BANKING ON BURROW — If you haven’t followed college football in recent years, or even if you have, do yourself a favor: Go to YouTube and search “Joe Burrow Heisman highlights.” Those 15 minutes are just the tip of the iceberg. Burrow appears to be some combination of Unitas, Brady, Favre, Manning and Montana, with some Namath thrown in for good measure.
The No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft this year, Burrow is being counted on to revive the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense. If he does half as well in Cincinnati as what he showed at LSU last season, the Bengals will be happy. As a senior, he threw 60 touchdown passes and ran for five more, passed for 5,671 passing yards and completed 76 percent of his passes.
Collectors have been on the hunt for Burrow-bilia for a while. The inventory has been skimpy compared to what it’ll become in the years ahead. For now, collectors are paying impressive sums for whatever they find. Examples of recent prices on eBay:
• $3,050 on 37 bids for a 2020 Panini Black Ice Prizm Draft Picks card of Burrow paired with his wide receiver teammate Justin Jefferson. This 1-of-1 “College Ties” card was signed by both players.
• $2,550 on 10 bids for a 2020 Panini Prizm Draft Gold Vinyl autographed card (#4/5, ungraded).
• $2,025 on 49 bids for a Gold Prizms version of the same card (#10/10, ungraded).
• $910 on 32 bids for a 2020 Leaf Ultimate Draft Future Stars card, a 1-of-1 issue that gives us a good look at his abbreviated autograph (a not-very-legible “Joey B”).
In a sign of things to come, an auction listing of a team-signed LSU helmet attracted 94 bids and sold for $1,225. Another sold for $1,200 in a Buy It Now transaction.
THE MIGHTY BRONKO —From a future NFL star, Burrow, to an early legend whose first name was Bronislaw. We’re talking, of course, about Bronko Nagurski. (If that’s not the best name ever for a football player, we don’t know what is.)
We mention Nagurski because of the sale of a real rarity—his 1935 National Chicle card. A bidding war erupted over a Nagurski card that soared to $26,255. Like the LSU helmet noted above, the card drew 94 bids.
PSA calls Nagurski’s 1935 National Chicle “the most valuable football card in the hobby.” The company’s population report shows only one with a grade of 9; PSA values it at $750,000. The card rarely turns up and when it does, it’s usually graded in the 3, 4 or 5 range. So the example on eBay—even though ungraded—still had collectors sweating to reel it in.
Nagurski, after starring on the college gridiron at Minnesota, signed with Chicago in 1930 for $5,000. A two-way player listed at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, he led the Bears to NFL titles in 1932 and 1933. Nagurski was known to be a bulldozer of a fullback and a brick wall on defense. As the Pro Football Hall of Fame notes, he was “never fancy—he just ran straight ahead, over and through the opposition. Although he’s best remembered for his bull-like running, he had no peer as a blocker, and his tackling was as effective as any the game has seen. He was the complete player.”
The reverse side of Nagurski’s National Chicle card reminds us he was also a pro wrestler and a tireless worker: “A product of the wheat farm country, he still works the soil between action on the football field and professional wrestling mat.”
DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH —Remember that era in the hobby when manufacturers seemed to print enough sports cards to stock up every man, woman and child in America? It was the late 1980s and early 1990s—“the overproduction years.” Today, a steady stream of people who don’t follow this hobby are pulling those cards out of closets and thinking, “I’ve got something valuable here!” In most cases, not really. But there are always diamonds in the rough. Here are some examples to keep you hunting through those 1,000-card lots from the era:
• 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey:This is the most well-known card of the era—the one that launched Upper Deck. Griffey was No. 1 in the set, and his card became an instant lure and a pricey item for collectors. As the years went on, and as Griffey’s long career wound down, the card slumped in value a bit. It rebounded when Jr. got his ticket punched for the Hall of Fame, but it still feels undervalued, typically selling between $1,000 and $2,000. Occasionally, you’ll see one spike upward, as in mid-April, when a BGS 10 example sold for $4,469 on 23 bids. But more typical selling prices, per recent eBay auctions, are about a quarter of that. We saw auctions for Griffey’s 1989 Upper Deck close in the past month at prices of $1,625 on 50 bids, $1,550 on 29 bids, and $1,489 on 40 bids, all for PSA 10 cards.
