Clemente RC Sale a “Market Changer”


1955 Topps Roberto Clemente #164 PSA Mint 9 -$310,700 Image courtesy Heritage Auctions, HA

By Mike Payne

Of the first 129 lots sold during the first night of the two-night Heritage Auctions Platinum Night auction Thursday night at the National Sports Collectors Convention, it was a piece of cardboard that shocked Chris Ivy the most.

A 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Card, graded a Mint 9 by PSA, sold for an eye-popping $310,700 with buyer’s premium.

“That’s a market changer,” Ivy, Heritage Auctions’ Director of Sports Auctions said. “That far exceeded our expectations.”

The card had a $25,000 starting bid.

In another surprise, a PSA 8 NM-MT 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle sold for $382,400 (with buyer’s premium) . . . or about $60,000 more than a 1966 Mantle game-worn jersey that fetched $382,400.

“That speaks a lot to how strong the cards did” in the auction, Ivy said.

Other highlights included:

  • 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl XX Championship Ring presented to William “Refrigerator” Perry ($203,150 with buyer’s premium). “An amazing sale,” Ivy said.

1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl XX Championship Ring Presented to William Refrigerator Perry $203,150 Image courtesy Heritage Auctions, HA

  • A 1919 Belmont Stakes Trophy Silver Tray presented to the owner of 1919 Triple Crown winner Sir Barton ($71,700). “Horse racing collectors are a smaller group,” Ivy said. “But they’re die-hard when quality items come up.”

1919 Belmont Stakes Trophy Silver Tray Presented to Owner of Sir Barton 71,700 Image courtesy Heritage Auctions, HA

  • The 1998 NBA Finals Basket and Backboard from Michael Jordan’s championship-winning shot that sank the hopes of the Utah Jazz ($41,825)
  • Circa 1860 Brooklyn Atlantics Baseball Card, SGC Authentic ($179,250) – “A seminal artifact of baseball history,” Ivy said of the card, released about the time Abraham Lincoln was elected president. “And not just baseball history, but American history. When this came out the game of baseball was transitioning from cricket to more of what we recognize as baseball.”

Circa 1860 Brooklyn Atlantics Baseball Card, SGC Authentic

  • 1957 Roy Campanella game-worn Brooklyn Dodgers jersey ($101,575)
  • 1967-68 Wilt Chamberlain game-worn Philadelphia 76ers uniform – jersey and shorts ($89,625)
  • A 1920 Man ‘o War horseshoe worn in his Belmont Stakes victory ($26,250) and a Man ‘o War horseshoe worn in the 1920 Preakness Stakes win ($23,900)

1920 Man o' War Horseshoe Worn in Belmont Stakes Victory $26,290 Image courtesy Heritage Auctions, HA

Overall, the first night of the auction realized just over $5 million in sales. The second part of the auction will be conducted online Friday night.


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  1. Jonathan W. Iwanski 1 August, 2015 at 15:51

    I’d be interested to know what percentage of collectors have the kind of cash to drop $300,000 here or there. I’m guessing there cannot be too many of them, but they do change the market for all the people working three-to-six years to earn $300,000. Are they a small enough group that they all know of each other, or are there literally thousands of people out there changing the values of cards for the millions of us that will never even have that sort of money to spend on a house? As products get more high-end, the face of this hobby we started as kids has certainly changed its audience.

  2. james b. 4 August, 2015 at 01:35

    Honestly this is a good thing this card started as a kids hobby and to last 60 years in this condition it should fetch a premium price. Yes the hobby has changed but in a good way there is still plenty of affordable products for kids as starter packs with a few high end hits in there then there are high end products for us bigger kids who haven’t let the hobby go. Would you prefer this card went for $25 and all packs were still 25 cents witha stick of gum ruining the first one. I am surprised how well the hobby has made a come back from the late 80’s and early 90’s mass over production which nearly crippled it altogether.

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