New York – A brand new Mickey Mantle baseball card sold for $12.6 million on Sunday, the highest price paid for a sports memorabilia in recent years in an exponentially lucrative market.
This rare Mantle card smashes a record just released a few months ago – the shirt worn by Diego Maradona when he scored the controversial “Hand of God” goal at the 1986 Football World Cup is worth $9.3 million Dollar.
It easily topped $7.25 million for a century-old Honus Wagner baseball card that was recently sold in a private sale.
Just last month, a heavyweight boxing belt recovered by Muhammad Ali from 1974’s “Rumble in the Jungle” sold for nearly $6.2 million.
All of this is part of a booming sports collectibles market.
Not only the rarest items have gone up in price, but items that have the potential to collect dust in garages and attics. Many of these items make it to consumer auction sites such as eBay, while others are bid on by auction houses.
Due to its near-perfect condition and legendary theme, the Mantle card is destined to be a bestseller, said Chris Ivy, sports auction director at Heritage Auctions, who was in charge of the bidding.
Some see collectibles as a hedge against inflation over the past few years, while others rekindle childhood passions, he said.
Ivy says savvy investors see inflation coming – and it is. As a result, sports memorabilia becomes an alternative to traditional Wall Street investing or real estate—especially among Gen Xers and older millennials.
“There’s only so much Netflix and Tiger King that people can watch[during the pandemic]. So, you know, they’re getting back into hobbies, and obviously sports collections are part of that,” Ivey said, noting potential sellers calls have increased.
Add in the interest of wealthy overseas collectors and you find a range of factors that make sports collectibles particularly attractive, Ivey said.
“We’ve started to see some growth and some price increases, which has led to some media coverage. I think it’s all built on itself,” he said. “I would say the start of the pandemic has really added fuel to this fire.”
Before the pandemic, the sports memorabilia market was estimated to be worth more than $5.4 billion, according to a 2018 Forbes interview with Collectable.com founder David Yoken.
That market has grown to $26 billion by 2021, according to research firm Market Decipher, which predicts the market will grow astronomically to $227 billion within a decade — in part because so-called NFTs or non-volatile cryptography The rise of alternative tokens, which are digital collectibles with unique data-encrypted fingerprints.
Sports cards are especially in demand as people spend more time at home and have the opportunity to rummage through a potential treasure trove of childhood memories, including old comic books and a small stack of bubblegum cards featuring sports stars.
Stephen Fishler, founder of ComicConnect, says the lure of making money from your childhood basement is irresistible.
“In short, the world of modern sports cards has been crazy,” he said.
Dating back to 1952, the Mantle baseball card is widely regarded as one of the few near-perfect baseball legends.
The auction turned out a handsome profit for New Jersey waste management entrepreneur Anthony Giordano, who bought it for $50,000 at a New York City show in 1991.
“When it hit 10 million, I turned it in. I couldn’t keep my eyes open,” Giordano, 75, said Sunday morning. His sons monitor the auction for him. “They stayed up late this morning and called me to tell me it got where it got.”
The card is one of dozens of sports collectibles up for auction. The items sold for about $28 million in total, according to Derek Grady, executive vice president of sports auctions at Heritage Auctions.
“Sports collectibles are finally getting the investment they deserve,” Grady said. “The best sporting goods are now starting to rival art, rare coins and rare artifacts as a great investment vehicle.”
1956 Triple Crown winner, three-time American League MVP and seven-time World Series champion. The Hall of Famer died in 1995.
“Some people might say it’s just a baseball card. Who cares? It’s just Picasso. For others, it’s just Rembrandt. For some, it’s a work of art,” Oklahoma City John Holden, a professor of sports management law at Maryland State University and an amateur sports card collector.
Like a work of art with no intrinsic value, the value of a sports card lies in the eye of the beholder — or the wallet of a potential bidder, he said.
“Value,” Holden said, “is anything the market is willing to support.”
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