By the way, Griffey’s lower-impact 1989 Fleer card has been pushing past $1,000 lately. One example reached $1,177 on 47 bids, another landed at $1,136 on 30 bids. Both were graded 10 by PSA.
• 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken:Speaking of Fleer’s grey and white-pinstriped 1989 set, people still pay a premium for the Bill Ripken card in the set. However, it’s not the variation showing the well-known F-bomb written in Sharpie on the knob of his bat. It’s the version showing a white scribble mark obscuring the profanity. Two PSA 10 specimens of the white-out Ripken card recently drew prices of $960 (12 bids) and $828 (19 bids).
• 1990 Topps Frank Thomas error card:If the Big Hurt’s name is missing from the front of this card, you’ve got something. In late April, one such example sold for $6,552 on 27 bids.
• 1990 Score Supplemental Emmitt Smith:The Cowboy great’s Score rookie regularly sells for hundreds, if in top condition. One example in late April, a PSA 10 specimen, went for $975 in a Buy It Now deal. Two others graded PSA 10 fetched prices of $920 on 26 bids and $905 on 36 bids.
Pop us a note at the email address on page 12 and describe yourfavorite diamonds in the rough from the late 1980s and early 1990s.
ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN —Here’s a look at the 10 next-highest prices outside our Top 10, during the past two weeks. Of special note: Michael Jordan’s 1986-87 Fleer Sticker, graded PSA 10, is now selling in the price range—upwards of $20,000—that his base card from the set was drawing just two and three years ago. We’re not sure how much higher it can go—it’s a sticker!—but its age and Jordan’s status make it appealing. (Just don’t peel it if you’ve got one!)
• $33,655 on 68 bids: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (BGS 9)
• $32,123 on 48 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Dwyane Wade, #78/99, auto patch (PSA 9)
• $28,877 on 49 bids: 2017 Bowman Chrome Ronald Acuna Orange Refractor, #11/25, auto (BGS 9.5)
• $28,600 on 15 bids: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Xfractor, #125/225, auto (PSA 10)
• $26,255 on 94 bids: 1935 National Chicle Bronko Nagurski (ungraded, SGC authenticated)
• $25,600 on 5 bids: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket (BGS 9)
• $25,600 on 45 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Authentic LeBron James Rookie Authentics, #48/500, auto (BGS 9.5)
• $24,799 on 18 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Stephon Marbury Jersey Patch, #1/1, auto patch (ungraded)
• $24,700 on 43 bids: 1986 Topps Jerry Rice (PSA 10)
• $24,601 on 46 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Sticker Michael Jordan (PSA 10)
TOP 10 CHART
1. $121,100 on 65 bids: 2003-04 Exquisite Collection Michael Jordan Limited Logos, #35/75, auto patch (BGS 9.5)
2. $90,100 on 28 bids: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Gold Refractor, #12/50, auto (BGS 9.5)
3. $80,008 on 29 bids: 2019 Topps Dynasty Mike Trout, #1/5, auto patch from 5/17/17 game (ungraded)
4. $51,201 on 74 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Limited LeBron James, Rookie Authentics #/50, auto (PSA 9)
5. $41,400 on 62 bids: 1966 Topps Bobby Orr (SGC 9)
6. $38,988 on 50 bids: 2013-14 Panini National Treasures Giannis Antetokounmpo Gold, #17/25, auto patch (ungraded)
7. $36,221 on 22 bids: 2004-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Yao Ming Number Pieces, #11/11, auto (BGS 8.5)
8. $36,100 on 72 bids: 2017 Panini Contenders Patrick Mahomes II Championship Ticket, #1/5, auto (BGS 9)
9. $35,900 on 54 bids: 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Luka Doncic, #72/99, auto patch (BGS 9)
10. $35,300 on 64 bids: 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant Dual Scripted Swatches, auto patch, #3/5 (ungraded)