Top Sports Ticket Auction Sales - August 2021 Update

Back in May of this year, in anticipation of the first fractional ticket offering, we released our first edition of the top sports ticket auction sales on record. Since then, the Kobe Last Game Ticket on Otis has fully funded and begun trading, and a Jesse Owens 1936 Olympics ticket offering is coming to Rally soon. Fractional world aside, the collectible ticket market remains incredibly hot. At the Goldin Auctions Summer Premium Auction closing earlier in August, nine ticket lots were sold for sums greater than $10,000. In that auction and in the Robert Edward Auctions Summer Auction, we saw two results that broke into our top ten list (one only briefly). Moreover, we had two key golf ticket sales brought to our attention which bookend our ranking. Just three of the top ten results have now taken place within the last 12 months, but it feels likely that much of this list will be rewritten in the 12 months ahead. Will we see another six figure ticket sale soon? 

Dropping Out

1962 Wilt Chamberlain 100 Point Game (PSA Authentic)

March 2, 1962

Sold for $44,400 (with piece of Hershey Arena Floor)

5/7/2021 with Heritage Auctions

1969 Super Bowl III Yellow Variation Full Ticket (PSA EX 5)

January 12, 1969

Sold for $44,401

3/24/2018 with SCP Auctions

1919 World Series Game 8 Ticket Stub (PSA GOOD 2)

October 9, 1919

Sold for $48,000

8/15/2021 with Robert Edward Auctions

Jackie Robinson Debut Ticket

April 15, 1947

Sold for $50,000 (included with signatures from Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Eddie Stanky, and Spider Jorgenson)

9/13/20 with Hunt Auctions

The Top Ten

10.

1934 Masters Tournament Series Ticket

March 1934

Sold for $53,725.20

8/17/2019 with Golden Age Golf Auctions

Image: Golden Age Golf Auctions

"A tradition unlike any other" began in 1934, as the "Augusta National Invitational Tournament". Augusta National Golf Club was an idea conceived by Bobby Jones following his retirement, and with the help of Clifford Roberts, he located the perfect patch of land in Georgia to develop a golfer’s heaven. The pair decided to host an annual tournament beginning in 1934, though the Masters title wasn’t adopted until 1939 (Jones found it presumptuous at the event’s inception).

Jones had retired in 1930 at age 28, having won golf’s Grand Slam that year (at that time, it was the British Amateur, the British Open, the U.S. Open, and the U.S. Amateur. He would, however, come out of retirement to play in the inaugural Augusta National Invitational Tournament, and many Masters Tournaments afterwards. The 1934 tournament was not the draw it is today, with many players including Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson not in attendance. While the return of Jones was worthy of some attention, the relative lack of fanfare contributes to the dearth of memorabilia from the event.

Sold with Golden Age was just one of three full-week passes known to exist – one being owned by Augusta National and another by a private collector. It’s believed that no more than 10 tickets to the event exist, inclusive of single-day passes (more on that soon) and full-week passes. This particular example was previously sold with Heritage Auctions in 2012, but as part of an album page with newspaper clippings. The page sold for $35,850, and the ticket was removed by a restoration specialist. The nearly $54k result represents a 50% return (not including any restoration costs), or about 6% annualized.

9.

1967 Super Bowl Ticket (PSA NM-MT 8)

January 15th, 1967

Sold for $54,000

10/29/2017 with Robert Edward Auctions

Image: Robert Edward Auctions

The very first Super Bowl. We take it for granted – our nation’s unofficial national holiday. Eat as many different fried finger foods as you want, no judgment. Alternate wings and nachos without remorse. If a slice of pizza finds its way in the mix, so be it. Yeah, suffice it to say, 1967 wasn’t like that. In fact, the Coliseum didn’t even sell out for the game. The football, to some, was meaningless – an exhibition, but it was a rare meeting of AFL and NFL teams on the gridiron, each eager to prove their superiority. Not different conferences, but different leagues altogether. Though their merger had already been announced, it wouldn’t become official until 1970, and as mentioned in the context of the Jets upset, the widespread belief was that the upstart AFL was inferior to the NFL.

Ultimately, the Packers, coached by Vince Lombardi, confirmed this notion, at least for the day, dismissing the Chiefs 35-10. Result aside, it was the beginning of a wonderful tradition, and consequently, it’s a sought-after ticket.

