PLATINUM NIGHT BRINGS THE HEAT WITH HISTORIC OFFERINGS FROM MICKEY MANTLE, MICHAEL JORDAN, TOM BRADY, BABE RUTH AND DOZENS MORE LEGENDS
By Robert Wilonsky
From August 19-20, Heritage will hold its annual Summer Platinum Night Sports Auction – the World Series, Super Bowl and Final Four of auctions rolled into a single summer weekend. There are nearly 1,300 lots in this event: game-worn jerseys and signed sneakers, battered helmets and sweat-stained hats, autographed balls and bruised bats, title trophies and championship rings, contracts and cards. And almost every single item offers a story so familiar it might as well have been a bedtime tale.
The auction is populated by titans and deities, folk heroes and myths-in-the-making, among them: Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Willie Mays, Kobe Bryant, Sidney Crosby, Shohei Ohtani, Tiger Woods, Babe Ruth, Pete Maravich, Ernie Banks … and on and on and on, a veritable litany of legends. And, of course, The Man Called The Mick.
“All of us at Heritage Sports are incredibly proud of this Summer Platinum Night auction as it encompasses some of the best material the hobby has to offer across all collecting genres, and we fully expect numerous records to be broken,” says Chris Ivy, Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions. “We look forward to ensuring this material finds new homes with passionate collectors around the globe. In addition, we are dedicating this auction to our dear friend Mark Jordan, who helped turn Heritage Sports into the world’s leading sports auction house.”
Only one year after selling one of the world’s highest-graded 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle cards for $12.6 million to set the record for the world’s most valuable sports collectible, Heritage returns with this stunning example of The Hobby’s Holy Grail: a ’52 Topps Mantle graded Mint 9 by Sportscard Guaranty Corporation. This Mantle shares with its record-setting SGC Mint+ 9.5 predecessor one of The Hobby’s most storied origin stories, as it, too, hails from the Topps Chewing Gum cardboard box that had been stashed in an attic for more than three decades until it landed in the hands of Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen – what Professional Sports Authenticator once dubbed “The Famous 1952 Topps Baseball Card Find.”
This is the card once described by Sports Illustrated as “one half of a two-man Mount Rushmore, alongside the T206 Honus Wagner … a slice of Americana [and] the Forrest Gump of trading cards, popping up to witness – or often shape – critical moments in the history of the industry, and of baseball itself.” And there are only four ’52 Topps Mantles in the world with higher grades: three PSA Gem Mint 10s and last year’s record-setter.
Just as extraordinary is this New York Yankees home jersey Mantle wore throughout the 1958 season – easily among the most coveted cloth among collectors. Resolution Photomatching’s research reveals this pinstriped gamer saw significant action in ’58 when The Commerce Comet was coming off back-to-back MVP seasons. That’s also the year the Yankees wrested the title of world champs from the team that had bested them in the ’57 World Series, the Hank Aaron-led Milwaukee Braves.
Resolution determined Mantle wore it (at least!) on April 18, 1958, when he went 2-for-2 and scored two runs during a 3-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles; on August 24 of that year, when he scored a run in the Yanks’ 3-8 loss to the Detroit Tigers; then during an All-Star exhibition game in the Bronx on October 12, 1958.
Per Resolution Photomatching, the jersey appeared during spring training on April 4, 1959, before its star turn on Home Run Derby, which was filmed in December 1959 and aired in syndication from January-July 1960. Mantle appeared on the show five times, including the very first to air, pitting Mantle against Willie Mays; photo-matching reveals he wore that jersey during three episodes.
