MLB

Mike Trout Is the New Mickey Mantle for Baseball Card Collectors

Major League Baseball needs to start spring training immediately for the sake of fans’ sanity. We know this because the amount of money paid for a Mike Trout baseball card that is only a decade old skipped wild and proceeded directly to absurd this week.

People need to resume obsessing over their fantasy drafts and lineups before auction prices for relatively new collectibles start fetching seven-figure prices.

Mike Trout is the new Mickey Mantle for collectors

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Mike Trout has hit 285 home runs and batted .305 in nine major-league seasons, all with the Los Angeles Angels. He’s been an American League Rookie of the Year, a three-time MVP, and an eight-time All-Star. If he’s not the best player in the sport at the moment, then he’s certainly near the top of the list.

His potential was apparent at an early age, which led Topps to ask Trout, 18 years old at the time, to sign a stack of cards to be inserted into packs of the company’s Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects cards. These “Chrome” cards came in several variations.

A player card from a niche set produced before he has reached the majors becomes disproportionately valuable as he piles up big statistics. Throw in the “Chrome” gimmick with its variations and the autograph, and the line of bidders is all the way out the door when the card goes up for auction.

The bidding is rooted more in emotion than anything else. That makes the perceived value of rare cards more volatile than rare coins, gold, or even bitcoins.

A Mike Trout card ties a modern record

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The one-of-a-kind 2009 Mike Trout Superfractor autographed by the outfielder sold for $400,000 in May 2018 and an Orange Refractor went for $180,000 last year, setting the stage for one of the five signed Red Refractor cards to be auctioned this month.

The CEO at Goldin Auctions speculated that the auction that concluded Wednesday could fetch a price of $500,000. Instead, it blew through that figure and ultimately stopped at an amazing $900,000. One of the more common Blue Refractors sold for “just” $67,200.

The $900,000 sale set a record for a modern baseball card and matched the mark for a modern card in any sport set in February when a 2003-04 LeBron James and Michael Jordan logo card changed hands in a private transaction. That one-of-a-kind card was contained in Upper Deck’s “Exquisite Collection” and includes actual NBA patches from game-worn jerseys.

More huge numbers from the same auction

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This round of Goldin Auctions sales was broken into three parts concluding on different nights this week. The final numbers from Wednesday were impressive.

Undoubtedly bolstered by the interest in The Last Dance documentary on ESPN, a 1986-87 Michael Jordan card produced by Fleer checked in at $97,200. Seven unopened boxes from that Fleer series were also auctioned, with one of them selling for $109,200.

The big attractions besides cards were pieces associated with NBA stars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. A James jersey from his rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003-04 garnered $362,500. Shoes worn by Bryant in the 2001 NBA Finals sold for $70,000, and the Lakers championship ring he gave to his mother went for $201,250.