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PWCC Premier Preview: A Sports Card Market Test Amidst Broad Financial Turmoil

PWCC Premier Preview: A Sports Card Market Test Amidst Broad Financial Turmoil
May 19, 2022
Dylan Dittrich

This week, we get a rare Thursday night close for PWCC’s May Premier Auction. With markets of all kinds in turmoil, here are ten key questions we’re focused on going into the event. 

1. How’s the high end of the sports card market holding up?

This is both the most pressing and obvious question to ask going into Thursday night’s close. At 419 lots, this is the largest Premier Auction to date. We’ll be eagerly watching to see how several key figures hold up. Will the number of six-figure sales surpass April (35) and March (42)? Will the total value of “page one” sales be up? Amidst the carnage almost everywhere else, this is a pivotal moment to see if cracks are showing at the high end of the card market. It will be particularly relevant for fractional markets, with 37 like-graded comps to set for sale. 

2. Can eye-appeal reinvigorate the Jordan market?

Photo: PWCC

Amidst the decline of the Fleer Jordan rookie market last summer, PWCC sold a PSA 10 they deemed to be in the top 5% of the population by eye appeal for $840,000. Though that result drew skepticism, it did create a brief resurgence in demand for the card.   On Thursday night, an example deemed to be in the top 15% comes to auction, once again against the backdrop of a stagnant-to-declining market. The card has not sold for above $300,000 since January, and the last result above $400,000 was in August. 

3. Giannis: elevated in elimination?

Photo: PWCC

Despite coming up short against the Celtics, Giannis put the NBA on notice, asserting his claim as the league’s most dominant, top dog in a league full of star power. The Bucks won’t defend their title, but his cards might stand to benefit nonetheless. At the time of writing, the most valuable card in the entire auction is a BGS 9.5 Gold Prizm rookie. That card hasn’t sold since April of 2021, when the market was near its peak, but before the Bucks’ title run. At the time, it sold for $522,750, and a PSA 10 actually sold a month later, in the midst of that run, for $420,000. With bidding already at $440,000 ($528,000 with buyer’s premium), this has the potential to be a landmark result. The auction also features several other key Giannis Prizm cards and National Treasures RPAs. 

4. Was March just a flash in the pan for Charizard?

Photo: PWCC

PWCC raised eyebrows in March when it sold a PSA 10 1st Edition Charizard Holo for $420,000 - a record price and a significant leap over recent results clustered more frequently in the mid-to-high $200k range. Another PSA 10 will close Thursday night, and while it’s not a particularly freshly-graded example, the result may tell us a bit about sentiment in the trading card space, which is in the process of being absolutely bludgeoned on fractional markets for the second year running.

5. How are the aging soccer GOATs performing?

Photo: PWCC

For the first time since October, when Goldin notched a $319,800 sale (pretty much out of nowhere), a PSA 10 Ronaldo Mega Craques rookie comes to auction. While the season has been a disappointment for Manchester United (something this Liverpool supporter never tires of writing), Ronaldo has remained relatively potent in front of goal. Still, it hasn’t been an active market for these high-graded rookies, so this will be a key data point. 

Meanwhile, Messi’s Mega Cracks rookie has been on an absolute roller coaster in 2022, with a BGS 9.5 climbing as high as $96,000 and most recently falling as low as $37,200. This is perhaps the least visible Messi has been in a season over the last decade, so it will be interesting to see how an example with quad 9.5 subgrades fares in the present environment. His 2018 Gold Kaboom, graded BGS 9.5, will also sell. The card numbered 10/10 (jersey number) sold for $84,000 at Goldin in December.

6. McDavid is through to the next round, but will McDavid collecting level up?

Connor McDavid hasn’t disappointed in leading the Oilers to the next round of the NHL playoffs, which is a welcome development as collectors have taken increased notice of his cards in 2022. Already this year, PWCC has notched two six-figure McDavid sales, and the assortment of McDavid cards available in the May Premier Auction is strong. The two six-figure sales were a PSA 10 The Cup Exquisite Collection RPA for $144,000 and a BGS 9 Upper Deck The Cup RPA for $120,000. On offer this week? A PSA 10 The Cup Exquisite Collection RPA and a BGS 9 Upper Deck The Cup RPA. Those are far from being the only attractive McDavid cards that will sell, and we’ll know much more about the market for his cards amidst a postseason run once the dust has settled. 

7. Is it time for a headline Federer card auction sale?

Photo: PWCC

For a universally beloved star with a remarkable record of winning, Roger Federer’s cards haven’t made much auction noise over the boom times of the last two years. His memorabilia was sought after enough to command an entire standalone auction at Christies, but tennis card collecting headlines have been commanded in larger part by Serena Williams, as she carries the banner for women’s sports. Notably though, the card that set the women’s record for Serena is up for grabs in similar form for Federer this week. His 2003 NetPro International Series Authentic Apparel Autograph, graded BGS 9 and /25, will sell. Serena’s record sale was for a PSA 7 /100. If there is to be a moment for a Federer sale to emerge, perhaps it’s this one. A BGS 9.5 copy of this card did sell via the PWCC Fixed Price Marketplace for $110,000 in February, so it will be interesting to see if that result creates competition at auction, though I’m not sure many were aware of the sale.

8. Can high-end modern baseball keep up the momentum?

Photo: PWCC

PWCC Premier Auctions have achieved some strong results in modern baseball to start 2022, and the cards consigned this month offer the potential to keep that trend in motion. The auction will feature key rookies of Trout, Judge, Soto, Guerrero Jr, Ohtani, and Acuna, among others. The highest end of the Judge market will be on display, as his Rookie Bowman Chrome Superfractor Auto graded BGS 9.5 leads the modern sales. Other highlights include Juan Soto’s Blue and Orange Rookie Refractor Autos, as well as Vlad’s Red Refractor Auto. The latter is graded BGS 9.5; a BGS 10 from the same print run of 5 sold for $552k at last month’s event. Soto’s Orange Refractor, graded BGS 9.5, sold for $132,000 last month. This month’s example features stronger subgrades and looks likely to surpass that result. Another one to watch: Julio Rodriguez’s Orange Refractor graded BGS 9.5. Rodriguez is adjusting relatively well to the majors, and in that regard, represents more of a known commodity than some of the prospects that saw large sales in Q1. 

9. Is the ka-boom winding down?

The rise of Kaboom cards in Q4 and Q1 has been well documented, and while there was a land-grab race of sorts to buy up the top copies of the popular insert, Q2 will see whether or not that momentum is sustained. Two key cards to watch in this event: Tom Brady’s 2018 Gold Kaboom, graded BGS 9.5, and the same card of Lionel Messi, also graded BGS 9.5. The last sale for the Brady card was at the March Premier Auction for $114,000, while another Messi example drew $84,000 at Goldin in December, as noted above. How this week’s sales shake out versus those prior levels may provide signals on the health of the broader Kaboom market. Also selling will be Brady’s 2019 Green Kaboom, a 1/1 graded PSA 9. 

10. What is the appetite for low pop ‘86 Fleer?

Photo: PWCC

While the PWCC-E Jordan will perhaps be a headline sale, three of the lowest pop cards in the ‘86 Fleer Basketball set will sell in PSA 10 condition. The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sticker has a PSA 10 population of 14, the lowest by some margin - look for that to set an impressive level for a non-rookie. Jeff Malone and Johnny Moore have PSA 10 populations of 66 and 67, respectively the lowest and second lowest in the set. That makes them prime targets for those looking to complete PSA 10 sets, and we saw Johnny Moore command $90k at Memory Lane in Q1. 

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