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August Online Auctions Heat Up

By Larry Canale

BID FLURRIES: Typically, we see the items listed in our Top 10 draw between 25 and 50 bids. In August, though, we saw a host of bidding wars that inspired 60, 70, 80 or more bids. Consider:

  • The 1952 Mickey Mantle in the top spot, for example, had 142 bids. Its impeccable condition — PSA 8 NM/MT — clearly had high-end collectors salivating.
  • The Ronald Acuna 2017 Bowman Chrome in the No. 3 spot had 93 bids. Interestingly, that auction closed a day after the young Braves outfielder was pulled from a game because he didn’t run out a fly ball.
  • The ’52 Mantle in the No. 4 spot — this one graded PSA 4 VG-EX — inspired 70 bids.
  • The 2009 Bowman Sterling Mike Trout card in the No. 7 spot had 66 bids.
  • The Luka Doncic National Treasures card in the No. 9 spot had 64 bids.

Clearly, the summer heat stirred the high-end market into a bit of a frenzy.

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The Top 10 Online Auctions

  1. $489,300: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 8)
  2. $82,600: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Gold Refractor, #32/50, auto (BGS 9.5, auto 10)
  3. $47,356: 2017 Bowman Chrome Ronald Acuna Orange Refractor, #4/25, auto (BGS 10, auto 10)
  4. $40,109: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 4)
  5. $39,003: 1963 Topps Pete Rose (PSA 9)
  6. $38,108: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 4)

  7. $27,600: 2009 Bowman Sterling Mike Trout Prospects, auto (BGS 10, auto 10)
  8. $25,400: 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan (PSA 9)

  9. $25,100: 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Gold Luka Doncic, #7/10, auto patch (BGS 9.5)
  10. $23,877: 1957 Topps John Unitas (BVG 9)


ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Among the items that placed outside our Top 10 was a rarity we haven’t seen in these parts — a 1908 Ty Cobb postcard catalogued as PC770. It carries a grade of SGC 3 VG, but it scores well in some key areas. Judging by the images appearing with the eBay listing, its two photographs are crisp and well-preserved. Plus, it boasts clean surfaces and strong card stock. And, importantly, it’s an unused postcard, so there are no markings. Depressing the grade: “uniformly worn corners” along with “modest edge chipping and paper loss,” according to the description from seller PWCC.

The front of the card features photos of Cobb in uniform (that distinctive batting pose) and in suit and tie. Underneath both is this bit of boxed text: 

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TYRUS R. COBB, C.F. Detroit Americans, Champion Batter American League. Born at Royston, Ga., Dec. 18, 1886. Entered professional ball in 1905 in Augusta, Ga., and joined Detroit in 1906.

The reverse contains just the words “Post Card” and a rule line separating the message and address areas.

The PC770 Cobb sold for $20,663, putting it just behind a top-condition Rickey Henderson rookie card. Notably, those two legends are two of the top four stolen base leaders of all time. Henderson had 1,406 and Cobb 897. (In between them are Lou Brock at 938 and Billy Hamilton, who played in the 1890s, at 914.)

The full list of our “next 10”:

  • $22,837: 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson (PSA 10)
  • $20,663: 1908 PC770 American League Postcard Ty Cobb (SGC 3)
  • $20,597: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Refractor, #187/500, auto (PSA 10)
  • $20,300: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 2.5)
  • $20,050: 1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson (PSA 7)
  • $20,000: 1996-97 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant Refractor (PSA 10)
  • $18,688: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Refractor, #24/225, auto (BGS 9.5)
  • $18,100: 2009 Bowman Sterling Mike Trout Black Refactor, #/25, auto (BGS 9.5)
  • $17,399: 1954 Topps Hank Aaron (SGC 8)
  • $14,445: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 2) UNITAS REPEATS: For the second straight edition, Johnny Unitas is in our Top 10 chart. Last ti me out, a PSA 8.5 specimen of his highly sought rookie card, a 1957 Topps, brought $26,605 on 33 bids. This time, it’s a BVG 9 example of the same card that landed on our list, selling for $23,877 on 53 bids.

The prices reflect some momentum. Consider that earlier this summer, in June, another PSA 8.5 example of Unitas’s rookie card sold for $16,177 — more than $10,000 less than the 8.5 that sold in August. Dropping down to a grade of 8, we saw Unitas rookies sell for prices between $4,500 and $6,000. Perhaps today’s lights-out passing game has collectors pining for the NFL’s golden era, when football’s best passers practiced quality but not necessarily quantity.

GO WEST: You don’t see a whole lot of 1961-62 Fleer hoop cards in 9-grade condition, but when they do turn up, they draw big prices. Consider the Jerry West rookie that sold in August for $13,5000. Because of its PSA 9 grade, it sold for more than three times the price ($4,150) of a PSA 8 West rookie listed in July.

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The card, #43 in that classic Fleer set, reflects West’s stellar rookie season in the NBA. In 1960-61, he averaged 17.6 points per game, along with 7.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists, for the Los Angeles Lakers.

JORDAN PATCH RARITY: Usually there’s at least one Michael Jordan Fleer rookie card on our chart, but this time out … nothing. So let’s take the opportunity to show you a Jordan rarity that made some noise.

Heavy competition pushed the price of a rare MJ insert — a 2007-08 Upper Deck All-Star card — to $11,200. The mid-August auction inspired an amazing 145 bids. Its major appeals? For starters, the card is from a very limited edition: It’s marked #15/15. For another, it includes a gold autograph. For further appeal, it includes an NBA “Logoman” patch housed in a star-shaped window.

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(The NBA’s distinctive logo, by the way, was inspired by a photo of Jerry West, the original designer, Alan Siegel, has said. The league, however, hasn’t officially verified the connection, preferring not to equate its brand to any individual player.)

THE ORIGINAL HR DERBY: A long time ago, before the current All-Star Week spectacle that is the Major League Home Run Derby, baseball had a much different version of the event. It was a short-lived (one season) but charming made-for-TV competition pitting one slugger against another each week.

Taped in December 1959, "Home Run Derby" was televised in crisp black-and-white in 1960. Alas, it lasted only one season, at least in part because host Mark Scott died suddenly of a heart attack just after the series finished airing in July 1960. The producers decided to cancel the show instead of replacing him.

You can find episodes of the series on YouTube; they’re marked by Scott’s play-by-play, frequent reminders of the rules and innocuous small talk with the competitors.

There aren’t many traces of the show around, but thankfully, a 20-card set issued at the time helped to immortalize "Home Run Derby." The cards aren’t easy to find, but they do show up. In August on eBay, for example, a Mickey Mantle Derby card went on the block at eBay. Graded PSA 3, it sold for $3,318. Two months earlier, a Willie Mays Derby card graded PSA 7 fetched $5,500. And in July, PSA 8 examples of Ken Boyer and Jim Lemon Derby cards brought $3,500 each.