PWCC will close its June Premier Auction on Thursday night, and there will be many questions answered about a sports card market that is. broadly speaking, on somewhat shakier ground in the second quarter than it was in the first. Regardless of your personal collecting or investing pursuits, this auction has storylines worth following. Join us as we dive into some of the key questions that we're eager to have answered by this massive event.
1) Is fractional selling overdone?
As always, the PWCC Premier event is replete with important data for fractional investors. There are 44 like-graded fractional comps on offer, which will give us a terrific sense of how fractional markets are priced relative to auction activity. Through June 10th, the Altan Insights Fractional Sports Card Index is down 14.7% in 2022 to date and 19% in the second quarter. Markets have been in broad freefall for weeks (even months), and selling activity appears to be relatively undiscerning. We’ll soon have an indication if perhaps some of that selling has been overdone…or if there’s more room to fall.
2) How immune are the GOATs?
This auction features some of the most recognizable cards of the most recognizable stars in extremely strong condition. It’s a veritable "who’s who", and there will be multiple key reference points for each sport. Fleer Jordan PSA 10. O-Pee Chee Gretzky PSA 9. Mega Cracks Messi PSA 10. Mega Craques Ronaldo PSA 10. Kobe Topps Chrome Refractor PSA 10. Jeter SP Foil PSA 10 (quick aside: Jeter is not a GOAT in this Red Sox fan's opinion, but the card is a grail).
We could go on, but the key question is this: will the buying crowd allow these absolute cornerstone pieces to dip, or is demand still strong enough and broad enough to prop their values at levels reasonably close to their recent track records?
3) Will the Serena boom continue?
While much of the card market has stalled, a Serena card struck perhaps one of the standout results of the year in late May at Goldin, when her 2003 NetPro International Authentic Apparel Series card, graded PSA 8, sold for $266,400. That was a significant increase on the previous record price of $163,200, set in February at Heritage for a PSA 7. PWCC has a BGS 9 copy of the card up for auction, and now we’ll see if that frantic momentum can be sustained. The Goldin result may be viewed as flukey, and a return to the Heritage levels established earlier this year would not likely be received in a negative light.
4) Can the Finals capture collectors’ imaginations, even in a nervous market?
The NBA Finals are the stage on which a basketball player’s legacy is truly established and strengthened. In front of national audiences, stars have the opportunity to distance themselves in the eyes of collectors as well. This year’s series is particularly pivotal for Stephen Curry, chasing his first Finals MVP, and Jayson Tatum, seeking his first championship and an answer to criticism that he lacks a killer instinct.
The Premier Auction features 20 Curry cards, headlined by a true gem+ National Treasures RPA. Recent sales of similar cards have somewhat struggled: A BGS 9.5 with a 9 auto grade and lower average subgrades sold for $336,000 last month, while a BGS 9 with a 9 auto grade sold for $288,000 in April at Goldin. Still, this example, which seemingly ticks all the boxes, could close Thursday night concurrently with another Curry masterclass and Championship victory. One year ago, in May of 2021, a similarly graded example sold for $432,000 at PWCC. Already, the card in this auction sits at $420,000 ($504,000 with premium). Sometimes, it’s helpful to zoom out..
We’ll also be watching to see if his Topps Chrome Refractor Rookie reverses its sharply declining trajectory. It will take a sale above $144,000 to do so; even that result would be markedly lower than a $228,000 January peak.
Tatum’s cards have yet to occupy the market position one would expect from a First Team All-NBA player. A true gem National Treasures RPA will sell, and to set a new all-time high, it would have to eclipse a May sale of $71,400.
5) Will vintage baseball prove it’s the low volatility stalwart of the card space?
Industry observers often look at vintage baseball cards as perhaps the most stable and least speculative portion of the space, with a loyal and consistent base of pure collectors ensuring that the category weathers volatility better than others. There are myriad examples in this auction from collector favorites that should allow us to take the temp of the market.
Leading the way is a PSA 8 1952 Topps Jackie Robinson card. There hasn’t been a sale in that grade since August, when one drew $192k, and the current example is judged by PWCC to be in the top 15% of the population on eye appeal. Also on offer is a PSA Authentic PSA/DNA 9 1933 Goudey Ruth card. The very same card drew $264,000 at Goldin just months ago in February, making profit for the flipper seemingly a tall order.
We’ll also see additional key examples from Mays, Mantle, Ruth, and Gehrig. 1933 Goudey cards featuring Ruth (PSA 6) and Gehrig (PSA 7) enter the auction on the back of down sales, which can also be said of Mays’ 1951 Bowman (PSA 7).
Finally, a PSA 8.5 1957 Topps Mantle is on pace to set a massive record. The card is judged by PWCC to be in the top 5% on eye appeal, and bidding currently sits at $55,000. The record, for another card of the same eye appeal distinction, was set last May at just $39,000.
6) Is football ready to reclaim center stage?
By the time the next PWCC Premier Auction opens next month, the NBA and NHL finals will have concluded, and sports will have entered their annual summer lull. This June auction season for sports collectibles is the last before the NFL returns to the forefront of the hobby, and there are multiple cards set to sell this week that should set the stage for the fall. The most expensive football card expected to sell this week is a 2017 National Treasures Holo Gold Patrick Mahomes RPA which carries a current bid of $380,000. The last sale for one of these /10 rookies was for $1.08 million in September and the hammer price for this Mahomes will test the high-end market. There are more than 50 cards featuring active NFL quarterbacks that will sell this week, including 27 Tom Brady cards and 9 Josh Allen rookie cards. One Josh Allen card, a 2018 National Treasures RPA /99, has a current bid of $46,000 after selling for $1,900 in 2020.
7) Will inserts have their moment?
Precious Metal Gems, Kabooms, Jambalaya, oh my!
As questions and uncertainty swirls around the stability of the five-figure card market, PWCC has multiple high-profile inserts scheduled to sell this week that should either insert (pun intended) confidence or concern into the market. The most expensive Precious Metal Gem expected to sell Thursday is a 1997 PMG Green card featuring...Brett Favre. The Favre market, tormented by the junk-wax era, could finally have a break-through as PWCC is poised to set a new record for the Hall of Fame quarterback. Five different Kabooms are also set to sell and the top three, which feature Josh Allen, Tom Brady, and Steph Curry, should combine for at least $150,000. In May, PWCC set a record for the 1997 Skybox E-X2001 Jambalaya Michael Jordan when they sold a BGS 9.5 for $126,000. This current auction has another BGS 9.5 graded example with the same average subgrades and will provide a month-over-month comparison for the late 1990s MJ insert.
8) Can boxes break through?
While volume at this auction will be limited, prices for sealed wax and boxes have remained steady despite the struggles of the individual cards inside. PWCC will sell a 12-box case of 2012-2013 Panini Prizm Basketball cards, which carries a current bid of $39,000. In October, PWCC sold a comparable case for $144,000, which gives an average price per box of $12,000. The Panini Prizm boxes currently retail between $12,000-$14,000 and if modern basketball is going to recover, it might start with a surge in sealed wax. One sport seeing a surge is Formula 1 Racing, and PWCC will sell a 2020 Topps Chrome Case of F1 boxes that could establish a new record for a factory sealed hobby case. In January, these cases were priced near $20,000 but Goldin sold one in May for $34,798. The PWCC case has already reached $28,000, or $33,600 after buyer’s premium, heading into the final hours of the event.
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