Taking My Hacks

A Recap of an Interesting 2012

Joe Orlando


Last year was an important one in the hobby. There were some major events that took place, including some record-setting auction prices. There was an influx of energy caused by the emergence of some talented young athletes like Mike Trout and Robert Griffin III, and a discovery that may not be rivaled in our lifetime. All in all, it was a year to remember and a year to build on for those of us interested in the long term health of the hobby.

Let's start with some memorable milestones—the prices that raised the bar, and all in the face of a tough economy. Of all the tremendous prices recorded in 2012, perhaps none were more impressive than the $4.4 million paid for a circa-1920 Babe Ruth road jersey. This incredible relic blew by the $3 million baseball from 1998 (Mark McGwire's 70th home run) and it surpassed the $4,338,500 paid for James Naismith's original 1891 "Rules of Basketball" sold in 2010. The Ruth jersey became the highest price ever paid for a sports collectible. Fittingly, the King of Swat has taken his seat at the throne once again.

The highest price ever paid for a single-signed baseball was established at $388,375 and, of course, it was Ruth stealing the headlines again. The Ruthian records don't stop there. New levels were established for Ruth's 1914 Baltimore News card, with a PSA Good 2 selling for $575,000, and several new price levels were set for Ruth's 1916 Sporting News rookie in various grades. There were also several notable prices paid for other Ruth-related autographs and professional model bats.

While Ruth stole some of the headlines, plenty of others shared the limelight in 2012. In the trading card world, many records were set for some of the finest examples in the hobby. There are simply way too many to list, but some standouts include PSA Gem Mint 10 prices for a 1954 Topps Hank Aaron ($357,594), a 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente ($432,690) and a 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson ($115,242). The Clemente figure became the highest auction price ever paid for a postwar (1948-present) trading card.

Another area of the market that showed increased interest was T206 back variations and rarities. All you have to do is check those auction prices realized throughout the year, and you will see the many price records set for different back combinations in all sorts of grades. It is apparent that some collectors are taking The Monster to a whole new level. There were also very hot areas in vintage hockey, which is often underappreciated, and continued growth in the non-sports card market.

Perhaps the segment of the market that, arguably, experienced the strongest surge was exceptional, vintage professional model bats and game-used jerseys. The entire market was recalibrated in 2012, with many bats and jerseys selling between 2-5 times more than they were just a few years ago. As an example, a high-end Mickey Mantle jersey could have been acquired between $75,000 and $150,000 about 3-5 years ago. In 2012, three terrific Mantle jerseys sold between $300,000 and $675,000.

The Black Swamp Find became national news and reminded us all that you never know what treasures remain undiscovered. The story behind the find is captivating and the cards themselves are simply stunning. This discovery became a symbol of what the hobby is all about. It represents hope, and hope is what keeps collectors going. The hope of finding an item needed to complete a set or collection; the hope of unearthing a hidden gem; the kind of hope that fuels the passion of hobbyists.

There were a lot of things that made 2012 special from a hobby standpoint. What's in store for 2013? Let's hope for the best.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief