Auction recap: Koufax, Big Train jerseys go big, but Mantle fails to hit reserve

Highly anticipated auction of three legendary MLB jerseys draws mixed results

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The historic set of three game-used baseball jerseys leading the way at Heritage Auctions over the weekend — a 1920 Walter Johnson, 1955 Sandy Koufax and 1968 Mickey Mantle — had mixed results.

The Johnson jersey sold for $2 million, a record for any Johnson jersey by a long shot, crushing the previous mark set by the same jersey in 2006 ($352,000). It’s the only Johnson jersey in private hands.

Next, the Koufax rookie jersey reached $1.8 million, more than double the previous record for a Koufax gamer, which was set in May 2017 by this same jersey for $667,189.20.

Lastly, a jersey from Mantle’s final season failed to hit its $1.5 million reserve.

Stern: It's tough to call any of these results a disappointment, even the Mantle, which failed to hit an incredibly lofty reserve. However, it's fair to wonder if these lots competed against each other, with three massive pieces splitting the attention and wallets of bidders.

The price for Wilt Chamberlain's rookie card remains a far cry from record high. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)
The price for Wilt Chamberlain's rookie card remains a far cry from record high. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)

Price: $198,000

One of 32 PSA 9 examples (only three exist at a higher grade), this Chamberlain iconic rookie card is basically flat since June 2023, and this result ties for the lowest sale since the start of 2021. In 12 sales over that period, the highest price was $670,000.

Stern: It’s surprising to me that iconic vintage basketball cards like this haven’t rebounded better from their COVID highs. The result feels more like a symbol of just how unbelievably frothy the market was during that boom rather than an indictment of the current state of the market.

Rovell: Like a lot of things in the COVID memorabilia market, Will, I think this card was pumped more than most.

Elgin Baylor 1969 Topps rookie card (PSA 10)

Price: $120,000

The only PSA 10 example of Baylor’s 1969 Topps card, this result is down from $193,368 in September 2023 (the only other recorded public sale).

Stern: This shows the danger of trying to "flip" highly illiquid and expensive cards, as the seller appears to have realized a pretty significant loss here. However, it is quite interesting to see this sale (and the one before it) beat prices for Baylor’s rookie card, the record for which was achieved in October 2023 for $92,855.42. I would bet this was purchased by a set collector.

1966 Beatles Shea Stadium concert full ticket

Price: $492

A full (unused) ticket from the Beatles’ second Shea Stadium concert, this is one of 2,400 seemingly mint condition full tickets from the event that were never sold and instead were made into commemorative pieces by concert promoter Sid Bernstein. Another ticket from this release sold in October 2018 for $736.50.

Stern: As someone who would love to own one of these, I’m psyched prices appear to be falling. As an observer of the market for tickets, it’s clear these “meant to be collected” types of tickets are losing favor in the eyes of collectors who might opt for a stub or more authentic example that lacks the made-to-market quality seen here.

Rovell: This ticket was found in a "post" find, and buyers are finding that very unappetizing. It's telling the collector more than they want to know. Look no further than a slabbed PSA 5 of this ticket that's on eBay right now that's pushing $1,000. Also, I think a lot of people confuse the 1965 concert, which was one of their greatest American concerts, with the 1966, which lacks the same fanfare. I'd rather own a stub of 1965 for the price of a full ticket from the 1966 show.

The price for this 1980 "Miracle" cover of Sports Illustrated indicates the magazine market is falling. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)
The price for this 1980 "Miracle" cover of Sports Illustrated indicates the magazine market is falling. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)

1980 "Miracle on Ice" Sports Illustrated magazine, CGC 9.8

Price: $19,800

This is one of just two examples graded CGC 9.8, with the other reaching $26,000 last year.

Stern: This is one of the most recognizable SI covers out there and boasts rarity at the condition grade, so a down sale from last year feels like an appropriate indicator (or at least one data point) of the direction of the market for graded magazines.

Rovell: I have seen so many graded magazine covers on eBay in recent months not even going for their minimums. Like Type 1 photos, I think the jury is still very much out on this market.

1930 Babe Ruth signed baseball

Price: $9,600

Possibly, though not definitively, attributed to a Ruth home run, this ball was signed in 1930 and presented to a fan who caught a homer during the game and got Ruth to sign it afterward.

Stern: Though I understand how a lack of certainty could have prevented bidders from going after this piece full-force, I think this is an unbelievable pick-up. While the inscription would normally hurt the ball’s value (compared to a clear, single-signed example), its tie to a possible Ruth home run totally makes up for it in my mind.

1980 Topps NBA scoring leaders card (PSA 10)

Price: $492,000

This card, featuring Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Julius Erving, sold for a smidge more than the most recent comp in December 2023.

