Auction preview: Rare tickets from Ohtani pro debut, 'Battle of Sexes'

Ticket from Ohtani's first pro game in Japan ranks among auctions we're watching

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This 1921 hand-cut strip card featuring Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb is in incredible condition, especially considering its age.

Welcome to cllct's weekly auction preview.

Every Thursday, we'll highlight the most interesting items coming up for bid this weekend and offer our analysis. Comments are from cllct's Darren Rovell and Will Stern.

This ticket stub from Shohei Ohtani's professional debut in Japan is the only one ever graded by PSA. (Credit: Memory Lane Inc.)
This ticket stub from Shohei Ohtani's professional debut in Japan is the only one ever graded by PSA. (Credit: Memory Lane Inc.)

2013 Shohei Ohtani professional-debut ticket

When Ohtani made his pro debut at age 18 for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in 2013, he was already as hyped a prospect as the baseball world has seen, regardless of country. He brought his 99-mph fastball and powerful slugging to the Japanese league as the top pick in the prior year’s draft.

This is the only stub from his professional debut ever graded by PSA. According to Memory Lane, the consigner “spent more than a decade” in search of this one-of-a-kind piece.

Stern: I can see why people might argue that, as MLB fans, this debut holds less appeal. But considering the population of his MLB debut tickets (more than 50 full examples graded by PSA) and his importance as a bridge between the two country’s leagues, I love this ticket as much as any modern stub I’ve ever seen. I have a feeling this lot has a ton of lurkers hoping nobody notices this buried gem within the auction of mostly vintage cards. Plus, we know collecting is on the rise in Japan … and it doesn’t hurt that the best player in the world happens to be from there.

Rovell: I've been looking for one like this. There's a ton of others from this game that are frankly very questionable. They're in black and white, and frankly seem pretty easy to fake. This is a good piece.

Type 1 photo of 1968 Olympics "Black Power Salute"

The photo of Tommie Smith and John Carlos protesting on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics remains one of the most indelible images in Olympic history.

Elevated further by the photographer (LIFE magazine’s John Dominis), this is one of the most significant Type 1 photos one could ever imagine seeing at auction. The lot description notes that a similar example sold for $45,000 in 2022.

Stern: This is one of those Type 1 photos that has shaped and led the market at the high end, where we know most of the action has been amid this rise in interest. While I’ll continue to lament the lack of population reports for these pieces, comps like the one provided above are the next-best thing.

Rovell: This is one of the most important sports photos ever taken. I bought a ticket from this event because of its massive historical significance. The writing on the back is great, but without a population report, this photo is a pass for me.

Pele game-used jersey from 1970s

This match-worn Pelé jersey from the latter part of his career is accompanied by a MEARS letter of authenticity, indicating heavy wear. Still, the item lacks a photo-match that many game-worn collectors consider a prerequisite these days.

Stern: Considering the Brazil legend owns the title of the most valuable soccer card ever sold, there’s no reason why his jerseys shouldn’t stack up similarly. However, in this case, the rather glaring lack of supporting context and supplemental material warrants quite a discount to a hypothetically photo-matched example rife with provenance.

That being said, it’s a half-century-old jersey worn by a GOAT. Between $10k-$20k feels right to me, assuming the buyer is comfortable with MEARS’ assessment.

Rovell: This is a pass for me. The lack of provenance turns me away.

2007 sealed iPhone (CAS 80/82.1)

Goldin has recently upped the volume of its sealed iPhone offerings since committing to authenticator CAS, despite mixed results. To be fair, that is reflective of the market for the more common 8GB variants overall, whether at Goldin and encased by CAS or not.

Stern: Here I am again, complaining about auction curation: Who in the world other than people with the time to scroll through every lot in the auction (me) would even have found this mixed in with the Anthony Edwards prizms and Charizards?

I imagine we will see a continuation of the declining trend here, given that this example adds nothing of interest in terms of provenance or variant, and the market has yet to show any interest or trust in grading services such as CAS.

This ticket to the 1973 exhibition match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs is graded PSA 6. (Credit: Goldin Auctions)
This ticket to the 1973 exhibition match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs is graded PSA 6. (Credit: Goldin Auctions)

1973 "Battle of the Sexes" ticket (PSA 6)

This ticket from the famed “Battle of the Sexes” tennis exhibition match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in 1973 is one of only three examples PSA has ever authenticated. The event was a massive moment for female sports, not just because King won handedly, but because it came in the midst of a cultural upheaval that included Title IX, equal pay and gender equality writ large.

Rovell: I'm bidding on this. This is a low-population ticket with extreme cultural relevance.

1921 W551 Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb hand-cut strip card (PSA 7)

This 1921 W551 Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb hand-cut strip card comes from a highly popular vintage set, boasting Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker and Casey Stengel among its subjects. Cobb and Ruth are presented here on a single card. In remarkable condition — especially considering it is more than 100 years old — this card comes from a hand-cut set, its PSA 7 grade is bested only by two examples.

Stern: This is like if Fanatics had a Time Machine and decided to make the ultimate 1921 chase card. I mean, what else do you want here? Not good enough without the logo man patch? Nah. This is incredibly cool, and I’m going to be watching this one as closely as anything this weekend to see where it ends up.

2018 Jalen Brunson National Treasures RPA /99 (PSA 8)

We wrote earlier this week about the muted impact of the Jalen Brunson market despite his All-NBA-caliber season and record-breaking playoff performances. Will this be the breakthrough we’re waiting for?

Rovell: The Knicks haven't been this good in 25 years. His best stuff is likely going to pop. Why? Because I frankly don't think much has been baked in.

Stern: I will refrain from comment given my incredible bias.

The very first "Mickey Mouse" licensed product

Rovell: Sometimes, I flip through auctions and stop and am like, "Wait a second. Could that be real?" Happened with this auction at Van Eaton Galleries, the Disney specialists. This is the very first Mickey Mouse licensed product, which is wild.

"In late 1929, Walt (Disney) was at a hotel in New York when a man offered to pay him $300 to use Mickey Mouse on a series of children's writing tablets. This became the first of many licensing deals that helped to finance the future of the studio," according to the lot description.

No idea on the population here. No idea if it's even CGC slabbable. But for an estimate of $800-$1,000, I'm in. And I welcome anyone to bid against me.

Official Disneyland "Mickey Mouse" flag

Rovell: I think you can tell by now, this auction roundup is not filled with just the obvious. There is just too much cool stuff flying around to highlight.

A flag from the early days of Disney that can be identified in the pictures on Main Street ... and it can be had for possibly less than $1,000.

Is it an investment that will explode exponentially? No. But for a Disney collector, this is thrilling for the money here.

Will Stern is a reporter and editor for cllct. You can follow him on X at @Will__Stern.