Our Summer Platinum Sports Auction is shaping up to be one for the ages. The sheer volume of incredibly rare rookie cards, game-worn uniforms, championship rings, unopened wax packs, and other jaw-dropping items must be seen to be believed.
Fortunately, you can view the items yourself at HA.com and even put in a bid or three if you’d like. While browsing through these amazing lots, I spotted several artifacts of personal interest, so I thought it would be fun to point them out here. I grew up enjoying baseball and football, but I’ve always been a hoops guy first and foremost, so that’s what I’m going to focus on.
Listed chronologically, here are five basketball collectibles from our sale that I find absolutely fascinating and that you can bid on right now:
Before Shaquille O’Neal, before Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and even before Wilt Chamberlain there was George Mikan, the NBA’s first true superstar. Dubbed the greatest player of the first half of the century by The Associated Press, he is arguably the most influential basketballer of all time. With his size, skill set, and ferocious play style, he practically forced the NBA to change its rules, from adding a shot clock and the goal-tending rule to widening the size of the foul lanes from 6 feet to 12 feet. He shot “grannies” from the free throw line many years before Rick Barry made the technique famous and was sinking hook shots while Jabbar was in diapers. Despite his dominance and place in history, he sometimes gets overlooked, but not by hoops historians and hardcore collectors. The Mikan rookie we’re offering is important not only because of the player represented but also because it comes from what many consider to be the first true set of basketball cards.
More than any other basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain is the stuff of myth and legend along the lines of Paul Bunyan or King Arthur. However, unlike those figures, we can be certain that Wilt “The Stilt” walked this earth and did indeed perform incredible feats, such as scoring 100 points in a single game, among 71 other NBA records. When I was a kid, my big brother and I would pretend we were Wilt and Jerry West (respectively) while shooting baskets in the backyard. I was too young to fully appreciate Chamberlain’s greatness, but I’ve always been in awe of his stature in the world of professional sports. Not only was he a giant among his contemporaries, but he was also an incredibly gifted athlete and deserves the same status among collectors as Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth. We’ve got three Wilt rookies in this sale, including this gorgeous PSA 8 example.
There’s plenty of uncertainty in life, but there’s one thing I absolutely have no doubt about: Julius “Dr. J” Erving is and always will be my favorite athlete from any sport of any era. As a child of the ‘70s and ‘80s, I was amazed by his high-flying antics, his all-around skills, and his ability to completely take over a game, but I also thought he was simply the coolest cat who ever laced up a pair of shoes. Speaking of shoes, the massive—size 15 ½—pair we’re offering was worn by the Doc himself during the late ’70s when he was at the peak of his prowess. Erving was one of the most famous athletes on the planet during his day in the proverbial sun, but if you aren’t familiar with him—there are young people I’ve spoken with who fall into this category—fire up YouTube and check out some of his ABA and NBA highlights: you’ll be amazed!
I began collecting basketball cards in 1988, which was two seasons too late. Sure, Fleer released nice cards that year, and I had fun buying packs at 7-11 to complete my near-mint set, but I missed out on the legendary 1986 offering, which includes Michael Jordan’s rookie card (he had Star-brand cards the previous year, but the Fleer issue is considered his true rookie). Other key rookie cards in the set include Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, and Hakeem Olajuwon, to name just a few. The fact that we’re offering a complete box of unopened packs is mind-boggling. The winning bidder may put the lot in a safe deposit box, or on display untouched in a museum, but it’s fun to imagine the drama and excitement of him or her carefully opening each pack and hoping and praying for a perfectly centered Jordan card with sharp corners, crisp colors, and no gum stains. Even the Jordan sticker from this set is extremely valuable!
5. 1999 Upper Deck Retro Michael Jordan (Inkredible-Level 2) #MJ PSA Mint 9, PSA/DNA Auto 10 – #’d 4/23
It goes without saying that the Fleer Jordan rookies we’re offering in this sale are going to be among the most viewed items, but I’d like to focus on a top-notch Jordan card of a more recent vintage that is no less interesting. Back when it was barely a thing, Upper Deck had certain star athletes sign cards prior to them being packaged for retail sale. These exceedingly rare cards are highly sought-after grails, and the Jordan release is especially significant as he is famously stingy with his autograph. The card, with a grade of 9, has a retro-style border and includes plenty of room for Jordan’s crisply written John Hancock, which rates a perfect 10. When Michael Jordan entered the NBA, no one could have imagined he would become even more revered than such superstars as Larry Bird, Magic Johns, Julius Erving, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but that’s exactly what happened, and the tremendous demand for his trading cards reflects that.