I started collecting baseball and football cards back in the late 1940s. Fortunately, my parents did not throw them all out when I went to college. In the 50s, my brother and I used to comb all the mom-and-pop corner stores in Cleveland Heights, Ohio looking for the latest release from Bowman and eventually Topps. Allison Prang explains in today’s Wall Street Journal that “The market for baseball cards is on fire.” She writes:
The market for baseball cards is on fire.
Auction houses and appraisers say they are seeing surging demand and higher prices in the sports memorabilia market, particularly for baseball cards and other sports trading cards. A 1952 mint condition Mickey Mantle baseball card sold for $12.6 million on Sunday, a record price for a piece of sports memorabilia.
The sale of the card eclipsed the prior record: the jersey worn by Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona when he scored his “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup, which fetched $9.3 million at a Sotheby’s auction in May.
Similar to the frenzied trading that accompanied meme stocks such as GameStop Corp. and Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., bitcoin and blank-check companies, the interest in high-end baseball cards and memorabilia has intensified throughout much of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While many meme stocks, cryptocurrencies and other more speculative investments have fallen sharply this year, the market for sports trading cards has largely remained hot.
The 10 most expensive sports trading cards have all sold during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of high-value memorabilia sales. A rare Honus Wagner T206 card fetched a then-record $7.25 million last month, according to Goldin Auctions, which handled the sale. That card last sold in 2006 for $294,338, Goldin said.
The prior record holder, another Honus Wagner T206 card, sold for $6.6 million in August 2021, according to Robert Edward Auctions, after previously selling a decade ago for $1.23 million.
The Mickey Mantle card was sold by waste management businessman Anthony Giordano, who acquired the card for $50,000 in 1991. That means Mr. Giordano made a roughly 20% annualized return on the card since he bought it over three decades ago, more than double what he would have earned if he plunked that money in an S&P 500 index fund.
Some investors see high-end baseball cards as a way to diversify their financial holdings, similar to buying a famous piece of art. Others view buying cards and other hard assets as a hedge against inflation, which remains near a four-decade high.
Read more from Prang here.