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February PWCC Premier Auction: Key Market Commentary

February PWCC Premier Auction: Key Market Commentary
February 23, 2022
Dylan Dittrich

2022 is officially off and running. The winter sports auction season is well underway, and PWCC has already completed its second Premier Auction of the year. While January's auction was one of tamer, mixed results, February was similarly tame, but ultimately skewed more negative for fractional investors. Earlier this week, as always, we shared our fractional cheat sheet for shareholders to catch up with key comp results quickly. The sea of red, both in terms of results versus the last PWCC outcome and versus fractional comparables, overwhelms the eye relative to those friendlier, green sales figures.

Note: Fractional market caps as of 2/20.

Is there cause for concern in the broader market? Interestingly enough, the headline numbers are actually staggeringly similar to January. In fact, the total sales from the top 20 lots were exactly the same to the dollar: $6,594,000. This auction saw 37 six figure sales, just one behind the 38 registered in January. While you will find more red than green on the dashboard above, this wasn't a tale of severe and sudden drop-offs in value. Rather, the most common outcome, particularly for those cards that come to auction here and elsewhere frequently, was a very mild pullback versus recent results. While that may become a common refrain here, there were a few key storylines that caught our eye, and outside of fractional, there were also plenty of strong results to celebrate.

Next Gen Quarterbacks Stay Hot

Photo: PWCC

The darlings of the NFL postseason, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen, were well represented after strong showings in the January Premier, and they remained firmly in collectors' crosshairs in February. The headline was the $228,000 sale of Josh Allen's Gold Prizm Rookie in PSA 10 condition. That card, which carries a population of 3, hadn't sold since January 2021, when it went for $18,000. For reference, the Gold Prizm of Patrick Mahomes also carries a PSA 10 population of 3 and last sold in August for $528k. Allen's Gold Prizm in BGS 9.5 condition trades on Collectable, and is actually down over 30% in the last week to a market cap of $93,000. Allen's National Treasures RPA (/99), graded BGS 9, sold for $63,000, good for an approximately 50% gain on the last sale which came just two months ago. That card features four colors on the patch, and while Rally's features just two, it is a higher grade at BGS 9.5 and trades below the result at $49k.

Joe Burrow's NT RPA (/99) set a new high watermark, as a BGS 9.5 sold for $156,000. Back in December, another 9.5 notched a sale of a mere $30k. Further down the spectrum, a BGS 8 sold for $43,200. Burrow's Gold Prizm, which has seven of the ten card print run graded PSA 9 with no 10s to date, sold for $63,000. Just a month ago, one sold for $45,000.

This wasn't the biggest auction for Mahomes representation, and with the exception of a few examples, the general trend was for values to take a breather slightly lower than results from the leadup to the Chiefs' exit.

If you're still a major Lamar Jackson bull, this winter has been the time to strike. His Holo Silver NT RPA (/25) in BGS 9.5 condition sold for just $31,200. Consider the results we just recounted for the higher print runs and lower grades of other quarterbacks, and the difference is quite jarring for the former MVP.

Not represented at this auction: Matthew Stafford. Sorry, Matt.

Gearing up for Spring Training

Photo: PWCC

We may still be in the throes of winter in the Northeast, but this weekend's auction participants loudly voiced that they're ready for Spring Training. Despite the sport lingering in the background of sports conversation, with only murmurs about the status of negotiations between the MLB and MLBPA, the appetite for key cards of modern stars proved resolute. Trout, Ohtani, and Tatis all saw strong results in what was a pretty solid offering of options.

The headliner was the $528,000 sale of a PSA 10 Mike Trout Gold Refractor Rookie Auto. According to PWCC, that's the third highest price ever paid for a Trout card, and remarkably, it's more than double the $212k from an October sale. Trout's Orange Refractor (/25 vs. /50 for Gold), graded BGS 9.5, is down almost 20% since IPO on Rally and sits at approximately $182k. The base version of that rookie auto sold for $43,200, which was a more than 10% gain on a May sale. His Topps Update Target Red Border rookie, graded BGS 9.5, continued its slide though, selling for $19.2k - this card peaked at $42.5k one year ago.

Trout's teammate and MLB sensation, Shohei Ohtani, also made waves. His Bowman Chrome Orange Refractor Rookie Auto, graded PSA 10, sold for $156,000, which is the third highest price paid for an Ohtani card and also the highest price paid for a card featuring Ohtani batting rather than pitching. Rally IPO'd a BGS 9.5 for $73,000 a few months back which has not yet traded. The Gold Refractor version of that card, graded BGS 9.5, sold for $38,400.

