Auction recap: Eye appeal, MJ's Air Ships and declining Aaron sales

Our weekly recap and analysis on the weekend's auctions

Cover Image for Auction recap: Eye appeal, MJ's Air Ships and declining Aaron sales
This autographed Stan Lee card, graded as a PSA 10, sold for $1,625 at auction.

Welcome to cllct's weekly auction recap.

Every Monday, we'll be highlighting sales from the weekend and giving our analysis. Comments are from cllct's Will Stern and Darren Rovell.

1954 Topps Hank Aaron rookie card (PSA 9) Price: $420,000

We haven’t seen a comparable sale of Hank Aaron’s rookie card in PSA 9 condition sell for this low since August 2020. Only two rank higher in PSA’s census and a mere 25 share its PSA 9 distinction.

This continues the slide for the card after a $480,000 sale in September 2023, a $600,000 sale in June 2023, a $615,000 sale in November 2022 and a record-setting $720,000 sale in August 2022.

Stern: This is a head-scratcher. It isn’t as if we’ve seen a glut of these hit the market, and high-end vintage has typically performed as well as any sector of the card market. However, this is undeniably a signal that the demand for this card seems to be slipping.

Rovell: Coming off the 50th anniversary of Aaron's 715th homerun, it's even more surprising to see it drop to this level.

1993 Upper Deck SP Foil #279 Derek Jeter rookie card (PSA 10) Price: $312,000

Jeter’s top rookie card is one of the most condition-sensitive in the modern hobby, with more than 48,000 graded by PSA, BGS, SGC and CGC combined and a 0.6% Gem Rate, according to gemrate.

This sale marks the top price paid for a PSA 10 example (pop: 21) since June 2022. Comparable sales tell a compelling story regarding the impact of sales frequency and the supply in the market — and their impact on price. Between 2013 and 2020, there were less than three public sales per year. In 2022, the same year the card notched a record $600,000, there were six public sales, descending to $204,000 in back-to-back sales in December of that year.

This is the first public offering since those auctions.

Stern: Supply and demand ... This card was climbing steadily until 2022, when we saw an unprecedented number of comparable sales, ultimately resulting in a precipitous decline.

With a full year off since the market has seen the card, price recovered nicely, adding more than 50% dollar value and proving REA can handle modern cards and generate exceptional prices for their consignors.

1933 Goudey #92 Lou Gehrig (PSA/DNA 9) Price: $180,000

According to REA, just 10 autographed copies of the 1933 Goudey No. 92 Lou Gehrig Card have been authenticated by PSA/DNA, with none receiving a higher autograph grade than this example.

Signed vintage has been soaring in the past few years, as we covered recently on cllct.

It brings an added layer of scarcity to already-scarce and desirable cards, adorning these relics of cardboard history with an even more tangible connection to the player represented on the card.

Stern: This card is a staple of the hobby and one of Gehrig’s most recognizable. It’s incredible to think a mere 10 have been authenticated as signed by the Iron Horse.

It’s always fun to compare the prices of signed vintage to unsigned examples, though the lack of a condition grade makes this a bit more difficult. Viewing the high resolution scan on REA’s site, it’s easy to say this card would grade in the sub-4 range (though, I’m not a grader, so who knows). But for the sake of comparison, the same card, sans autographs, in a PSA 4 slab, last sold for $6,838 in January 2024.

Michael Jordan's game-worn Air Ships sold for $282,000. (Credit: REA)
Michael Jordan's game-worn Air Ships sold for $282,000. (Credit: REA)

1984 Michael Jordan game-worn "Air Ships" shoes Price: $282,000

As we covered last week, the "Air Ships" are a rare fresh-to-market find of one of the most significant sneakers in the history of sports. A faded signature and lack of a photo-match surely hurt this pair at auction.

Stern: This is nowhere near the record highs of $1.47 million paid in 2021 for the "Air Ships" that MJ donned in his fifth NBA game (or the $624,000 paid for the same sneakers in 2023). But that shouldn’t come as a shock, considering the lack of a photo-match.

