Auction preview: Three $1 million baseball jerseys, Tiger Woods' debut scorecard

Game-used jerseys from Mantle, Koufax and Johnson are up for auction

Cover Image for Auction preview: Three $1 million baseball jerseys, Tiger Woods' debut scorecard
Mickey Mantle's 1968 game-worn jersey is expected to sell for $3 million. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)

Three potential seven-figure jerseys, a debut scorecard from Tiger Woods and a Ty Cobb game-used bat lead this week's cllct auction preview.

Comments and analysis are provided by cllct's Will Stern and Darren Rovell.

Johnson, Koufax, Mantle jerseys

Three extraordinary game-worn baseball jerseys will be auctioned at Heritage this weekend, possibly marking the first time in a single auction that three jerseys sell for more than $1 million each.

The 1920 Walter Johnson jersey, which is the oldest jersey ever photo-matched to be offered at public auction, is the sole Johnson jersey in private hands (just one other is known, and it is displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame). Last sold in 2006 for $352,000, the jersey has been matched to an April 1920 game in which Johnson faced Babe Ruth for the first time in Ruth’s Yankees career. It carries a $3 million estimate.

Also offered with a $3 million estimate is a 1968 Mickey Mantle jersey. Accompanied by a MEARS A9.5 grade, the jersey hails from Mantle’s final season and is signed by Mantle to a Yankees bat boy. The lot has yet to meet its $1.5 million reserve.

Rounding out the trio is a Sandy Koufax rookie jersey from the 1955 season which could potentially be the very first jersey worn by Koufax in the MLB. Bidding has already established the jersey as the most expensive Koufax gamer in history, smashing the previous high established by this same jersey in May 2017 at Leland’s when it sold for $667,189.20. Estimate: $2.5 million.

A Sandy Koufax game-used jersey is expected to top $1 million. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)
A Sandy Koufax game-used jersey is expected to top $1 million. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)

Stern: It’s unbelievable to see any of these jerseys headline an auction in the first place, let alone to see three of the top baseball jerseys to appear at public auction in recent memory all in one sale. When I look at vintage gamers from MLB legends, I always think about the exceptional scarcity: During Mantle and Koufax’s time, it was typical for players to receive just two road and two home jerseys per season. Add to that the fact that it was common to see jerseys stripped of tags and re-sewn for minor-leaguers the following season, and it’s beyond remarkable that these survive at all.

Not to mention the unspeakably rare nature of a game-worn (let alone photo-matched) jersey from Johnson’s era, when one can only assume players were provided even fewer per season. Other than drooling over these pieces for their history, I’ll also be watching to see how they fair against their estimates: Not many people can afford such coveted jerseys and those who can are likely not taking down multiple in a single auction, so I’m curious to see if the presence of three $1 million-plus jerseys works against the final hammer price.

Rovell: I’m in the minority here. I don’t worry about the long-term viability of Mantle, but I do with Johnson. Maybe this is an overreaction because it only takes a couple guys to want it, but I wouldn’t want to bid on this for fear this is an item for people 65 and older. I’ve been wrong before on old tobacco cards and interest from young people, but it’s just my immediate gut reaction.

1922 Ty Cobb game-used bat

PSA has graded a total of 38 game-used Ty Cobb bats. In 2014, upon examination of this PSA/GU 10 example offered at Heritage this weekend, PSA wrote that it was the only authenticated bat that could be placed to a season in which Cobb batted .400 or higher. The bat, from the 1922 season when Cobb hit .401, holds an estimate of $1 million.

Stern: Back in November 2022, Cobb’s earliest-known game-used bat sold for more than $1 million at Grey Flannel. I don’t think this bat carries nearly the same prestige to warrant a similar price — and I’m not sure the market is any hotter today than it was then for bats.

Rovell: I know two huge bat collectors, and they are sitting on the sidelines for various reasons. Something as seemingly small as that can have a big effect on where something lands. It’s a personal preference, but bats aren't high on my list. Despite the rise in game-used items, I don’t think bats have a parallel path with uniforms.

1961-62 Fleer basketball wax box

One of the rarest wax boxes in the hobby, the 1961-62 Fleer basketball set is home to rookie cards of Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West. Around six comparable boxes have sold since 2017, most recently at Leland’s in 2022 for $444,528.00.

A sealed box of 1961-62 Fleer basketball is up for auction. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)
A sealed box of 1961-62 Fleer basketball is up for auction. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)

Stern: This is so much more enticing to me than a sealed box of 1986 Fleer Basketball. Considering the absurdly low odds of a wax box like this surviving in such excellent condition all these years as well as the murderer’s row of Hall of Famers appearing in the set, I think this should clear $500,000 and contend for the most expensive wax box (excluding cases) ever sold.

Rovell: No one is opening the box here, so what is it? It’s a piece of art. And what a glorious piece of art this is.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (SGC 7.5)

Ranking among the highest-graded '52 Mantles in existence, it has been almost exactly a year since the last time a comparable SGC 7.5 example sold publicly, when one sold for $384,000.00 at Heritage.

