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PWCC Premier Auction: Key Market Commentary

PWCC Premier Auction: Key Market Commentary
January 26, 2022
Dylan Dittrich

Last week, we previewed a number of key storylines to watch throughout the winter sports auction season. The first results - from PWCC's Premier Auction - are in, and we have the initial read-throughs on those storylines, plus a few others. It's just one auction in a sea of many to come, but all data points on demand, particularly at the high end of the market, are welcome and worth heeding for fractional investors and collectors alike. Earlier in the week, we shared our dashboard featuring sales from the auction that were of the same grade as fractional counterparts. Of course, there is very often further nuance in cards to note beyond this headline data, but it should serve as a helpful starting point to digest the performance and explore opportunities nonetheless.

As seen above and in the other results, outcomes were mixed but mostly tame. Many of those cards that were sold in recent November or December Premier Auctions took a step back from those levels, but for the most part, not to an alarming degree. Such cards do merit further watching this season though, as many find themselves in the midst of mini-slides that began in the late stages of fall. That said, the auction was absolutely not without its records, highlights, and major results, and there's no shortage of six figure money chasing certain portions of the market - in total, there were 38 six figure sales, and the top 20 sales brought in $6,594,000. Alright, enough with the generalities, let's get into it.

Next Gen Quarterback Collectability on the Rise

The young quarterbacks put on an absolute show this weekend, and the resulting card sales did not disappoint. Despite his exit against the Chiefs, Josh Allen may have been the signal-caller that gained the most from a collectability standpoint. PWCC notched the two highest Allen sales to date, as his Panini Prizm Gold Vinyl /5 (PSA 10) drew $264,000 and his National Treasures Red RPA 1/1 sold for $240,000. For context on the former, there’s still considerable ground to close to his rival in Sunday’s game, as the same card of Mahomes but graded a BGS 9.5 sold for $415k in October, which wasn’t even a particularly bullish Mahomes moment.  

Photo: PWCC

Speaking of Mahomes, the headline sale was $630,000 for his BGS 9 National Treasures Black RPA /5. That was actually right in line with an August sale, and it underscores the high bar that has been set by Mahomes values. Winning a divisional playoff game isn’t a bullish catalyst, it’s merely a moment of met expectations. His Gold Holo /10, also a BGS 9, wasn’t far behind at $576k. Further down the value spectrum, his Prizm FOTL Bronze Stars (BGS 9.5) sold for $50.4k, just $2k off of August levels for a PSA 10.

Mahomes’ AFC Championship rival, Joe Burrow, also rode the wave higher, with just two lots in action, but both clearing $50k. His Panini Contenders Optic Gold BGS 9.5 drew $50.4k, while his uncirculated National Treasures RPA /99 sold for $66k, despite visible surface damage. That’s not far behind a BGS 9 example of the same card of Justin Herbert’s which sold for $78,000. That result, by the way, is leaps and bounds higher than it was the last time we saw him in action, when another BGS 9 sold for $54k January 9th. Despite not featuring in the playoffs, Herbert’s high-end appeal was bolstered considerably towards the end of the season, and he may have as much to gain as anyone this auction season. His PSA 10 Panini Contenders Cracked Ice Auto broke six figures with a $102,000 sale, up from $79,200 in October.

Bounceback for Brady Despite Being Bounced from Postseason

Brady’s SP Authentic (PSA 10), SP Authentic (BGS 9.5), Playoff Contenders (PSA 7), and Bowman Chrome (BGS 10) all bounced higher on Sunday, despite the GOAT having exited the playoffs in dramatic fashion just hours earlier. The first three were coming off concerningly challenged results at Goldin earlier in the month, but notched gains of 23%, 27%, and 11% versus those results respectively. And of course, most notably, the BGS 8 Championship Ticket card broke a skid of two successive lower sales to garner $1.29mm, just off the March high of $1.32mm for the same exact card. Whether the Brady momentum is sustained as he watches the NFC Championship and Super Bowl from his (presumably very nice) couch in the weeks ahead is up for debate, but seems likely, especially with a potential retirement announcement looming.

Women’s Sports Cards: 2021 Prediction -> 2022 Reality

The rising tide in women’s sports cards was a trend many pointed to throughout 2021, with an expectation that female greats would see their card values gain overdue ground against male counterparts. At the forefront of that trend have been the cards of Serena Williams - arguably the most dominant tennis player (athlete?) in history, male or female. At PWCC, her 1999 Sports Illustrated for Kids card, graded a PSA 10, set the new high watermark for a female sports card, changing hands for $117,000. And the demand wasn’t confined to just that card, as her 2003 NetPro Elite Glossy /100 card, also graded PSA 10, drew $96,000. Both of those figures are well in excess of double the previous record heading into the event, $44,000. Flash in the pan or resetting at a higher level?

Risk Appetite Intact in Active Basketball

Photo: PWCC

There is still no shortage of money willing to chase key cards of the NBA’s current, younger generation. While not all of these cards charged higher, three players saw six figure sales (Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Ja Morant - with Lamelo falling just short). In particular, four Luka cards drew six figure sums, and his /99 National Treasures RPA, graded BGS 9.5, finished at $348k, just below the high sale of $350k about a month ago. While that snaps an uninterrupted ascendancy through 2021, it doesn’t strike us as a major warning sign, particularly at this level. Trae Young’s Gold Prizm, graded a PSA 10, drew $180,000, up from $156k in October and $112k in March. His National Treasures RPA also bounced back close to 10% from a down sale in December, notching $72k to approach the high sale of $73.2k in October. 

