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How Patrick Mahomes rookie became highest-selling football card of all-time

A special Patrick Mahomes rookie card sold for $4.3 million, setting the all-time record for football cards. Here's how the deal went down.
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Though Patrick Mahomes is the best young quarterback in the NFL and has played in the last two Super Bowls, he has a long way to go to catch The Goat Tom Brady.

Except when it comes to trading cards.

Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro quarterback, has already caught and surpassed Brady on the sports card market. A special Mahomes autographed card was recently sold by PWCC Marketplace for $4.3 million, an all-time record for football cards and the fourth highest-selling card of all-time.

Mahomes cards have been a hot commodity since he burst onto the scene in 2018 with 5,097 passing yards and 50 touchdowns. His 2017 rookie card has sold for as much as $90,000 in recent online auctions. So, it made sense that a special autographed 1/1 Mahomes would top the all-time football record set by Tom Brady in June.

The 2017 National Treasures Platinum 1/1 card, which features Mahomes’ autograph and an NFL Shield patch, is graded BSG 8.5. PWCC sold the card in a private transaction to Leo Ruberto, the owner of LJ’s Card Shop in New Albany, Ohio. The transaction topped a Brady Playoff Contenders Championship Rookie Ticket card (BGS 9) that sold for $3.1 million in Leland’s Mid-Spring auction.

The 1/1 Patrick Mahomes 2017 National Treasures NFL Shield card sold for a record $4.3 million.

2017 National Treasures Patrick Mahomes card. 

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Ruberto, who’s card shop is named after his son LJ, collects and deals high-end modern cards and stores some of his most valuable items in the PWCC Vault. When he contacted PWCC about acquiring the Mahomes card, PWCC didn’t have the card in its vault, but Director of Business Development Jesse Craig knew who owned it.

“When he reached out to me looking for it, I knew who the owner was and I reached out to him to see if he was open to moving it,” Craig said at the National Sports Collectors Convention. “We did a little bit of back and forth and some negotiating to get the deal done.”

Craig is not surprised the Mahomes card topped $4 million. The 1/1 rarity is a luxury Brady’s best cards do not have. His autograph/ticket rookie card is #144 in the series.

“Brady doesn’t have the luxury of having a 1-of-1 because his rookie was 2000. One-of-ones didn’t become a big thing until later on,” Craig said. “That’s the advantage Mahomes has and that’s why he has the record right now.”

If Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl winner, had a 1/1 autographed patch card, Craig estimates it would sell for $15 to $20 million.

If Mahomes, 25, continues on his current career trajectory, he could own the football card record for a long time. 

“It could always be the most expensive football card of all-time … especially if Mahomes becomes the heir apparent to Tom Brady,” Craig said.

Photo Gallery: Scenes from The National 

Ruberto, who had the card at the LJ’s Card Shop booth at The National, is proud to own the record-holder — for now.

LJ's Card Shop promotes the purchase of a special Patrick Mahomes rookie card for $4.3 million.

LJ's Card Shop owner Leo Ruberto purchased the Patrick Mahomes card. 

“We obviously love Pat Mahomes. We did way before this; my son loves him, I love him,” he said at The National. “There are a lot of modern-day comparisons to Tom Brady with him. Obviously, he’s not there yet and has a long way to go, but from a talent perspective, he’s as good as we have seen in a very long time and when Tom Brady had cards, they didn’t NFL Shields.

“We view that as one of the best cards you can possibly have.”

Ruberto has no immediate plans to flip the Mahomes card.

“We are not going to do anything with it right now,” he said. “We’ll sit with this card for a minute and kind of enjoy watching him.”

Even Mahomes was shocked at the price.

Mahomes told ESPN the card was too expensive for his tastes.

“That’s a lot of money. I’ll say that,” Mahomes told ESPN at Chiefs training camp. “It shows that that business has been growing forever. … To see how it’s really blown up these days … it really is a good thing to see, especially when it has your name on it.”

PWCC has now sold the last three record-breaking sports cards in the industry, many of them which are stored in the company’s vault. It sold the 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card that set the all-time record in January at $5.2 million, and the LeBron James Exquisite auto/patch rookie that tied it a few months later.

“We’ve had some fun ones,” Craig said. “It’s a testament to the network we have created. It’s a testament to the vault, because a lot of times these assets are in the vault. When we have buyers that are looking for specific assets, they reach out to us and we can just query our vault and see what we have. … You never know what is going to happen.”