And we certainly know where basketball’s greatest player wore his jersey available in this event: Michael Jordan pulled on this Chicago Bulls top just before dropping 27 points in Chicago’s 103-89 win against the Charlotte Hornets in Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals. This Last Dance-r has impeccable provenance: Not only has Resolution Photomatching dated it to May 8, 1998, but this signed gamer is accompanied by a letter from the Bulls’ charitable nonprofit, CharitaBulls, and another from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
No less desirable is this game-worn Tom Brady New England Patriots throwback uniform that dates from the 2011 season – when Brady, then 34, was only at the midpoint of his career. Like most Brady seasons, 2011 was stellar for the GOAT and his first 5,000-yard passing season. This full uniform has been photo-matched by MeiGray to the October 9 game against the New York Jets, during which Brady threw for 321 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots’ 30-21 win. But what makes this truly exceptional is the appeal of the rare throwback jersey – the striking red worn by the Pats before the jerseys were retired in 1992, accentuated by the patch honoring Myra Kraft, the late wife of owner Robert Kraft.
History abounds in this auction’s closet stuffed with notable moments, among them the Pittsburgh Penguins sweater Sidney Crosby wore on October 8, 2005 – when the future three-time Stanley Cup champ scored his first goal. It, too, has been photo-matched to the moment, along with this game-worn and signed Reggie Jackson 1969-70 Oakland A’s jersey (which he wore on his 1970 Topps card, no less!); a 2010 Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers gamer; and a 2016-17 Golden State Warriors jersey that Steph Curry sweat through during at least nine games.
Heritage is also thrilled to present a pair of Michael Jordan’s worn and signed Air Jordan XVIIIs photo-matched to the 2003 All-Star Weekend in Atlanta – MJ’s final All-Star Game. In fact, that entire weekend was dedicated to Air Jordan, from Mariah Carey’s halftime performance to Vince Carter’s decision to gift Jordan his starting spot. Jordan wore white Air Jordan 18s on the court that evening, but Resolution Photomatching determined he wore these black-suede kicks for his farewell All-Star Weekend photo shoot – then signed the sneakers before gifting them to our consignor.
Two years later, during the NBA Rising Stars game held during the 2005 All-Star Weekend in Denver, LeBron James strapped on these tough-looking, sneakerhead-coveted “Chamber of Fear” Nikes while scoring 20 points in the Sophomores’ rout of the Rookies squad. Resolution Photomatching places them on King James’ feet on the Pepsi Center court, before James signed them and gifted them to our consignor. The only thing to fear here is missing out on acquiring these signature sneakers fit for a King.
Here, too, in this event are the tools of the trade – the lumber and the leather.
And in a world where Shohei Ohtani dominates the headlines at present, whether with talk of a trade or his torrid home-run pace, there could be no item more coveted than these bats photo-matched to historic highlights from the modern-day Babe Ruth.
One, a club of ASICS Goldstage birch, came from his 2021 MVP season and was used to swat seven home runs – Nos. 65-71, to be precise, between June 12 and 27 of that landmark year for Shotime.
“Like the man himself, this bat defies superlatives,” says Heritage Vice President Dan Imler. “Not only does it date to his 2021 MVP season, but it has been pinpointed via photo-matching to two weeks of mind-boggling offensive production. The bat’s matte-black finish showcases numerous ink transfers and rack streaks. But zoom in, and you’ll find some of the most perfect stitch impressions you’ll ever see on a Major League gamer, the slight curves of the imprints occasionally intersecting to mimic the shape of a lipstick kiss. Like the craters on the moon, these impressions bear mute witness to collisions of extraordinary force.”
Adds Joe Orlando, Heritage’s Executive Vice President of Sports, “In the modern era of game-used bat collecting, where players use more bats than ever, it can be challenging to find ones that were used and can be confirmed for long stretches. This is a dream bat for any collector seeking to add an Ohtani specimen to their stable.”
The other bat dates to last season – specifically, home runs No. 98 and 99, against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 9. That’s when Ohtani hit a solo shot in the sixth inning (followed by one from Mike Trout!) and smashed a 413-foot grand slam in the very next frame (his first grand slam, no less, much to Ohtani’s surprise, as he was sure he’d hit one in Japan). The bat was signed by Ohtani and dated May 10, when he cracked it during a blowout win against Tampa. But photo-matching from Sports Investors Authentication puts that lumber in his hands during that historic home-run showcase.
