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Rookie Card, Veteran Returns

Rookie Card, Veteran Returns
February 2, 2021
Bradley Calleja

This Friday, February 5 at 12 PM EST, Rally will hold an IPO on a '1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson Rookie Card' (PSA 8). The financials:

> Market Cap: $375,000
> Price Per Share: $20.00
> Total Shares: 18,750

The Offering

Arguably the most culturally important rookie card in history, this 1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson has withstood the test of time and is one of only 48 Robinson rookies graded 8 or higher. The card features a clear profile of Robinson donning the bright blue Brooklyn Dodgers hat splashed against the solid yellow backdrop commonly found in post-war candy cards. Produced two years after Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier and made his debut for the Dodgers, the card expertly captures one of the sports preeminent legends. Over 1,300 cards in this edition were produced and today less than 4% hold equal or greater value, further emphasizing its scarcity.

Another important facet of this card is the history of its producer, Leaf Brands. Founded after multiple mergers in 1947, Leaf issued its inaugural set of baseball cards, this set, in 1948. This was the first edition of colored baseball cards produced after World War II and featured an impressive lineup that included Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, and Satchel Paige. The 1948 set consisted of only 98 entries but in a marketing ploy, Leaf Brands scattered the numbering of the cards between 1 and 168. This strategy would be copied by future card producers but this was the first known issue to use a skip-numbering system which encouraged collectors to fruitlessly attempt to complete their set. 

The 1948 Leaf set carries historical significance as well as it signaled an end to the seven-year baseball card hiatus caused by paper and gum rationing during World War II. This period also highlighted the golden age of baseball in New York. From 1947-1960, 16 of 18 World Series featured at least one team from the Big Apple and seven of those championships included two New York teams. Robinson’s Dodgers squared-off against the Yankees in six titles during his ten-year career, winning once in 1955. 

Breaking Barriers

Robinson was a multi-sport athlete throughout his collegiate career at UCLA and is the only athlete in school history to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track. Playing an all-purpose role as both quarterback and running back for the Bruins, he averaged 12 yards per carry which led the nation. On the hardwood, Robinson was conference MVP, averaging 12.4 points per game in 1940 and 11.1 points in 1941. In track, he won the NCAA title in the long jump and likely would have competed in the 1940 or 1944 Olympics had they not been canceled due to World War II. Baseball was Robinson’s worst sport in college, posting a subpar .097 batting average in 1940, though he was able to earn playing time due to his speed and fielding expertise. 

Robinson joined the Army after graduating from UCLA and became a second lieutenant in 1943. While assigned to an all-black battalion known as the Black Panthers, Robinson was court-martialed for refusing to sit in the back of the bus. This rebuttal against racist policies would be one of many that would shape Robinson into a powerful civil rights leader. Due to the court-martial, he was honorably discharged in 1944 and left the military to pursue a baseball career. While playing in the Negro League for the Kansas City Monarchs, Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey made the controversial decision to sign Robinson to a Major League contract. After two seasons playing for the Dodgers AAA affiliate, the Montreal Royals, Robinson made his MLB debut on April 15, 1947.

Robinson’s contracts for both the Dodgers and Royals were offered at Goldin Auctions in 2017, but bids failed to meet the seller's reserve price. Before the auction, rare document expert Seth Kaller had appraised the contracts at a $36 million valuation.

Starting at first base in front of 26,623 fans at Ebbets Field, Robinson went hitless in his first game for the Dodgers. He managed to reach base on an error in the seventh inning, and scored the eventual go-ahead run. In 2018, SGC-A graded ticket stub from his first game sold at Heritage Auctions for $28,800.

Robinson would go on to lead the league in stolen bases and won Rookie of the Year honors. Throughout his ten-year career, he showcased his speed and fielding talents by stealing 197 bases and having a .983 fielding percentage. He would make six appearances on the MLB All-Star team and won league MVP in 1949. In 1962, Robinson was introduced into the MLB Hall of Fame, earning 77% of the vote. He was just the seventh first ballot honorary in league history. 

