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2019 was a very good year for online card auctions

Our Online Auctioneer Larry Canale recaps the biggest sellers of the year

THE BIG BOYS — “Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast,” as Bob Dylan wrote in “You’re a Big Girl Now.” As if we needed any reminders of how fleeting time can seem, here we are in the year 2020. What happened to the 1990s, and 1980s, and 1970s…?

So with the turn of another calendar year, we take a peek backwards at the biggest-selling items we tracked in online auctions. Our Top 10 list of 2019 is occupied by the big boys of the sports memorabilia—the names you’d expect.

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Tom Brady represents the gridiron—three times, or almost one-third of the year’s Top 10. All three Brady entries were 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Rookie Ticket autographed cards (not to be confused with his not-quite-as-scarce Rookie Ticket variation, minus the word “Championship”).

From the hardwood floor, we see LeBron James (twice) and Michael Jordan. And from the baseball diamond are names from four distinct generations: Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Mike Trout and Derek Jeter. In fact, topping our year-end list is a rookie card of—surprise!—Mantle in crazy-good condition.

(A year ago, in reporting on 2018’s top-selling items, Mantle showed up not in the No. 1 slot, but at No. 2. A Mantle 1952 Topps card graded PSA 7.5 sold for $175,100 in 2018, but was outdistanced by another center fielder’s card from the same set. Yes, a PSA 9-graded Willie Mays 1952 Topps rookie sold for $235,202 to pace our 2018 list. At No. 3 in 2018 was still another golden-era outfielder: Roberto Clemente. An unforgettable Gem-Mint PSA 10 specimen of his 1956 Topps rookie fetched $175,000.)

But let’s get back to 2019. Here’s the full Top 10 list reflecting auctions we covered last year:

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1. $489,300: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 8)

2. $400,100: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Championship Rookie Ticket, #41/100, auto (BGS 9, auto 10)

3. $350,100: 1997-98 Fleer Metal Universe Michael Jordan Precious Gems (PSA 10)

4. $275,000: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Championship Rookie Ticket, #66/100, auto (BGS 9, auto 10)

5. $250,000: 2006-07 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection LeBron James Autographed NBA Logo Patch, #1/1 (BGS 9)

6. $224,999: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Championship Rookie Ticket, #20/100, auto (BGS 8.5)

7. $202,102: 1996 Pinnacle Select Certified Derek Jeter Mirror Gold, 1 of 30 (PSA 10)

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8. $150,100: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Orange Refractor, #25/25, auto (BGS 9.5)

9. $150,100: 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection LeBron James Limited Logo, #23/75, auto patch (PSA 10)

10. $139,999: 1921 E121 American Caramel Babe Ruth (PSA 7)

THE NEXT 20 — As long as we did the research on the year’s Top 10, we might as well open the window a little wider and show you the next 20 sales. In doing so, you’ll see more Mantle, Brady, Jordan, Jeter and Trout. But you’ll also see an early 20 century legend: Walter Johnson. The Big Train remains a shining star to those of us who love baseball history; how could we forget a hurler who retired with an ERA of 2.17—after pitching more than 5,900 innings, including 531 complete games?

Our “next 20” of 2019 also includes the NBA star with the “Word Find” name, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Plus, you’ll get a taste of hockey in the form of Sidney Crosby. And you get Peyton Manning, whose QB skills are fresh in our minds (thanks in part, perhaps, to all of those hilarious TV commercials).

Without further ado, here’s our “best of 2019” list carried out to No. 30.

11. $135,102: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (PSA 10)

12. $135,000: 1909-1911 T206 Piedmont Walter Johnson, yellow-background portrait (PSA 9)

13. $110,000: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (PSA 10)

14. $105,000: Michael Jordan autographed game-used 1992 Dream Team jersey and shorts (UDA authentication)

15. $99,800: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (BGS 8.5)

16. $98,888: 2005-06 Upper Deck Exquisite Limited Logos Michael Jordan, #22/50, auto patch (BGS 9.5)

17. $94,999: 2013-14 Panini Immaculate Acetate Giannis Antetokounmpo, #31/34, auto patch (BGS 10)

18. $93,127: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Gold Refractor, #32/50, auto (BGS 9.5)

19. $90,100: 1993 Upper Deck SP Derek Jeter (PSA 10)

20. $90,000: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Gold Refractor, #8/50, auto (BGS 9.5, auto 10)

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21. $89,999: 2013-14 Panini National Treasures Giannis Antetokounmpo, #11/25, auto patch (PSA 9)

