Sports Collectibles News & Notes, November 2018

In late September of this year, this Gem Mint condition card sold on eBay for a remarkable $125,200.

The crazy world of sports collectibles is frequently referred to by participants simply as “The Hobby.”  The all-encompassing and vast nature of the sports collectibles market means that there is always something newsworthy happening that will be of interest to collectors. This month is no different as several high-profile companies within the hobby have made notable announcements, and one unsuspecting collector gets justice.

Grading & Authentication News

PSA Reaches New Heights

Joe Orlando, CEO of Collectors Universe, the parent company for leading grading and authentication company, Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) announced through Twitter that, “PSA reported another all-time record quarter (July-September). Roughly 572,000 collectibles were processed in that 3-month period, (resulting in $6.1M in revenue), but we have plenty of work to do as submission pace is unprecedented and adding capacity is a priority.”

SGC Offers A Cut Above

Another leader in the sports collectibles market that specializes in grading and authentication is Sports Card Guaranty Company (SGC). The company recently announced a new and somewhat controversial service offering. The story, published on the company’s blog, states that SGC will now provide a professional, factory-quality cutting process for uncut sheets.

1997 Topps Reggie Jackson proof card cut from an uncut factory sheet and graded by SGC.

The practice of cutting cards from uncut factory sheets and submitting them for grading has been around for a long time. The hope is that careful cutting may result in a higher grade than that of the same card that was pulled from a trading card pack. The fact that a grading company would now offer this “service” is where the controversy comes into play.

The underlying question is, should a company whose job it is to provide a numerical grade on a 1-to-10, point scale for surface, corners, edges and centering, be influencing these very factors by cutting and then grading the very same cards? As with anything, collectors and the marketplace will ultimately determine the worth and demand for such a service.

Auction News

Babe Ruth, Still the King

Babe Ruth signed baseball with autograph sells for $144K at auction.

Robert Edwards Auction completed its 2018 Fall event with some truly impressive realized prices. However, none were greater than the sale of one of the highest-graded Babe Ruth single-signed baseballs known to the hobby. Despite Ruth being a willing and accommodating signer, demand continues to outweigh supply. It’s the primary reason that the signature of the Sultan of Swat continues to be one of the most forged autographs to this day. While authentic signed examples of Ruth baseballs are far from being considered rare, the number with a quality signature on a nearly unblemished league-era bar, certainly are scarce. The factors combined to see a final sale price of $144,000.

Rarity Trumps Condition

A rare T206 Ty Cobb portrait card with a red background sold for $108,000.

Condition, condition, condition, the collector’s mantra equivalent to the old real estate adage. However, when it comes to early 20th century tobacco cards, rarity can be even more of an influencing factor of price than condition. This fact played out in another lot from Robert Edwards Auction with the sale of a rare T206 Ty Cobb portrait card with a red background. This variation of the card has just 24 known examples. Despite its rough condition, resulting in a grade of PSA 1 (Poor), that didn’t stop the card from garnering 31 bids and selling for an impressive $108,000.

Topps Opens “The Vault”

The 1980 Topps Scoring Leaders Basketball Card is the defacto rookie card for two of the greatest players to ever hit the hardwood – Larry Bird and Erving “Magic” Johnson” (photo at top). Neither player had a traditional, solo rookie card in that year’s set. In addition, the card was printed with factory perforations allowing kids to (gasp) separate the card into three smaller, individual cards. (The third part of the card showcases the already established ABA/NBA legend Julius Irving, A.K.A. Dr. J.)

In late September of this year a Gem Mint condition copy sold on eBay for a remarkable $125,200. It is one of the highest prices ever paid for a basketball card.

1980 Topps Scoring Leaders – Bird, Magic, Dr J 4-Color Mask Negative.

Now, the card’s original manufacturer, Topps, is selling a key component in the card’s production, its 4-color mask negative. The item is part of the legendary Topps Vault, which contains everything from original photographs, printing plates, signed contracts and many more, unique one-of-a-kind items. The color separation mask negatives are used in the printing process. Four different colors: red, blue, black and yellow are printed resulting in the final product. Although this production item is B&W in color, it rendered the yellow tones in the actual finished card. It sold on eBay for $4,161 garnering 63 bids from 17 different bidders.

Crime News

Buyer Beware, Especially Online

The Associated Press reported that Thomas Beatty Jr. a 45-year old resident of Omaha, Nebraska has been sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $142,000. In addition, Beatty Jr., must serve three years of supervised release after leaving prison. The sentence was the result of having plead guilty to mail fraud and money laundering in a scam where Beatty knowingly sold reprints of valuable sports cards as vintage originals. Included in the bogus sale were two cards of former New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle, one of football Hall of Famer, Joe Namath of the New York Jets and one of basketball pioneer Bill Russell.


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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