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Kobe Bryant rookie card tempts collector into big bid

OPENING DELAY —Last time out, we made a big deal out of Opening Day 2020, but baseball—like all sports—has been benched by the worldwide story of coronavirus. Collectors continue to trade big-dollar items, but prices feel a little softer, from an anecdotal point of view. For example, the bottom rung of our Top 10 chart is $25,200 compared to $38,200 last time out.

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The top of the chart, however, isn’t far off. The top item two weeks ago was $71,000 compared to $66,866 this time. That’s what one collector paid for a full case of 1996-97 Topps Chrome basketball cards.

The case wasn’t sealed, but it was unopened and had all 20 boxes inside. The thought of pulling just one Mint-condition Kobe Bryant rookie was all the enticement bidders needed. And why not? Just a month ago, we reported on a Bryant rookie (graded 10) that sold for $93,600.

Even amid the darkness of the coronavirus story, there were other markers of collecting interest. Consider the bidding frenzy that pushed a Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps rookie to $34,100. Despite a lower grade (PSA 4), the card drew 148 bids. And a card of Mantle in his prime—a 1958 Topps with a PSA 9 grade—inspired 68 bids, pushing it to the $25,200 price we noted above.

With so much of America in a holding pattern, it remains to be seen whether collectors back off from bidding in the weeks ahead … or go in the opposite direction. The optimists among us just might use the “down time” to flesh out our collections. More to come!

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WAIT FOR IT —Perhaps the most highly anticipated rookie within this year’s baseball crop is Luis Robert of the Chicago White Sox. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound outfielder had a spectacular season in three minor league stints last year, totaling 32 homers and 92 RBI, with 36 steals to boot in 551 total at-bats. Before coronavirus stopped baseball activities, he was hitting .333 in spring training.

Collectors are all-in on the former Cuban star. His 2018 Bowman Chrome is his holy grail so far. Consider:

• In mid-March, we saw an autographed Orange Refractor of Robert’s Bowman Chrome sell for $16,100 on 47 bids. One of only 25 made, it had been graded PSA 10.

• The same day, a 10-grade Gold Refractor of the same card (one of 50 made) sold for $13,100 on 49 bids.

• In early March, a PSA 10 Blue Refractor of the card, one of 150 made, sold for $4,000 on eight bids.

• A Green Refractor graded 9.5, meanwhile, brought $1,500 in a Buy It Now deal. It was one of 99 made.

Now, unfortunately, it’s a waiting game before we get a look at Robert in games that matter. And as Tom Petty once said, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

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A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS —Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway’s name gets a little lost among the hoop heroes commanding attention in the memorabilia market. Between the permanent “hotness” of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant memorabilia, and the evergreen popularity of legends like Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain (among many others), there isn’t a whole lot of air left in the room.

Recently, however, a Penny Hardaway rarity put his name in front of us again: a 1-of-1 Upper Deck MVP Souvenier (sic) card. Some 76 bids sent the card’s price spiking to $15,655.

Created as part of UD’s 1999-2000 set, this rarity features Hardaway’s autograph, to which he added a “1/1” mark and also his uniform number (1, naturally). Complementing the sig: a circular and dimpled piece of a game-used basketball.

At the time the card was issued, 1999, Hardaway was in the prime of his career as the playmaking point guard of the Orlando Magic. Hardaway wound up playing 15 years in the NBA, putting in time with Phoenix, the New York Knicks and Miami. He averaged 15.2 points and 5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game in his career. He was also a standout in the postseason, averaging 20.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 64 games.

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN —Here’s our “next 10” list of items that placed just outside our Top 10 chart:

• $25,000 on 1 bid: 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Authentic LeBron James Rookie Authentics, #1/500, auto (ungraded)

• $24,056 on 59 bids: 2019-20 Panini Optic Ja Morant Superfractor, #1/1, auto (BGS 9.5)

• $23,556 on 43 bids: 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, #1/1, auto patch (Logoman) (ungraded)

• $21,602 on 26 bids:2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Limited Logos Kobe Bryant, #70/75, auto patch (ungraded)

• $20,400 on 138 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 2)

• $20,100 on 41 bids: 1965 Topps Joe Namath (PSA 8)

• $20,100 on 32 bids: 2017 National Treasures Patrick Mahomes II, #33/99, auto patch (BGS 8.5)

• $20,100 on 53 bids: 2009-10 Panini National Treasures Stephen Curry Colossal, #5/5, auto patch (Logoman) (BGS 9.5)

• $19,400 on 42 bids: 2017 National Treasures Patrick Mahomes II, #10/99, auto patch (BGS 9)

• $18,500 on 16 bids:1939 Play Ball Ted Williams (PSA 8)

Worth noting within that group: Joe Willie Namath.

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Namath’s first card, from Topps’s 1965 “tall-boy” set, is a perennial favorite. It shows the prized QB as a baby-faced Jets rookie gripping that classic white-striped AFL football. (And, by the way, look how small the ball looks in his hands.)

The $20,100 selling price of the card above, graded PSA 8, raises an eyebrow. On one hand, it’s half the price of a Namath rookie—also a PSA 8—that sold on eBay for $40,000 in 2016. Another example we noted in 2016 sold for $35,000.

Yet the current price is in line with another PSA 8 Namath rookie that sold for $21,325 in 2018.

On the other hand, the current price is many multiples more than the figure that two Namath 8-grade rookies brought in 2019. Specifically, a Namath rookie with a BVG 8 grade sold for “only” $6,969 on 23 bids in December 2019. And, amazingly, a PSA 8 Namath sold for the bargain-basement price of $3,100 on 20 bids, also in December. That figure wasn’t much higher than what lower-grade Namath rookies are bringing. In February, for example, a PSA 5 Namath rookie sold for $2,700 and a BVG 6 sold for $2,175.

All of these sales show you that auction pricing can have a volatility that’s difficult to project. The Namath price noted here is today’s “going rate” for an 8-grade rookie of the Jets QB. It’s lower than what we’ve seen in past years, so if you’re selling, be realistic. If you’re buying, keep in mind the December 2019 sales we cited above—they show deals can be had.

TOP 10 CHART

3/16/20

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1. $66,866 on 56 bids: 1996-97 Topps Chrome Basketball unopened case (unsealed but with all 20 unopened boxes included)

2. $40,000 on 2 bids: 2017 Panini XR Patrick Mahomes II, #1/1, auto (BGS 9)

3. $34,500 on 40 bids: 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente (PSA 8)

4. $34,100 on 148 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 4)

5. $32,200 on 26 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Kobe Bryant Limited Logos, auto (ungraded)

6. $32,035 on 24 bids: Panini Contenders Optic Rookie Ticket Patrick Mahomes II, auto (ungraded)

7. $26,750 on 1 bid: 1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson (GA 9)

8. $25,754 on 40 bids: 2000-01 Upper Deck Ultimate Signatures Gold Michael Jordan, #/25, auto (PSA 10)

9. $25,601 on 57 bids: Upper Deck Exquisite Kobe Bryant and Brandon Roy Dual NBA Autographed Patches (Logoman), #1/1 (ungraded)

10. $25,200 on 68 bids: 1958 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 9)

Auction of the Week

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Collect Auctions Summer Auction

Collect Auctions bidding ends August 6 and bidders can view each lot on our website at www.collectauctions.net. There are more than 1,000 lots of vintage sports cards and sets; what we believe is the strongest unopened lineup any auction house has ever offered. Bidding ends Thursday, August 6 at 9:00 p.m. CST (10:00 EST).