Stern: This could represent a bottom for this card, which, despite its extreme scarcity (pop: 23, just five public sales in two years) has seen a pretty serious slide from a record high in April 2022 of $840,000.

Victor Wembanyama 2023 Prizm Gold /10 BGS 9.5

Price: $150,000

Among the most important parallels Panini produces, this Prizm Gold /10 is now the second-most expensive Wembanyma card ever sold, behind only his Prizm Black Shimmer 1/1 that sold for $516,000 last month.

Burrows: I’m a little surprised to see the seller had this card graded by BGS, and the 9 centering likely disqualifies this example as a crossover candidate. Regardless, the true Golds are key chases for any player, and Wembanyama’s deal with Fanatics makes this sale that much more important for cards lacking ink. This sale is impressive, though I don’t expect it to stand as the record, with at least one PSA 10 example out there according to the pop report.

One Piece Championship 3rd Place Textured Kaido BGS 10 Pristine

Price: $39,600

Awarded to podium finishers at the first One Piece World Championship qualifying event in 2023, this Kaido example has set the mark for the most expensive One Piece card ever. Another One Piece card — a BGS 10 Black Label — also sold for $20,400 this past weekend through PWCC. Both cards topped the previous One Piece record of $15,100.

Burrows: I know very little about One Piece or the franchise’s card market as a whole, but it doesn’t take an expert to see that the popularity of these cards has been nothing short of extraordinary. Even if these aren’t items I’d consider collecting myself, it’s great to see a beloved franchise supported with high-quality card releases. There’s plenty of room in the card market for new categories, and I’m excited to see where One Piece goes from here.

1909-1911 T206 White Border Ty Cobb "bat off shoulder" PSA FAIR 1.5: Rare Uzit Back

Price: $54,000

This sale of an extremely rare T206 “Uzit Back” Cobb at REA over the weekend achieved a new record for the grade and back combination.

Stern: A great example of the depth and detail of the market for the T206 set. This rare back drove the card to sell for more than 10 times recent sales for like-graded “common backs” of Cobb from the same set.

Tiger Woods signed 1990 youth golf application

Price: $8,674.51

This is a remarkable document of Earl Woods entering Tiger in his first non-age restricted tournament, which the young phenom went on to win. It's a great piece of history, and The Golf Auction was bold enough to call it his earliest signature.

Rovell: I went 0-for the weekend, and this is one item I missed out on. I was the underbidder here and probably should have pushed it up a couple more. To get this for under $10,000 is a great buy in my opinion.

The ticket to the 1947 game in which Jackie Robinson hit his first homer went for a strong price. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)
The ticket to the 1947 game in which Jackie Robinson hit his first homer went for a strong price. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)

1947 ticket stub for Jackie Robinson first career home run

Price: $25,200

This ticket is for Robinson's third overall career game and first road game, but the real milestone is the Hall of Famer hit his first career home run in that April 18, 1947, game against the Giants.

Rovell: There were a lot of head scratchers in the collectible ticket market this weekend. A Roger Maris signed 61 homer ticket sold for $48,000. It's a pop 2, but is a signature worth more than 20 times the unsigned? However, there was nothing more baffling than this Robinson ticket. Sure, Robinson debut tickets are the king of the market, but this isn't even his home debut. Does his first home run really matter when he wasn't a player known for hitting home runs (137 in his career)? To pay $25,000 for Jackie Robinson's third game is just weird to me.

Stern: Agreed on the first homer not really mattering that much considering Robinson wasn’t known for his slugging. Maybe it’s different for Mantle or Bonds, but for Robinson, this is not exactly a moment worth commemorating to the tune of $25,200 in my opinion.

2001 Michael Jordan game-worn and signed Washington Wizards jersey, photo-matched to preseason home debut (Oct. 20, 2001) and Sports Illustrated cover

Price: $87,000

This jersey is from Jordan's first game as a Wizards player at home, with a match to an SI cover. It also marks his first career NBA game not played in a Bulls uniform.

Rovell: A couple of years ago, this would be a wild price for this jersey. I don't even recognize Jordan ever playing for the Wizards. It's one big "Who Cares?" But, in this market, it's hard to see anything MJ ever wore selling for less than $75,000, and that's what this is — plus the SI cover match gives it a boost.

Stern: This is stunning. I don’t think anyone actually cares about a preseason home debut, so it’s the attribution of the SI cover that likely did the job … but I don’t consider this one of his iconic covers and would be surprised if others did. Jordan jerseys continue to baffle.

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

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.

Ben Burrows is a reporter and editor for cllct.