th of this year for $350,100.

It’s remarkable to think that packs of this product, when originally released, over 20 years ago, cost a meager $2.49. That’s some incredible ROI!

  1. Babe Ruth’s 1932 New York Yankees Contract – $295,531

At the height of the great depression, New York Yankees legend, Babe Ruth, was asked to take a $5,000 pay cut for the 1932 season. It was the first time in Ruth’s illustrious career that Ruth had ever taken a pay cut. RR Auctions of Boston recently sold the original contract signed by Ruth for the impressive sum of $295,531.

The original contract signed by Ruth at the height of the depression, showing a pay cut, sold for almost $300,000.

  1. Lou Gehrig Game-Worn New York Yankees Baseball Cap Circa 1929-1932 – $312,000

This game-worn cap of the Iron Horse came with ironclad provenance. The beautifully conditioned cap was willed by Gehrig’s widow to a close family friend in the 1950’s. The game-worn Gehrig cap was certified by MEARS, one of the industry’s leading authenticators of game-used/worn memorabilia. Chris Ivy, Heritage’s director of sports auctions said, “It’s the finest condition Gehrig cap that’s ever come to market. The condition on it is just astounding. It pretty much looks exactly like it did when Gehrig wore it in the ’30s.”

The provenance, certification, condition, and fevered bidding combined to create the perfect storm. In the end, the final price of $312,000 blew away the pre-auction estimate of $200,000

This game-worn cap of the Iron Horse blew away the pre-auction estimate of $200,000, selling for $312,000.

  1. Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket (Rookie Autographed) – $400,100

At this point, regardless of your feelings for the New England Patriots, there is little room for argument that Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever play in the National Football League. Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl victory over the Rams this past season. It was his sixth Super Bowl Championship, the most of any player in the history of the NFL.

His long list of accolades, awards, and accomplishments helped propel this card to a record-setting price of $400,100. It is the most ever paid for a modern era trading card.  It sold through PWCC on eBay and garnered 118 bids before the auction closed on February 25th.

Forbes confirmed that the card was owned by former NFL lineman and noted card collector/investor/dealer Evan Mathis. Collectors might remember that Mathis was also the person that sold the Mint condition 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card last year for $2.88M.

This Tom Brady card went for a record-setting price of $400,100. It is the most ever paid for a modern era trading card.

  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Collection – $2.9M

Sometimes the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Or so it seems with the final sale of NBA Hall of Famer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s personal memorabilia collection. Jabbar originally made the decision to sell his collection of items accrued throughout his NBA career in 2016. Included in the treasure trove were championship rings, MVP trophies, game-worn jerseys, and other items.

Consigned to Goldin Auctions, this final installment included some of the most high-profile items. When the final gavel dropped, the collection garnered a total sale price of $2.9M. Individual highlights and their realized prices included:

  • 1987 NBA championship ring: $398,937
  • 1985 NBA championship ring: $343,700
  • Game-used, signed, and inscribed Spalding basketball from final NBA points (still standing record of 38,387): $270,050
  • 1980 NBA championship ring: $245,500
  • 1988 NBA championship ring: $245,500

From Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s personal memorabilia collection, the game-used, signed, and inscribed Spalding basketball from final NBA points sold for $270,050.

There are several factors that have contributed to the current bull market being experienced in the hobby. The strong economy is one reason for some of the exorbitant prices being realized for sports collectibles. Increased disposable income, soaring values, and high-profile investors hedging their bets against future inflation are other factors influencing the market. Regardless of the reasons, the market is red hot and shows no signs of slowing down.


Rob Bertrand has been an active collector of sports cards and memorabilia for more than 25 years. His involvement in the hobby community is well documented, having been involved with multi-media content development for several sports collectibles websites. Currently the Senior Marketing Manager for Sports & Entertainment at the hobby distributor GTS Distribution, he is also the co-host of the sports collectibles hobby’s only live streaming and nationally broadcast web show, Go GTS Live – The Hobby’s Web Show. He is the author of the highly respected and trafficked blog, Voice of the Collector and you can follow him on Twitter @VOTC. A dealer himself, Rob runs an online business through eBay, and is frequently asked to consign collections.

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