Quality and scarcity were again big winners in the sports card world as Memory Lane Inc. closed out its recent I Own it Now catalog event. Ultra high-grade cards holding an iconic place in the market drew strong interest again with a PSA 10 (gem mint) 1956 Topps Mickey Mantle leading the way at a selling price of $115,000, followed closely by a 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card that changed hands for a cool $100,000.
In all, the I Own it Now sale generated proceeds of $561,589.50 for a variety of vintage and rare sports cards and sports memorabilia. The unique format puts several dozen high-end lots up for sale. Collectors can choose to buy the item for the listed price when the sale opens or hope to buy it at an offered price after a two-week period.
For the buyer of the Jordan rookie card, there was no delay. It was snapped up within minutes of the opening on June 3. The six-figure price sent some shock waves through the hobby, but collectors and investors have demonstrated that the card is the standard by which all other basketball cards are measured.
The PSA 10 Mantle card has shown steady growth. Issued during what was The Mick's memorable '56 campaign, it gives the appearance of having been pulled from a pack days ago. Its value has increased significantly over the last few years. In 2005, it sold for approximately $40,000. Offered again it 2008, it sold at more than double the original price. This time, it cracked the six-figure barrier -- and then some.
"The selling prices of some of the cards in I Own it Now illustrate that even in a bad or struggling economy, someone wants the best and is willing to pay to get it," said Memory Lane's J.P. Cohen. "It is fun for us to sell these cards, but it's also an eye-opening experience to see the following that some of the hobby's best attract."
A top shelf example of most iconic post-War card, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, was found inside this catalog. A PSA 8 -- among the best in existence -- it sold for a price in the high $70,000s to a buyer who sweated out the waiting period, made an offer and scored one of the best Mantle cards offered in recent years.
Condition is everything when it comes to the value of vintage cards and collectors know the scarcity associated with the 1948 Leaf set. Printing and centering flaws just touch the surface of a litany of potential issues that come with them. When a Satchel Paige single-print rookie card comes up for sale in high quality, there is no shortage of interest. Memory Lane Inc. offered a PSA 7-graded Paige that presented exceptionally well and sold for what's believed to be a record price for the grade: $34,995.
An extremely rare autographed 1935 Zeenut Joe DiMaggio rookie card with the original coupon attached that originally resided in the famed Barry Halper Collection, sold for $19,995. The card was housed in Halper's custom-made double sided frame inside a leather folding solander case.
I Own it Now offered a series of Turkish Silk cards. In 1911, smokers of Turkish Trophies were offered a variety of premiums in exchange for coupons inserted into the brand's cigarette packages (smoker-collectors had the option to choose a "T3" cabinet card, an "S81" silk or an "L1" leather). Owing to the delicate nature of their construction, the silks are especially difficult to find in top condition. Many have simply become unraveled over time. Headlining the collection was an excellent quality Walter Johnson, which brought a strong price of $5495.
1950s cards remained popular with collectors, too. A '52 Topps Eddie Mathews rookie card from the tough high number series, graded 7.5, sold for $17,500 and the ever-popular 1955 Topps Sandy Koufax rookie card in a mint 9 grade, brought a price of $12,500. Unopened packs from the 1950s are scarce and valuable -- not to mention very cool to own. A 1954 pack in high grade changed hands for $3995.
Among the other items sold: a mint condition card of hockey icon Bobby Orr, a second-year Willie Mays, a 1887 Allen & Ginter N28 Adrian Cap Anson and a 1951 Parkhurst Maurice "Rocket" Richard rookie card.
"This was our best I Own it Now event so far," Cohen said. "From the number of items sold to the interest we had, it's pretty clear the vintage market continues to be pretty strong."
Memory Lane is now taking consignments for its upcoming August catalog auction and is offering a free VIP pass to this year's National Sports Collectors Convention (a $129.99 value) for collectors who consign to them. Call (877) 606-LANE (5263) for more information.
Another I Own it Now sale will take place following the August catalog auction.