Stern: Yeah, the “Mona Lisa” of sports cards sells every day. And every high-end auction is bound to include a top-tier example. But still, any time an example graded higher than a 7 appears for sale, you’ve got my attention. Add in the SGC slab, which we’ve seen carry impressive heft in discussing vintage cards (I.e. the $12.6 million SGC 9.5 Mantle), and you’ve got something worth keeping tabs on.

1910 E98 "set of 30" Ty Cobb (Black Swamp, SGC 10)

One of Ty Cobb’s most beloved cards, this SGC 10 example owes its provenance to the famed “Black Swamp Find” which was uncovered in an attic in 2012.

One of Ty Cobb's more sought-after cards is expected to sell for around $250,000. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)
One of Ty Cobb's more sought-after cards is expected to sell for around $250,000. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)

Stern: The Black Swamp Find is a legend in its own right, and this Cobb is among its Crown Jewels. The same card sold at Goldin for $218,400.00 in October 2021, so I’m a bit surprised at the $250,000 estimate. I would have guessed closer to $350,000.

1952 signed Mickey Mantle Berk Ross card (PSA 1.5 / Auto 10)

Just two examples of signed 1952 Mantle cards from the Berk Ross set, which was distributed regionally and is rarer than the more well known Topps and Bowman releases from the same year, appear in PSA’s census. The other example, graded .5 higher in condition but a point lower for its autograph, sold in August 2023 for $200,000.

Rovell: This is one of the cleanest-looking cards you will ever see, and the Mantle signature is so beautiful that you forget about overall condition. Love this for under $55,000.

1948 Bowman baseball wax pack (PSA 7)

PSA has only authenticated four examples of sealed wax packs of 1948 Bowman baseball, the set which marked Bowman’s first issue and includes Hall of Fame rookies for Ralph Kiner, Yogi Berra, Warren Spahn and Stan Musial. In September 2023, a like-graded pack from the set sold for $200,000.

Stern: This pack looks so damn cool. That’s my main takeaway — and I think that’s really the point here. We know display-ability reigns supreme. I imagine that’s what will be driving the price. Bidding looks like it has a good shot of running right through the $100,000 estimate. We shall see if it approaches the $200,000 mark set last year.

1961 Roger Maris signed 61st home run ticket (PSA A / Auto 9)

This is one of just two signed Maris 61st home run tickets. Heritage has placed an estimate of $30,000 on the lot, which it has already exceeded.

A ticket to Roger Maris' 61st home run has already shot past the $30,000 estimate. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)
A ticket to Roger Maris' 61st home run has already shot past the $30,000 estimate. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)

Rovell: This is a beauty. At $31,000 as of Thursday morning, it’s already at 15 times an unsigned version, which is getting up there. North of $40,000, I find the value to be tougher.

Stern: Clearly, the PSA label’s callout of the ticket being trimmed hasn’t scared off any bidders. I suppose when there’s only two in the world, alterations like trimming aren’t going to matter the way we’re used to.

Charles Schulz-signed baseball

A beautifully-signed baseball from Peanuts creator and cartoonist Charles Schulz.

Rovell: We are sometimes guilty of putting only high-end items in this column, and I’m guilty of doing that. This item is affordable to a lot of collectors, and it’s an amazing piece signed by the man who created Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and, of course, Snoopy. Schulz died 24 years ago, so he really wasn’t part of any modern autograph wave. Here’s a chance to get a steal from one of the lesser known auction houses. I like this up to $1,800.

2018-19 Panini Prizm Gold #250 Jalen Brunson rookie card (PSA 9)

The latest high-end Brunson card poised to sell during his historic playoff run, bidding has already brought this card into the top five all-time sales for any of the Knicks point guard’s slabs. This same card was on eBay last month and ended at $5,770, though it’s unclear if it was paid for.

Stern: With bidding ending tonight, two days after Brunson returned to glory once again with another 40-point showing at MSG and leading up to what could potentially be an ECF birth for the Knicks, it’s clear the excitement from the court has extended into the auction world.

Tiger Woods pro debut scorecard

Last year, the Golf Auction sold Woods’ fourth-round scorecard from his debut event, the Greater Milwaukee Open, for $125,000. This is the second round, which allowed him to make his first cut.

Rovell: At the time, we thought the $125,000, still a record price for a signed scorecard, was wild. Tiger didn’t win the event, and it wasn’t his debut round, so the price didn’t make sense — unless the bidders believed it was going to be the only one to emerge from the four rounds.

Well, they lost that bet and this, in my opinion, is just as good as round 3 or 4. The exception would, of course, be his debut round, and that is worthy of a fortune. This is small enough to get slabbed even if it’s folded in half. I think this piece is worth at least $30,000.

Stern: The only thing I find appealing about this is that it’s a vehicle for an early Woods signature. Otherwise, I really don’t care about a scorecard from the second round of a tournament, even if it’s his first event.

Will Stern is a reporter and editor for cllct.

Darren Rovell is the founder of and one of the country's leading reporters on the collectible market. He previously worked for ESPN, CNBC and The Action Network.