High-grade rookie cards continue to escalate in price. Add some star power to those cards, and prices skyrocket. Exhibit A: The recently concluded Memory Lane Spring Break Auction
A 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle graded PSA 8 (NM/MT) sold for $95,600 May 10 in Memory Lane’s Spring Break Auction. The price was the highest ever attained for a Bowman Mantle rookie card at public auction. Fewer than 50 Bowman Mantles have been graded 8 by PSA, with only nine PSA 9s and one 10 in existence. Just five years ago, the price on a Mantle’s "true" rookie card from his debut season with the New York Yankees in the same grade, was around $20,000.
The rookie companion in the 1951 Bowman set also set a new mark for the grade when a Willie Mays PSA 8 closed at $54,241. The figure, which includes a buyer’s premium, is more than $20,000 higher than the previous records set by Memory Lane just a year ago when two auctions closed at $32,524 and $33,593. In 2013, a PSA 8 Mays sold for $19,881 but before that, sales above $14,000 were rare, with most falling in the $9,000-$12,000 range.
Both cards were part of a high-grade 1951 Bowman set break that generated more than $275,000 in winning bids.
The auction included hundreds of graded, vintage cards and sets including the third-highest-rated 1948 Bowman compilation on PSA’s Set Registry which was also broken and sold for a combined total of more than $135,000. With an 8.86 weighted grading average, the set featured Mint examples of the rookie cards of Stan Musial, Yogi Berra and Warren Spahn. Berra’s rookie card graded PSA 9, sold for $26,549.
In all, auction sales totaled more than $1.6 million.
“The auction was a huge success,” said Memory Lane’s J.P. Cohen. “The market is continuing to be very strong on high-end cards of Hall of Famers and rookies. There were so many record prices in this auction, which is really exciting.”
Multiple records were set for high-end examples from Roberto Clemente’s playing career. Memory Lane sold PSA 9 copies of the 1960, 1965 and 1971 Topps Clemente cards. The 1965 Topps #160 brought an eye-popping $14,129.
A 1932 U.S. Caramel Babe Ruth, graded PSA 8, soared to $32,265. Only two examples of this well-known but very elusive card have ever graded higher.
Collectors of the T206 set usually need one of the four rarest cards in the set but they had the chance to add it in the Spring Break event. A 1.5 (FAIR) example of the Eddie Plank card was offered and sold for $30,449.
The only PSA 9 example of the 1968 Milton Bradley/Topps Nolan Ryan rookie card was also popular with bidders, pushing to $18,184.
Collectors of vintage football cards chased a rare chance to land a complete 1948 Leaf football set. The VG-EX accumulation, including all of the rare single prints, brought $17,440. The seventh-best set of 1964 Philadelphia Gum, the inaugural edition from the NFL’s mid-'60s trading card partner with a 9.006 weighted average, rocketed to $17,440.
Headlining the individual football card sales was a 1958 Topps #62 Jim Brown Rookie, graded PSA 8, with the winning bid at $6,642.
Always popular, unopened vintage material offered in the sale included a 1961 Nu-Card Scoops box which sold for $7,132 and a 1963 Topps Baseball 5 Cent Wax Pack, which was purchased for $2,750.
Memory Lane is still accepting consignments for its annual summer catalog auction. Those who consign items over $2,500 will receive a free week-long pass to the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago. For information on consigning or to receive free auction catalogs, visit the company’s website or call (877) 606-5263.