There are 49 PSA slabbed, full ticket examples in total, 35 of which are the same Gold variant as this sale. This example is in NM-MT 8 condition, sharing the distinction of the highest graded copy with just one other, which we’ll get better acquainted with in a moment. That other 8 also sold in May 2015 for $26,290, and this fall 2017 result represents a 35% annualized increase.

8.

1984 Michael Jordan Debut Ticket (PSA EX 5)

October 26, 1984

Sold for $56,400

5/8/2021 with Heritage Auctions

Image: Heritage Auctions

The start of the most illustrious professional basketball career in history. The launching pad for an icon in every sense of the word. Michael Jordan was a highly anticipated prospect, a cut above most number 3 picks and college players of the year, but few could imagine what was to come when he stepped onto the floor for his NBA debut in October 1984. The performance was modest by his own standards: 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists in a 109-93 win over the Bullets.

Consider this: there are 20,164 PSA slabbed Michael Jordan Fleer rookie cards. Those cards are from 1986, when Jordan’s stardom and significance was already increasingly apparent. There are just 19 slabbed Michael Jordan debut tickets. The population is less than 0.1% the size of his rookie card population; it’s even just 6% of the PSA 10 population. And yet, the record sale for Jordan’s debut ticket is $56,400, just 7% of the record for one of his rookie cards.

The record stub is a PSA EX 5 example, the only 5 in the population, with just one stub, a 6, graded higher. This being the case, direct comps are few and far between, but we can gain context from the trajectory of PSA Authentic stubs. For much of 2020, stubs of the same print as the PSA 5, but in Authentic grade, were range-bound in the $12-15k range. A sale in February of this year via Heritage brought in $24,000, and it was previously noted that the owner would sell at 33% gain for $32,000. Cards, as we know, were not range-bound in 2020 or to start 2021, and even a doubling for the Authentic graded stub does not begin to approximate the trajectory of many sports cards during this period.

7.

1969 Super Bowl III Yellow Variation Full Ticket (PSA EX-MT 6)

January 12, 1969

Sold for $59,098

1/21/2017 with SCP Auctions

Image: SCP Auctions

There isn’t a more famous and celebrated prediction in sports. Set to meet the NFL’s Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl, the AFL representative New York Jets were an underdog, scorned by the stigma that AFL teams were broadly inferior to their NFL rivals. In fact, the Colts were favored by 18 (!) points in the game. So when twenty-five year old quarterback Joe Namath appeared at the Miami Touchdown Club three days before the game and declared. “We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it,” it raised more than a few eyebrows. Whether provoked by a Colts fan or not, whether Broadway Joe was intoxicated or not, this was a hugely bold claim to make, even in 1969. If it was 2021, Get Up and First Take would combine to talk about this for four straight hours for days on end. You can hear Stephen A. Smith: “I admire Joe’s confidence, Max, I really do. I've met him, he's a cool cat, we're cool. HOWEVA, there is NO WAY that the Jets are beating the Colts on Sunday.”  

Namath didn’t score a touchdown personally, but he did go 17 for 28 passing for 206 yards, earning the MVP honors in a 16-7 Jets victory. The score was 16-0 in the fourth quarter, before Colt’s backup Johnny Unitas, who was still recovering from a shoulder injury, led a garbage time touchdown drive. The game is still considered one of the biggest upsets in American sports history.

This sale was for a PSA EX-MT 6, with only two others graded at that level and none higher. The example is very well-preserved, with excellent color and eye appeal. Another PSA 6 example sold with Heritage Auctions in November of 2014 for $15,000.84. Offers were tabled for that example later that very month at $19,501 and in May 2015 for $31,000. The $59,098 sale represents a 294% return on the November 2014 sale, or 88% annualized.

Another PSA 6 full ticket sold with Goldin Auctions in August 2019 for $28,800, which is a dramatic drop from the January 2017 level, suggesting that there may have been a temporary and unsustainable spike in demand a few years prior. Still, even then, the 2019 result represents a 15% annualized return over the 2014 sale.

6.

1967 Super Bowl Ticket (PSA NM-MT 8)

January 15th, 1967

Sold for $66,000

2/24/2019 with Heritage Auctions

Image: Heritage Auctions

It’s clear that Super Bowl I is a grail ticket, appearing for the second time on our list. This PSA NM-MT 8 is the only other example graded this highly aside from the #7 entry. This ticket is the very same one that sold in May of 2015 for $26,290 with Heritage. That buyer would have achieved a 151% return, or 28% annualized, on this record sale. This result is also a 16% annualized improvement over the $54,000 2017 sale.

