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Auction Action: Heritage July Summer Sports Preview

This week, Heritage will close their July 21 - 23 Summer Sports Auction that is filled with an impressive lineup of memorabilia and rare sports cards. As the final bids come in and price continue to climb, Altan Insights previews the key storylines to watch and dives into some of the top items that caught our eye.

Key Storylines

The legacy of Muhammad Ali

There are 4,300 lots at this Heritage auction and boxing represents 1,650, or 38% of them. Out of those 1,650 lots, more than 1,400 feature items related to Muhammad Ali. The auction should set records for the most Ali memorabilia ever sold at a single event and is the deepest and most diverse holding of Ali-related artifacts we've ever seen. The collection include the robe worn by Ali in his 1971 bout with Joe Frazier and his WBC Heavyweight Championship belt. There is everything in this auction, from fight-worn trunks and shoes to rare on-site fight posters and Type 1 images. The history and impact of Muhammad Ali is unquestioned and this auction provides an opportunity for collectors and investors to obtain ownership of artifacts that rarely appear on public markets.

Heritage = Home to the summer of hockey cards

At the time of publication, there is a 2015 Upper Deck Connor McDavid RPA that is one bid away from reaching a price which would establish a new all-time record for any modern hockey card. The current record of $164,400 was set at Goldin in the spring by a 2020 Sidney Crosby Gold PMG. Heritage will break that record in this auction with their McDavid card but the sale is just the first of many high-profile hockey items set to find new owners via Heritage this quarter. In August the auction house will sell a PSA 10 graded copy of Wayne Gretzky's 1979 Topps Rookie card, one of just two in existence. The card could command seven-figures and is poised to become the most expensive hockey card in 2022. At that same event, Heritage will also sell a PSA 9 graded O-Pee-Chee version of the Gretzky rookie and a game used and signed stick from the 1980 Miracle on Ice game used by Mark Wells of Team USA. Both assets should reach six-figures as the auction could set records for the highest hockey collectible sale ever at a single event.

Lots to Watch

Lot #53301: 1975 Muhammad Ali Worn Muslim Prayer Cap (A Thrilla in Manila)

In an event loaded with incredible pieces of Ali memorabilia, this Muslim Prayer Cap combines the greatness and allure of Ali while also capturing an impactful moment in history that extended beyond the boxing ring. The cap carries an LOA from Resolution Photomatching and was worn by Ali at a mosque in Manilla days before he would take to the ring for a third fight against bitter rival Joe Frazier. From Jackie Robinson and Arthur Ashe to Bill Jean King and Althea Gibson, there is a limited number of athletes who provided not only entertainment for sports fans, but also delivered a cultural impact at a level similar to Ali. Heritage has provided a guided value of $1 million and while estimating the value for this historic item is difficult, there is no question that it is one of the few museum-worthy pieces of memorabilia that will change ownership this year. The conversion to Islam by Ali is considered one of the defining moments of the 20th century and occurred not only during a formidable moment of his career, but also captured media attention in the midst of the Cold War and a cultural revolution.

Lot #50731: 1961 Topps Dice Game Mickey Mantle (PSA 1)

So few of these 1961 Topps Dice Game card exist that it was once believed that the test issue was never actually released. Amazingly, the total number of cards within the set has not been agreed upon by experts although the number settled on most often is 18. The post-war issue offers collectors the chance to own a card printed in the latter half of the 20th century but carries all the characteristics of a card produced before World War II. The unnumbered cards are printed in black and white and lack any advertisement or recognition of Topps. The card offered by Heritage is a PSA 1 graded example featuring Mickey Mantle, the Yankee legend who has also become the figurehead for the hobby with various card commanding six and seven-figure prices. Even with the low grade, the scarcity alone will be a driving force behind the final realized price of the rarest set to include Mantle ever produced.

Lot #510053: 1929 Dockman & Sons "Star Player Candy" Babe Ruth Unopened Pack

In a rare combination of history and nostalgia, fused in a way that many collectibles attempt to replicate, bubble gum and vintage baseball cards are synonymous with another. This unopened 1929 Dockman & Sons Babe Ruth card pack is too delicate to grade or encapsulate but has managed to withstand the test of time until it was discovered by a collector in 2009. While the 1933 Goudey set often takes credit for introducing gum to the sports card industry, this pack actually predates the series by four years and the buyer who ultimately wins this lot will not only have a Babe Ruth baseball card, but also 30 small gum balls. This is the first time one of these Babe Ruth packs has ever appeared at public auction which means it is the first time someone has had the opportunity to buy the earliest baseball card gum combined with a card that features the 'Sultan of Swat'.

Lot #52310: 2015 Upper Deck The Cup Connor McDavid RPA (PSA 10)

As mentioned above, the next month could reshape the entire hockey card market and the action starts this week with what is the greatest modern hockey card to ever appear at public auction. Just as Upper Deck did with Exquisite in basketball, they also did with The Cup which has been one of the most impactful sets for the sport since the late 1970s Topps and O-Pee-Chee productions. This card, which features an incredible tri-colored patch and perfect qualities, comes loaded with potential catalysts as the hockey market clamors for the next Gretzky. The hockey-crazed country of Canada is now in the midst of a 29-year Stanley Cup drought. No team representing the land up north has held up Lord Stanley since 1993 and if any team will break the curse, it could be McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. When McDavid first entered the league, the Oilers were horrendous and coming off their seventh straight losing season. Now armed with one of the most exciting lineups in the sport, the Oilers have reclaimed the pride of Canada and are 121-71 over the past three seasons. Their quest for the cup ended this year in the Western Conference Finals this year, but the future looks promising after their deepest playoff run since 1991-92.


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