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PWCC Premier Review: Mixed Messages

Last week, we got our first glimpses of how the high-end sports card market would respond to broad turmoil elsewhere. Going into PWCC's May Premier Auction, we posed 10 questions of interest. Below, we have our answers, but before we get into that, a quick look at the fractional dashboard for the auction. The marketplace values listed are as of the end of last week. Of course, the abundance of red tells quite a story, but the news wasn't all bad, and the sky wasn't falling everywhere. Let's review.

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

Answer: in some respects, fine, with demand evident, but in others, look out below.

You need look no further than our fractional dashboard to see that a lot of cards, many of them well-known and well-trafficked grails, suffered in this auction. That’s not to be ignored and may represent a changing appetite for those cards in this more cautious moment. On the flip side, this auction featured more six-figure sales (43) than both April (35) and March (42). You might chalk that up to the volume of offerings, but nonetheless, on 43 occasions, somebody was willing to pay $100,000 or more for a card. The top 24 sales, however, totaled $5.57 million, down 27% from April but actually up 7% from March. Worth noting the April event included a Brady Championship Ticket, which boosts those results, but even absent that sale, May would’ve been down 12%. 

2. Can eye-appeal reinvigorate the Jordan market?

Photo: PWCC

Answer: in a word, no. Not in this case.

There was no repeat of the standout $840,000 June 2021 sale here, as this PWCC-E example sold for $276,000, which is a solid result, but ultimately in-line with the recent range.

3. Giannis: elevated in elimination?

Photo: PWCC

Answer: At the highest end, yes. In mid-cap, not as much.

Outside of maybe Luka Doncic, nobody raised his profile more in the NBA Playoffs so far than Giannis. While the MVP debate swirled around Jokic and Embiid for much of the season, in defeat, Giannis reminded the world that he has a strong claim on being the world’s best player. Despite being knocked out of the playoffs, his Gold Prizm rookie, graded BGS 9.5, was the top selling lot in the event, reaching $528,000. That’s actually higher than the April 2021 peak of $522,750 and considerably higher than a PSA 10 sold for in May of 2021 ($420,000). A record result was also notched for his BGS 9 National Treasures RPA, which sold for $192,000. 

Further down the stack, though, performance wasn’t as strong. For example, his PSA 10 Silver Prizm dipped to the lowest level since September, and his PSA 10 Green Prizm sold for $18,000, down from a $43,200 January peak.

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

Photo: PWCC

Answer: Yes. 

PWCC raised eyebrows in March when it sold a PSA 10 1st Edition Charizard Holo at auction for $420,000 - a record price and a significant leap over recent results clustered more frequently in the mid-to-high $200k range. The card from last week finished at $264,000 - right in that mid-to-high $200k range. Go figure.

Nonetheless, that result represents relative stability, which is welcome for an asset class that continues to perform very poorly on fractional markets.

5. How are the aging soccer GOATs performing?

Photo: PWCC

Answer: Not so well. 

Ronaldo’s PSA 10 Mega Craques rookie sold for $168,000. That’s lower than the last three sales, and the lowest since August 2021. It’s a little more than half the $312,000 peak. Will Manchester United’s time in the Europa Conference League help next season? Pardon me, I’m still just a little bitter about how things turned out for Liverpool on Sunday. 

Meanwhile, a BGS 9.5 Messi Mega Cracks rookie sold for $52,800. That’s the second lowest sum since November 2020, but it does represent a nice bounce off of the $37,200 low at Heritage last month. His 2004 Campeon card graded PSA 10 sold for $12,000, near the low end of the one year range. His 2018 Gold Kaboom also pulled back, but more on that in a moment.

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

Answer: Level up? Perhaps not. Prove earlier 2022 sales were no fluke? Yes.

Connor McDavid has gone to a new level in the public consciousness this spring, and his card values reflected that in the early stages of the year. We wondered if key RPA sales could hold up to the prices set at previous PWCC Premier editions. The answer was no, as The Cup Exquisite Collection RPA sold for $114,000, down from $144,000 in February. The Upper Deck The Cup RPA sold for $96,000, down from $120,000 in April. One could argue in both cases that the patch on the previous sale was perhaps more attractive, but there is subjectivity there. In any case, auction results that linger around the six figure mark and above may be the new norm for McDavid’s best cards. In total, there were $340,200 in McDavid sales across six cards.

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

Photo: PWCC

Answer: Not quite. 

The 2003 NetPro International Series Authentic Apparel Autograph, graded BGS 9 and /25, sold for $43,200. Given a BGS 9.5 sold for $110,000 in February, and Serena’s card from the run of 100 graded PSA 8 sold for $266,400 this weekend, we probably can’t call this a landmark sale. Federer carried an entire Christie’s auction himself with memorabilia last year; one wonders just when the appetite for his cards will be commensurate with the global adoration for the aging star.

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

Photo: PWCC

Answer: the high end is humming while mid-cap falters. 

Pretty much any Superfractor sale looks like a bargain relative to the $474,000 paid for Jasson Dominguez in February. Still, the $324,000 paid for Aaron Judge’s Superfractor at PWCC feels like a solid result, particularly with much of his story already written. Of course, with the start to the season he’s having, perhaps there’s still upside. Elsewhere, the $228,000 sale of a Vlad Jr. Red Refractor graded BGS 9.5 held up relatively well under the circumstances against the $552,000 BGS 10 sale of a month ago. Juan Soto also saw his Orange Refractor fetch $144,000, up from $132,000 in April. 

Soto opens our transition to “mid-cap”. His Gold Refractor sold for $57,600, down from $66,000 in April. After a true gem example sold for $57,600 in April, a Ronald Acuna Gold Refractor with lesser subgrades sold for $32,400 this month. Fernando Tatis Jr.’s Gold Refractor graded BGS 9.5 sold for $42,000 in January; last week, the result was $30,000. 

Mike Trout Refractor and XFractor sales were in line but towards the low end of recent ranges, while his Hope Diamond Update, graded BGS 9, likely fell short of expectations at $45,600; the jersey number copy graded PSA 9 sold for $126,000 in March.

9. Is the ka-boom winding down?

Answer: More evidence required, but at the high end, it sure seems like it. 

The $69,000 sale of a 2018 Brady Gold Kaboom graded BGS 9.5 was down considerably from a March sale of $114,000. Messi’s 2018 Gold Kaboom, also graded BGS 9.5, sold for $45,600, down from $84,000 at Goldin in December, though that was for #10/10 (jersey number). Stephen Curry’s 2018 Gold Kaboom, graded PSA 10, experienced a more mild decline. The $60,000 result is down 10% from $66,000 February and March results. In the context of this moment, that doesn’t feel too painful.

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

Photo: PWCC

Answer: Mixed. 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sticker carries a PSA 10 population of 14, comfortably the lowest in the set. It was one of the highlights of the auction, selling for $240,000. That’s higher than any recent sale of his 1969 Topps rookie, though a PSA 9 hasn’t sold since August of 2021. Still, it shows the power of scarcity within an iconic set for an all-time great. 

Elsewhere, the two lowest pop PSA 10 cards in the set sold: Jeff Malone and Johnny Moore. Malone, which actually carries the lowest pop by one card, sold for $17,400. The Johnny Moore card, which made waves with the $90k Q1 Memory Lane sale, has seen values come back to earth. The $52,800 result here is down from PWCC’s most recent sale, for $84,000 in February, though it was comfortably above Goldin’s $43,200 sale this weekend.

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