PSA VG 3 and PSA VG-EX 4 versions of this ticket sold with Lelands this spring for $6,000 and $12,000 respectively.

5.

1923 World Series Game 6 Ticket Stub Signed by Babe Ruth (PSA/DNA 9)

October 15, 1923

Sold for $71,700

8/1/2014 with Heritage Auctions

Image: Heritage Auctions

Items like these don’t come along particularly often, which is why it sits third on our list despite being a 7-year-old sale. In 1923, Babe Ruth helped the Yankees clinch their first ever World Series Championship, his fourth, in a victory over the cross-town New York Giants. The series was the third straight “Subway Series”, with the Yankees able to avenge two prior losses. Both prior bouts took place entirely at the Polo Grounds, where the Yankees were tenants of the Giants, but 1923 marked the opening of Yankee Stadium, or “the House that Ruth Built”. Nonetheless, the clincher was decided at the Polo Grounds, with Ruth hitting a two-run homer in the first inning to set the tone. It was his third of the series.

Only 16 PSA slabbed stubs remain from the contest, and this example’s Ruth autograph received a Mint 9 grade. In that regard, it stands alone, and it is, in fact, the only PSA/DNA certified copy. It is worth noting that a 1927 World Series Game 1 ticket stub signed by Ruth, Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, and Lloyd Waner sold for $30,810 that year. Ruth’s signature on that specimen was described as an 8/10, and that game, of course, was not a clincher.

4.

1962 Wilt Chamberlain 100 Point Game Stub (PSA Authentic)

March 2, 1962

Sold for $87,330

8/7/2021 with Goldin Auctions

Image: Goldin Auctions

The single most mythological event in NBA history, headlined by arguably the most mythological player in NBA history. In front of just over 4,000 fans (scarcity!) in Hershey, PA, Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a 169-147 Warriors victory over the Knicks. The crazy part is that it wasn’t even that flukey. A little flukey, sure, but consider this: in the same season, benefitting from the directive of Sixers coach Frank McGuire to relentlessly feed the center, Wilt had already dropped 78 (triple overtime), 67, 65, and 61 points. His personal record for a regulation game was 73 points.

Through the first quarter against a Knicks team missing their starting center, Wilt had amassed 23 points, going 9-for-9 from the free throw line, despite that being a weakness of his game. By halftime, he had 41, impressive for sure, but not wildly out of the ordinary. The Warriors redoubled their efforts to find their 7’1 star, and he responded, scoring 28 points in the third quarter to lift his total to 69, unperturbed by New York’s efforts to triple or even quadruple team him.

The frenzy in the arena built, the crowd anticipating the generational greatness unfolding before them. With five minutes to play, Wilt took his tally to 89 points. The last few minutes became a parade of intentional fouling – the Knicks fouling anybody but Wilt, the Warriors fouling to stop the clock and get the ball back. With 46 seconds to play, Wilt scored his 99th and 100th points, finishing a lob pass to break the century mark. The performance is owed in large part to Chamberlain’s success at the stripe, where he went 28-for-32, well above his career average. If any part of the performance was flukey, it was probably that.

A May sale of a PSA Authentic stub by Heritage for $44,000 fell off the list, but is supplanted by a result nearly double that just months later -and unlike th May result, this one did not include a piece of the arena floor.  Another PSA Authentic stub from the game sold for $10,755 in February of 2013. This sale represents a 712% increase, or 28% annualized, over that figure. An SGC Authentic version sold for $14,340 in October 2012, a few months earlier. A raw stub sold for $12,600 in August of 2019.

Just 14 stubs from the game have been certified by PSA. Wilt’s 1961 Fleer rookie has a population of 1,300, and a PSA 9 (pop 31) sold earlier this year for $450,000 which was more than 10x the May stub price of $44,000. However, the gap has since compressed with this result and a lower $288,000 result for a PSA 9 rookie, indicating that stubs for moments as iconic as this one may be commanding greater hobby wallet share.

3.

1982 NCAA Finals Ticket Signed by Michael Jordan (PSA Authentic, PSA/DNA 10)

March 29th, 1982

Sold for $90,000

5/8/2021 with Heritage Auctions

Image: Heritage Auctions

This was the night Michael Jordan became Michael Jordan. Until then, he was just Mike: a promising and talented freshman that was not yet the superstar he would soon become, and a sidekick to Most Outstanding Player James Worthy. Yet, when the time came to put the game away against a strong Georgetown Hoyas team headlined by Patrick Ewing, it was the freshman that rose to hit a fifteen foot baseline jumper in a one point victory.