Rovell: I think this is a pretty disappointing result. I expected this to go for at least $500,000. I think it was misplaced at REA, an auction house not known for this type of memorabilia. Likely would have got a better number at Goldin, Grey Flannel, or Heritage.

Still, the rock-solid provenance of these sneakers, coming from a ball boy’s collection which included more than a dozen other sneakers from the era, as well as its possible link to his sixth NBA game, which would make them the second-earliest Jordan NBA-worn sneakers to ever surface, could end up making this a great buy.

Circa 1913 Joe Jackson original Charles Conlon photograph PSA/DNA Type 1 Price: $192,000

This result brings the Joe Jackson photo, taken by legendary MLB photographer Charles Conlon, into the top 20 all-time public sales for Type 1 photographs. It also serves as another major result amid the recent flurry of activity for high-end Type 1s at auction.

Stern: This tells me that it’s Conlon, rather than the athlete, who appears to be driving prices in the market right now. The photographer is also credited with others of the most valuable Type 1s, such as "Ty Cobb sliding into third," and he is clearly the King when it comes to this burgeoning market.

Rovell: Even though other Type 1s have caught up, as Will says, early baseball photographs taken by Conlon have no rival.

1965 Joe Namath Debut Photographer Press Pass (PSA 4) Price: $1,800

REA noted this as "the ONLY example graded at this level with none higher." They failed to mention it's the only example in PSA's census, period.

Stern: Have to imagine the simple omission by REA of this being PSA's only graded example (rather than the only example at the grade) could have really hurt the price on this one. A steal.

Rovell: This could be considered the steal of the weekend. The eye appeal is outstanding and considering stubs go for at least $3,000, you're getting something better looking and rarer at half the price. Not to mention, if you want Namath to sign it, the pass has a hell of a bulls eye.

2008 Topps Indiana Jones Masterpieces (Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg) Prices: $9,687.50 and $9,687.50

As we discussed last week, these are two examples of incredibly rare (/7) autographs from two cultural giants. Considering the discrepancy between these sales and their non-card autographs, it appears to be a sign of strength in terms of collectors’ appetite for well-designed, limited edition card products and a willingness to pay a premium for them when compared to their autograph alone.

Stern: Without much of a comparable sales history, it’s tough to put it in context other than evidence of serious money sitting on the sidelines waiting to scoop up high-end pop culture cards.

1998 SkyBox Marvel Stan Lee Autograph (PSA 10) Price: $1,625

Stern: Random Stan Lee autographs typically sell for sub-$500. A recent sale of a similar card from the 1998 Skybox Marvel Silver Age Autograph Series set sold for $500 ungraded on eBay. This is the kind of sale that makes me remind myself "not every result is worthy of a take." Sometimes, a sale is just a sale.

1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card (PSA 9, PWCC-E) Price: $22,200

This is a great opportunity to discuss eye-appeal designations. For the uniniated, companies such as MBA and PWCC apply a second-level of grading to slabbed cards known as eye appeal, providing an added data point capable of differentiating otherwise like-graded cards.

In PWCC’s case, the company offers three eye appeal rating’s: PWCC-A (top 30% of cards at the grade), PWCC-E (top 15%) and PWCC-S (top 5%). This PSA 9 Jordan rookie was given a PWCC-E designation, which clearly elevated it above its peers. During the same auction Sunday night, another PSA 9 copy (sans eye appeal sticker) sold for $15,600.

Stern: It’s incredibly useful to see a real-world experiment play out like this, with two PSA 9s in the same auction, differentiated only by an eye-appeal sticker. It’s not news that these stickers boost prices, but it isn’t as if there is an exact formula to tell us the precise premium provided by a PWCC-E designation.

In this case, we can at least say with solid data that it represented a bump of more than 40 percent.

Rovell: Marketing is important. Cards called out as better by PWCC, MBA and Probstein sell for more.

Will Stern is a reporter and editor for cllct.