A Farewell To Two Sports Heroes
September 25 turned out to be a sad day in sports. Fans lost two popular names, one of them an all-time great golfer and the other a top-shelf pitcher who was about to enter his prime. Memorabilia associated with each were the focus of active auction interest.
Arnold Palmer, the legendary golfer who notched 62 PGA Tour wins and served as an estimable role model, died at age 87. After his passing, a host of Palmer items of memorabilia landed on eBay, among them the following:
— Autographed golf balls that were selling for prices between $75 and $250, depending on condition and authentication);
• Signed Masters flags from various years, most of them selling for prices between $400 and $600;
— Autographed photos from throughout Palmer’s career and post-golfing days, most of them bringing prices between $100 and $300.
One of the coolest Palmer collectibles: a rare 1965 Bancroft trading card, No. 24 in the series, that brought $1,300 on 37 bids. The front of the card features two illustrations of the golfer — one a close-up portrait, the other a depiction of his swing follow-through. The reverse of the card presents, by design, biographical information on jockey Lester Piggott. (Card No. 26 in the series features Palmer’s bio.)
While Palmer lived a long and productive life, Jose Fernandez died at 24 in a boating accident, leaving fans to wonder what might have been. Collectors instantly wanted mementos related to the Miami Marlins star.
A week after Fernandez died, a bidder on eBay spent $10,000 on a game-used Marlins jersey. Provenance showed that Fernandez wore the jersey on April 22, 2014 during a game in which he struck out 14 batters. And hundreds of other items of Fernandez memorabilia changed hands in the wake of his tragic death, including the following:
• A 2011 Bowman Chrome autographed Orange Refractor: $2,000;
— A game-used Rawlings bat with several ball marks on the barrel: $1,780;
• A game-worn batting helmet authenticated by Major League Baseball: $1,550.
Michael Jordan’s holy-grail 1986-87 Fleer card has long been a regular on our Top 10 chart, and this edition is no different. You’ll see two Jordan Fleer rookies turn up at nearly identical prices just south of $22,000; another finished just outside our Top 10 at $20,600.
The Jordan classic also figures mightily in the top-selling item on our list: a complete set of 1986-87 Fleer Basketball cards, each of them graded PSA 10. Jordan’s card is worth roughly one-third of the set’s selling price: $62,100 on 54 bids.
Of course, the buyer got a host of other desirable cards in the set besides Jordan. Charles Barkley’s rookie card, for example, is a major attraction: By itself, it can bring upwards of $2,000 if in Mint condition. Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Akeem Olajuwon and Isiah Thomas rookie cards are also in the series, and they can sell for $1,000 to $1,500 if in Mint condition. So too can the 1986-87 cards of veteran stars and future Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Fellow HOFers Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Bill Walton and Clyde Drexler appear in the set as well. Their Fleer 1986-87 cards typically sell for $200 to $500 in “10” condition.
Tom Brady’s recent return to the gridiron after serving his four-game “Deflate-gate” suspension didn’t disappoint, both in terms of fan appreciation and collector interest. He went on to lead the Patriots to a 35-17 stomping of the Bengals, while a 2000 Playoff Contenders autographed Brady rookie card graded attracted 62 bids and fetched $14,600. The card’s condition was key: a Gem-Mint 9.5 as graded by BGS.
Admit it: If your earliest collecting days date to the 1980s, 1970s, 1960s or earlier and you remember ripping open pack after pack of bubblegum cards, your heart would sink — at least a little — every time you’d uncover another checklist. You wanted a Mantle or Mays, a Unitas or Starr, an Orr or Chamberlain … not a list of checkboxes, numbers and names.
Sure, you needed checklists, but ideally, you’d get one per series, not dozens of them. Yet if you squirreled away your duplicate checklists, keeping them in Mint condition, you’re no doubt happy you did. They just might help you pay off a credit card debt. To wit:
• In August, a bidder spent $16,100 for an unchecked 1969-70 Topps Basketball checklist graded PSA 9. The single card attracted 26 bids from condition-conscious collectors.
— Also in August, a bidder spent $3,950 on an unmarked 1956 Topps Baseball checklist.
• A 1965-66 Topps Hockey checklist graded PSA 9, meanwhile, fetched $2,292 in a recent sale.
— And two top-condition vintage football checklists recently brought four-figure prices: A 1965 Topps Series 2 specimen graded PSA 9 brought $1,700, while a 1957 Topps checklist (PSA 7) went for $1,100.
Classic Checklist Features
While the checklists above featured only listings and (in most cases) a small graphic illustration, card manufacturers would occasionally go the extra yard and work a player photograph onto a checklist.
In Topps’ 1969 seven-series set, for example, all but Series 3 featured a star player’s mug shot in the upper-left corner. And these checklists happen to be available even today at collector-friendly prices. In recent sales on eBay, we saw a Series 2 1969 checklist (with Bob Gibson photo) sell for $51, a Series 6 (Brooks Robinson) go for $46 and a Series 5 (Mickey Mantle) get away for $42.
And what about all those checklists where you marked the boxes with your ballpoint pen, underlined names you needed or circled favorite players? If you were to offload them, you’d be lucky to net more than a few bucks each. However, you’ll likely never part with those old-school memories.
Top Ten Online Auctions
$62,100: 1986-87 Fleer Basketball complete set graded PSA 10
- $45,999: 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente (PSA 8)
- $35,100: 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky (PSA 9)
- $33,200: 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky (PSA 9)
- $31,201: 1965 Topps Joe Namath (PSA 8)
- $25,000: 1909-1911 T206 Sweet Caporal Ty Cobb (bat off shoulder illustration) (PSA 8)
- $21,900: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (PSA 10)
- $21,725: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (PSA 10)
- $21,700: 1971 Topps Terry Bradshaw (PSA 9)
- $21,212: 1958 Topps Jim Brown (PSA 8)