22. $87,609: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Gold Refractor, #36/50, auto (BGS 9.5)

23. $82,600: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Gold Refractor, #32/50, auto (BGS 9.5)

24. $82,500: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Championship Ticket, #43/100, auto (BGS 8)

25. $80,600: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (BGS 9.5)

26. $80,287: 2005-06 Upper Deck The Cup Sidney Crosby, #59/99, auto patch (BGS 9.5)

27. $79,114: 1986 Topps Football complete set (396 cards, all PSA 10)

28. $77,500: 1953 Bowman Mickey Mantle (PSA 9)

29. $71,989: 1998 Playoff Contenders Peyton Manning Rookie Ticket, auto (PSA 10)

30. $71,802: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Blue Refractor, #74/150, auto (PSA 10)

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FREQUENT FLYERS — Our “Online Auctioneer” column ran 26 times last year and our Top 10 charts accounted for 260 items. The most frequent names? Mickey Mantle and Michael Jordan, who each appeared 35 times on our 2019 lists. (A year ago, Jordan finished well ahead of Mantle, appearing 44 times—vs. 33 for the Mick—on our Top 10 charts of 2018.)

In 2019, Mantle’s 35 chart appearances included 26 that were due to his 1952 Topps 1952. Among them was the PSA 8 gem that approached a half-million dollars (see “The Big Boys,” above). Conversely, a PSA 3 example of the same card slipped onto our November list despite drawing “only” $22,400.

As for Jordan’s 35 appearances, 16 of them involved his 1986-87 Fleer rookie. That hoop grail sold for prices between $21,100 (January 2019) and $40,000 (July).

Another frequent name belonged to Tom Brady, who showed up 19 times on our Top 10 lists. Remember: In February 2019, he won his sixth Super Bowl ring. That helped keep Brady-bidding brisk as the year rolled on. Collectors may have anticipated a run for a seventh Super Bowl ring, but, alas, the QB and his Patriots took an early exit from the playoffs.

Here are the names that turned up most often on our 2019 Top 10 charts:

1. Mickey Mantle: 35 appearances

2. Michael Jordan: 35 appearances

3. Mike Trout: 20 appearances

4. Tom Brady: 19 appearances

5. LeBron James: 17 appearances

6. Luka Doncic: 10 appearances

7. Ty Cobb: 7 appearances

8. Connor McDavid: 7 appearances

9. Bobby Orr: 6 appearances

10. Stephen Curry: 6 appearances

Showing up four times each were hockey hero Wayne Gretzky and hoop stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard. Making three appearances each: baseball legends Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Pete Rose and Derek Jeter; basketball legends Wilt Chamberlain and Kobe Bryant; NHL star Sidney Crosby; and golfer Tiger Woods.

A LOOK AHEAD — With 2019 in the rear-view mirror, let’s take a quick look into the future via an online auction we almost can’t believe. In December, we saw furious bidding on an ungraded 1-of-1 autographed 2019 Bowman Chrome Superfractor card of Adley Rutschman.

Adley who? Well, if you don’t obsess over minor league stars, Rutschman is a “can’t-miss” prospect in the Baltimore Orioles’ chain. A 6-foot-2, 216-pound switch-hitting catcher, Rutschman starred in college ball at Oregon State from 2017 through 2019, hitting .352 with 28 HRs in 644 at-bats. He went on to play with three Orioles farm teams in the low minors in summer 2019, getting 140 at-bats. He made a splash especially in the New York-Penn League (A-), batting .325 in 77 at-bats for the Aberdeen IronBirds. That’s all it took to convince some collectors.


Remember the 2019 Bowman card we mentioned above? It drew 94 bids and soared to $23,088.

TOP 10 CHART

12/30/19

1. $224,999: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Championship Rookie Ticket, #20/100, auto (BGS 8.5)

2. $135,102: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (PSA 10)

3. $77,500: 1953 Bowman Mickey Mantle (PSA 9)

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4. $71,000: 1911 Imperial Tobacco C55 Georges Vezina (SGC 9)

5. $53,200: 2003-04 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection LeBron James, #190/250, auto (PSA 10)

6. $46,611: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 5)

7. $44,700: 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Luka Doncic, #24/99, auto patch (ungraded)

8. $40,709: 2017 Panini National Treasures Patrick Mahomes II Stars & Stripes, #8/13, auto patch (BGS 9.5)

9. $38,000: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (PSA 10)

10. $37,877: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (PSA 10)