Results in other, lower-tier Prizm cards were more scattered. Luka’s BGS 9.5 Blue Prizm continued a slide that’s been in motion since April - six successive lower sales. It’s not news to anyone that lower-tier Prizm cards (base and silver) were beaten down in 2021 as the populations skyrocketed, and it appears the mid-tier cards that ran hot to start that year are catching some trickle-up abuse until they find more palatable levels. It has not been uncommon for this segment of the market to struggle with teeming supply. Perhaps that lesson was learned for younger players, as Lamelo Ball’s Blue Shimmer Prizm notched a new high of $19.2k, and Anthony Edwards’ Orange Prizm notched a strong, but not otherworldly $26.2k. 

Basketball Stalwarts Settling into Lower Levels 

Across key cards for LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwayne Wade, and even Michael Jordan, sales at this auction largely settled comfortably into the (lower) levels set in late 2021. While many cards bounced off of the post spring bottom to notch higher sales in the fall, the trend to close the year was modestly down, and there was no clear reversal at play here. LeBron’s key rookies - namely his Topps Chrome Refractor, SP Authentic, and Finest refractor - continued a mild downward slide. The best case for cards of these players was a small bounce off of 6 month lows, though not to levels that would be indicative of a near-term breakout. This portion of the market may be settling into a new range for the moment, which may be healthy after a torrid pace to open 2021 led to significant destruction later on. 

Mixed Results in Soccer, but Messi is King for the Moment

Lionel Messi was better represented in this auction than his oft-compared competitor, Cristiano Ronaldo, and the results at higher values did not disappoint despite the Argentinian enduring one of his least impressive campaigns to date. His key Mega Cracks rookie stopped its skid at the BGS 9.5 level, reaching $84k, a level not seen since May. A PSA 9 notched its highest price to date, at $57.6k. The only poor performer was a BGS 9, which continued a mini slide in motion since mid December. His Mundi Cromo rookie, graded PSA 10 and trading at a similar price level to the BGS 9 Mega Cracks, also fell - more dramatically in this case, as the result was about 33% lower than in October. The standout Messi result, though, was the $204,000 sale of his 2014 World Cup Gold Prizm, which marks a record for a non-rookie Messi card. And that result was achieved despite two cards of the ten card print run being graded PSA 10, with two BGS 9.5s also having been graded.

Photo: PWCC

One surprising laggard for much of the auction was a BGS 10 copy of Ronaldo’s 2002 Panini Futebol sticker. At $114k, the card failed to surpass both a May sale of a BGS 10 for $120k, as well as the December sale of a PSA 10 for $138k. Important to note: a number of these stickers (though in lower BGS grades) have recently been alleged to be counterfeit, which may have cast doubt on this particular lot. Confirmation will be available at Goldin next weekend, as a PSA 10 comes to auction. 

At the high end, Pele demand remains strong, as the sale of an SGC 7.5 Alifabolaget card drew $180,000, up 24% over a sale from last spring. Lower down though, the $27,600 sale of a PSA 4 1958 Tupinamba shows little movement from early-to-mid 2021, and a PSA 5 Aquarela sale for $21,600 will do little to make waves either. Results for Johan Cruyff and Michel Platini cards fell more or less in line with expectations, with no evidence of heightened demand for that tier of star just yet.

Little to Deduce in Vintage Baseball

Photo: PWCC

With just ten pre-1970 baseball cards in the auction, it will likely be best to look ahead to auctions to come for a read-through on trends. Nonetheless, there were a handful of encouraging signs at PWCC. After a PSA 7 1952 Topps Mantle failed to meet its reserve price at Goldin earlier in the month, the $336,000 result here will elicit a sigh of relief, as that’s an 8% improvement on the most recently completed sale. Further down the food chain, a PSA 5.5 example garnered $144k, which is actually handily clear of the most recent sale for a PSA 6, which was $105k in October (a PSA 5 hit the same level in November). The standout result may have been a PSA 3 1951 Bowman Mantle, which drew $36k (top 5% by eye appeal according to PWCC), nearly doubling up the  most recent result of $19.2k in December for a top 30% eye appeal card.

The sale of a 1952 Topps Mays PSA 8 for $240k is down from the December high of $258k, but still ranks above every other sale in 2021, which may be indicative of a still strong and strengthening market, despite the pullback. 

No Emergence in Mid-Tier Hockey 

The key hockey card to watch at PWCC was the PSA 10 O-Pee-Chee Mario Lemieux Rookie Card. However, it remains range bound in the $45-55k range, and this result came in towards the lower end at $48k, just $1.7k above one year lows. The card comes to auction again at Heritage twice in the next month, but there is little momentum to suggest that a breakout is coming. 

While a PSA 8 Gretzky O-Pee-Chee rookie was rated in the top 30% by eye appeal, it traded near the higher end of its 6 month range but did not break above.  Bobby Orr’s 1966 Topps rookie card, one on an uptrend, drew $26.4k in SGC 7.5 condition. This is not far behind the fall sale of a PSA 7, but that's not particularly exciting or encouraging news. 

It was a more limited auction for hockey, with just 6 lots, but still, with that reduced supply, we didn’t see an emergence of incrementally positive demand for cards in the low-to-mid five figures.

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