Robinson didn’t solely break barriers in baseball. After retiring from the game in 1956, he became the first African American Vice President of a major US corporation, Chock Full O’Nuts coffee. He would remain active in the civil rights movement, serving as a board member of the NAACP and founding the Freedom National Bank in Harlem in 1964, which grew to be the largest black-owned bank in New York. 

In 1972, Robinson suffered a heart attack and passed away at age 53. Each year on April 15th, Major League Baseball celebrates “Jackie Robinson Day”, where all players wear Robinson’s famed number 42 to honor the man who reshaped baseball forever. 

The Analysis

Robinson’s 1948 PSA 8 Leaf card has experienced a well-deserved leap in value since initial auctions were held in the mid-2000s. After multiple sales between 2007-2014 failed to break above $20,000, the card struck a record price of $101,575 at Heritage Auction in 2016. In 2018-2019, PSA 8’s settled in the $40,000-$70,000 range until a new record was set in September 2020 when the card sold for $174,000. This record would be short lived though as a new standard was set when a PSA 8 hit a hammer price of $400,980 in December 2020 at Goldin Auctions. The scarcity of the card, the history behind the Leaf productions, and further recognition of Robinson’s trailblazing role in the civil rights movement has helped advance the valuation of this monumental asset. It would be no surprise to see Robinson’s card continue its climb over the next decade as his true value and worth are further acknowledged. 

Investors in vintage baseball cards have found early success on fractional marketplaces. On January 5, 2021, Collectable offered a 1955 Sandy Kaufax Rookie (PSA 8.5) with a $36,000 Market Cap that received a $62,000 buyout offer that same day, which was rejected by a 69.5% share weighted vote from investors. It would have represented a 63% ROI. 

Here's a look at the returns for vintage baseball on Rally: 

• 1956 Topps #135 Mickey Mantle (PSA 8): +310% ($1/share)

• 1910 Ty Cobb E98 (PSA 9): +79.5%

• 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle (SGC 7): +51.52%

• Honus Wagner T206: +44.23%

• 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth (PSA 8): +42.86%

• 1938 Goudey Joe DiMaggio “Heads Up” (PSA 8): +36.36%

• 1950 Jackie Robinson Bowman (PSA 8): 23% - Exited on 10/13/2020

• 1957 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 8): +20%

• 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle Rookie (SGC 7): +8.82% - trades Thursday

• 1939 Play Ball Ted Williams (SGC 8.5): +3%

• 1955 Roberto Clemente Rookie (SGC 8): 2.63%

We’ve seen one Exit, the 1950 Bowman Jackie Robinson Card (PSA 8), which IPO’d on June 6, 2020 and sold on October 13, 2020 that provided investors with a 23% ROI. It was the first $1/share share limit offering to Exit. The 10 baseball cards on Rally that were released prior 1960 are up an average of 33.7% to date (removing the $1/share 1956 Topps #135 Mickey Mantle, which is up 310%, which skews the ROI to 66% on average). One of these cards, the 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle Rookie (SGC 7) which is up 8.82%, trades again on Thursday prior to Friday’s IPO. PSA 8 graded vintage baseball cards in particular are up an average of 30.5% (86.4% with the 1956 Mantle). The '1948 Jackie Robinson Card' (PSA 8) IPO's on Rally at 12 PM EST on Friday 2/5.

Disclaimer: You understand that by reading Altan Insights, you are not receiving financial advice. No content published here constitutes a recommendation that any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. You further understand that the author(s) are not advising you personally concerning the nature, potential, value or suitability of any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy. You alone are solely responsible for determining whether an investment, security or strategy, or any other product or service, is appropriate or suitable for you based on your investment objectives and personal financial situation. Please speak with a financial advisor to understand if the risks inherent in trading are appropriate for you. Trade at your own risk.

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