And only days after Pete Maravich’s 1970 Topps rookie card sold for more than $500,000, here’s something equally extraordinary from Pistol Pete’s collection: the game-used basketball from the New Orleans Jazz guard’s record-setting 68-point night against the New York Knicks on February 25, 1977. With a letter of provenance from Pete’s widow Jackie, this game-used Wilson ranks among the most significant Maravich artifacts to reach the hobby. Timing, as they say, is everything.
Speaking of cards, there are myriad exceptional offerings here – not merely the Mantle but other sought-after cardboard gems capable of stealing the spotlight. Among their legendary ranks is one of baseball’s most beautiful cardboard slices: the 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth, offered in a PSA Near Mint-Mint+ 8.5. This set provided the prettiest prewar designs and marked the dawn of trading cards’ chewing-gum era – it says so on the bottom and back of the card.
There were four Ruths in this set, but this one – card No. 144 – is easily the most visually impressive of the lot featuring the Yankees slugger. And this one is incredibly exceptional: It’s the sole submission (out of more than 1,600) to merit PSA’s NM-MT+ 8.5 grade. And only four Mint 9 specimens outrank it!
The technicolor Goudey shows Ruth as he’s best remembered – the Sultan of Swat, bat in hand. The 1916 M101-5 Ruth card, from his rookie season as a Boston Red Sox pitcher, is almost its photo-negative: Ruth looks lean as he tosses a ball in the famous black-and-white photo taken by Felix Mendelsohn.
Just recently, Heritage set an auction record when a Famous & Barr version of the Ruth rookie graded PSA Very Good-Excellent 4 realized $645,000. This auction features two versions of the card – one graded higher (a blank-back version graded SGC Excellent+ 5.5) and another graded slightly lower (the Sporting News edition graded PSA Very Good+ 3.5). Both are stunning rarities arriving at auction when Ruth rookies ascend in allure and value.
Only three years ago, Michael Jordan’s 1986 Fleer rookie card sharply ascended to the ranks of The Hobby’s most valuable and sought-after commodity. And while that boil eventually settled to a simmer, this auction offers what should be the hottest version yet: an original rookie card Fleer slipped back into packs in 2006, only these were signed by Jordan and hand-numbered to 23. This one’s graded a BGS Near Mint-Mint+ 8.5 with a near-perfect autograph – and as close to a golden ticket as you’ll find this side of Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Speaking of cards signed by greats long after their original issue: A single collector managed to get Mantle to sign every one of his cards, from his 1951 Bowman rookie and the ’52 Topps to his final Topps card in 1969. That consignor offers all 40 of his signed Mantles in this auction.
That collector, though, was outdone by the consignor who brings to this year’s Summer Platinum Night Sports Auction one of the event’s sure-fire highlights: a complete run of Sports Illustrated issues dating from its August 16, 1954, debut to the present day – some 4,039 issues, including 651 special and regional issues. This doesn’t even begin to explain what makes this collection so extraordinary.
The consignor has spent decades getting these issues signed by the men and women who appear on their covers – beginning with the very first issue. And not only did our consignor get future Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews to sign the cover, but he tracked down the other two gents in Mark Kauffman’s famous photo: New York Giants catcher Wes Westrum and umpire Augie Donatelli. For the second issue, which featured a collection of golf bags, our consignor got Arnold Palmer’s signature, as he was the 1954 USGA Amateur champion. And on it went.
From the 1950s alone, he got Mantle, Willie Mays, Ted Williams and Johnny Unitas, who were eventually joined by Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Hank Aaron, Wayne Gretzky, Arthur Ashe, Joe Namath, Tiger Woods, Mia Hamm … the list is almost endless.
By the time he finished, our consignor collected 2,154 autographs. Among their lot: the September 26, 1960, issue featuring a painting of Jim Brown.
That original painting of Jim Brown that appeared on the cover of that issue, by the great magazine illustrator and artist Daniel Schwartz, is also available in the August 19-20 Summer Platinum Night Sports Auction.
As we said: This is the World Series, Super Bowl and Final Four of auctions rolled into a single summer weekend. For starters.
ROBERT WILONSKY is a staff writer at Intelligent Collector.