A new high bar was set for Fernando Tatis's Gold Refractor Rookie Auto, as a PSA 10 garnered $117,000. That card last sold in December for $84,000.

The appetite carried over to modern cards of retired players, as an SGC 10 Derek Jeter SP Foil RC sold for $168,000, up from $108,000 in November to establish a new high for that grade.

Hockey Says Hello

Photo: PWCC

One of the standout results from the entire auction was the $144,000 sale of Connor McDavid's Exquisite RPA, graded PSA 10, for $144,000. That's a record for a McDavid card, and neither Crosby nor Ovechkin have seen their RPAs sell for more (though that's in part because the key grades haven't surfaced for sale recently). Further down the stack, the same card graded BGS 9 sold for $31,200.

Mark Messier's PSA 10 OPC rookie sold for $15,600, which was an 11% increase on a sale from a month earlier. Gretzky's OPC rookie, graded PSA 8, sold for $22,800, which was neither a standout result nor a disappointment. Still, it's at the higher end of a recent range from $15-25k.

There was some strength in vintage as well, as a PSA 6 Parkhurst Gordie Howe card sold for $27,600. That sale, of a card rated in the top 30% by eye appeal, was slightly ahead of a $25,685 sale at Memory Lane near the peak of the broader market a year ago. Fractional shareholders will recall a PSA 8 was bought out from Rally for a headline figure of $52,000 about a month ago.

Overall, the McDavid results standout as most intriguing, as the sport's brightest young star (still just 25), is finally seeing values commensurate with his ability and output.

Frequent Fliers Met with Indifference

Photo: PWCC

There are a number of cards that we see appear at seemingly every one of these auctions. LeBron Topps Chrome Refractors. Brady SP Authentic Rookies. Fleer Jordan Rookies. It's great that these incredible, iconic cards so frequently find eager new owners, while presumably lower cost basis entrants divest and realize their gains. However, so long as that's the case, they are likely to remain range bound.

Even the retirement of Tom Brady, the greatest football player to walk the earth, could do nothing to inspire a breakthrough higher for the SP Authentic Rookie, which sold for $114,000, lower than the most recent $132,000 sale and closer to the low end of a six month range. Maybe the market is rightfully wary of whether that retirement will stick, but in any case, we're not seeing inspired bursts of demand.

LeBron's Chrome Refractor Rookie came to auction in both BGS 10 and PSA 10 grades. The BGS 10, with a population of just 32, has sold eight times in the last six months. And this sale, for $96,000, was the lowest in that entire period, as well as the lowest in the last year. The PSA 10 actually ticked up to $78,000 from $72,000 in January, but the six month range is quite narrow, stretching from $70,000 to $84,000.

High end buyers are under no illusion that they need rush to buy a Fleer Jordan Rookie. That card, which has been comfortably range bound since August, actually sold for its lowest level in six months at $240,000; this comes after a few late 2021 false dawns which raised the possibility the card could be headed back towards $400k and beyond.

All of those sales were below fractional comps. These are all still huge sums of money, but it's hard to categorize demand for these increasingly ubiquitous cards as anything other than somewhat indifferent.

Prizm Rookies Hit Pause as Collectors Seek Differentiation

Photo: PWCC

There were some strong results for National Treasures RPAs (Lamelo, Ja) and for Flawless (Luka, Ja), but the numbered Prizm rookie cards of young stars continue to feel the effects of gravity after the frenzied activity of prior years.

The poster child for that trend is Luka, who saw his Orange and Blue Ice Prizms reach new one year lows. Giannis's Orange Prizm saw its second successive lower sale. Even the increasingly collectible Lamelo Ball's Orange Prizm is about a third off of fall peaks.

In contrast, it was interesting (and refreshing) to see strong demand for more unique, non-rookie cards of key stars. The rise of Kaboom has been well documented, but it's still fun to observe the numbers. A PSA 10 2018 Stephen Curry Gold Kaboom sold for $66,000. The last time one sold was April 2020....for $1,927.

LeBron's 2020 White Sparkle Prizm, graded PSA 10, sold for $33,000, more than that card brought in for Lamelo or Trae's rookie versions. Two 2014 Prizm Gold Pulsar cards saw five figure sales, with Stephen Curry's selling for $14,400 and LeBron's $12,000, while Kevin Durant's 2013 Gold Prizm drew $19,200, not far off the level of his Topps Chrome Refractor Rookie.

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