It’s often forgotten that 15 seconds remained in the game following Jordan’s shot. Fortunately for the legend of His Airness, as Georgetown sought rebuttal, guard Fred Brown mistakenly passed the ball to a trailing Worthy, effectively sealing the outcome in UNC’s favor. Brown and the Hoyas got their title two years later, and well, we know what was to come for Jordan.

The $90,000 sale was a stub signed by Jordan himself, the signature graded a 10 and authenticated by Upper Deck. There are 37 PSA encapsulated stubs from the event and 55 slabbed full tickets. Just four stubs are PSA/DNA certified. To provide some context on the meteoric rise of these assets, a PSA 7 full ticket (blue variant) sold in a set with a semifinal ticket in May of 2015 with Heritage for $657.25. A lower-graded PSA 4 full ticket, of the slightly more rare purple variant, sold with Goldin this March for $13,200. Obviously not a perfect like-for-like comparison – it is, in fact, unfavorable  given the lower grade - but even still, that equates to a 67% annualized increase. A PSA 5 gold variant full ticket sold in a set with a semi-final ticket in November of 2010 with Heritage for $384.79. Goldin sold a set of gold tickets, the final ticket a PSA Authentic stub, for $4,920 in March of this year. It’s another, even more unfavorable apples-and-oranges comparison for the recent sale, but just for context, it’s still a 13x result – a 1179% return, or 28% annualized.

A semi-final stub with a PSA 10 Jordan signature recently brought in $21,600 in Goldin's Summer Premium Auction.

2.

1939 Lou Gehrig Day Ticket Stub Signed by Lou Gehrig(PSA/DNA Authentic)

July 4, 1939

Sold for $95,600

8/1/2014 with Heritage Auctions

Image: Heritage Auctions

During his Hall of Fame career, Lou Gehrig compiled an unfathomable list of achievements, including a Triple Crown, two MVPs, six All Star Game appearances, and six World Series Championships. When it became clear that Gehrig wasn’t physically right in the early stages of the 1939 season, he was forced to bench himself, and ultimately received the dreaded diagnosis of ALS in June of that year. The Yankees quickly organized a Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day in the wake of his retirement, scheduled between the two legs of a July 4th doubleheader with the Washington Senators.

Gehrig’s number 4 was retired during the ceremony, the first such instance of a player’s number retirement in MLB history. Gehrig was celebrated with outpourings of gratitude and awe from various parties, including teammates, politicians, and others. These presentations of gifts and praise soon made way for a speech from the man himself. In one of the most memorable and poignant speeches from an athletic figure in history, Gehrig noted that, despite his “bad break”, he considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth”, a line which will echo for decades, or even centuries, to come.

Five tickets are known to have been slabbed by PSA, and the highest graded example, a 4 VG-EX, sold for $32,400 in February of 2020, nearly surpassed by a VG 3 just one seat over, which sold for $30,000 three months later. Contrast the stub population with the two Gehrig cards from the 1933 Goudey set. Between the two, 1,918 cards have been slabbed.

This is not just the only known copy signed by Gehrig himself but also the only Gehrig signature definitively dated to July 4, 1939. It’s a stub without peer, for the most devastating reasons. Strike out ALS.

1.

1934 Augusta National Invitational Tournament Single Day Ticket

March 25th, 1934

Sold for $116,075.25

4/15/2018 with The Golf Auction

Image: The Golf Auction

The only known six figure ticket sale in history, for now. We covered the 1934 Augusta National Invitational Tournament above, and this example is a badge corresponding to the Sunday session, preserved in terrific condition. It’s the precursor for all of the Masters Sundays to come: those thrilling moments that saw the Golden Bear find himself in the Green Jacket again and again or Tiger leading the pack in his Sunday red.

The Golf Auction has handled a few sales of 1934 Sunday passes, though this particular example previously sold in April of 2013 for $19,860.50. The 2018 sale represents a 484% increase over that figure, or 42% annualized. 2012 saw a higher sale of a different copy for just under $32k. The record sale stands as somewhat of an outlier, with no other examples nearing that level – it’s particularly notable that the rarer full-week pass sold for less than half of the value a year later. Still, a tradition unlike any other spawned a ticket unlike any other, and for now, the ticket throne belongs to the Masters.


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