REA Spring Auction Results Show Vintage Market Still Booming

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We speculated recently that the coronavirus pandemic that’s sweeping our nation might lead to a weakness in the vintage card market.  

With many service-based businesses completely shut down and unemployment filings rising by the day, it was of my opinion that the economic stress could lead to a dip in card prices.

However, for now, if we only look at the recent results at the REA Spring 2020 Auction, the vintage card market is showing minimal signs of weakness. 

Past recessions have shown that collectors do tend to hold onto their beloved cards until things have really come off the wheels.  So far, it looks like that could be the case again, although not much is certain in regards to this coronavirus.

In this piece, we examine some of the auction results and provide a look into the health of the vintage card market. 

REA Spring Auction 2020 Highlights

1902-1911 Ty Cobb W600 Sporting Life CabinetGrade: PSA 2Sold For: $300,000


A Cobb W600 recently sold at the REA Spring Auction for $300,000.

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This Ty Cobb W600 Sporting Life cabinet cards is a dream card for many vintage collectors.  It is one of the rarest and most expensive Ty Cobb cards in existence. The sales price of $300,000 is not surprising, given that there are fewer than 5-10 graded copies combined between both PSA and SGC.  The last known sale of any version of the card happened in 2011, where a PSA 3 Cobb version sold for $55,000

1902-1911 W600 Sporting Life Cabinet -“Hans” Wagner Grade: PSA 3.5Sold For: $192,000

A W600 Wagner recently sold for $192,000 at the REA Spring Auction

Based on PSA Population reports, there are only three PSA graded copies of the Wagner Sporting Life Cabinet card.   A PSA 4 sold for $180,000 at Heritage Auctions back in 2019, thus this REA sale at $192,000 shows that collectors are still paying top dollar for this Wagner card.

1916 M101-5 Sporting News – Babe Ruth #151Grade: SGC 5.5Sold For: $192,000


A Babe Ruth Sporting News M101-5 sold for $192,000 at the REA Spring Auction

The 1916 Sporting News (M-101-4/5) Babe Ruth is not his first card, but is considered to be his true “rookie card” as the earlier Baltimore News card from 1914 was considered a pre-rookie or minor league card.  This Sporting News issue is also one of the most valuable baseball cards of all time

Past auction sales for this Ruth card have been a bit all over the place, with a PSA 7 selling for $384,000 in April 2018, while a PSA 5 sold for $336,000 in May 2017.  Thus it appears this sale was somewhat on the low end of recent sales for the Ruth M101-5 card.

1954 Topps – Henry Aaron (Rookie Card) #128Grade: PSA 9Sold For: $156,000


A PSA 9 Hank Aaron Topps Rookie recently sold for $156,000 at REA’s Spring Auction.

As a sure sign that the vintage card market is alive well, look no further than this 1954 Topps Hank Aaron rookie card.  A sure beauty, graded Mint (PSA 9) the card sold at auction for $156,000. 

Examining PSA’s population reports, only 25 out of the 4,285 Aaron rookie cards (without a qualifier) graded have earned a PSA 9, showing that it certainly is a challenge to find copies in Mint condition.

There have been several sales in recent months.

Shown below, a PSA 9 sold for $184,500 in February 2020, while a PSA 9 also sold in Dec 2018 for $109,000.   Seems like this one sold at a slight discount to recent sales.


Card collectors looking to buy an Aaron rookie can do so in lower grades for a lot less than $156,000.  Here are just a few examples:

1955 Topps – Roberto Clemente (Rookie Card) #164Grade: PSA 8.5Sold For: $111,000


A PSA 8.5 Roberto Clemente Rookie card sold for $111,000.

Another one of baseball’s most valuable cards, the Roberto Clemente 1955 Topps rookie card has been a highly sought after card among vintage collectors. Better condition copies have been especially hot as evidenced by this landmark sale of a PSA 8.5 for $111,000.

As a comparison, a PSA 8.5 sold for a whopping $167,000 back in 2016, although reality set in a few years later with a similar graded Clemente selling for $72,000.  Therefore, this latest sale interestingly almost split the difference between those two data points. 

1952 Topps – Mickey Mantle #311Grade: SGC 7Sold For: $105,000


A beautiful 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle that sold at REA for $105,000.

The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle is a cornerstone card of the 1950’s and one of the most legendary baseball cards of all time. This SGC 7 graded copy is a beauty, slightly off center but razor sharp, with beautiful colors still intact.  

Sales of the 1952 Topps Mantle in PSA 7 condition have been shockingly consistent over the past year, with a range of $110K to $120K, thus this latest sale was mostly in line with past auction sales.

I should also note that a PSA 6 Mantle ’52 Topps also sold for $75,000 at the same auction.


1915 Red Sox Photo Postcard – Babe RuthGrade: PSA 3Sold For: $84,000


This awesome team postcard from 1915 for the Boston Red Sox features a young Babe Ruth.

I love this real photo postcard from 1915 of the Boston Red Sox.  The postcard features not only Babe Ruth, but fellow teammates Tris Speaker, Joe Wood and Harry Hooper.  As far as postcards go, this is considered to be one of the treasures in the hobby.  

PSA has graded only 9 copies of this postcard, with 7 being qualifiers, thus it is no surprise that this VG copy was able to fetch $84,000. This same exact card sold at auction back in June 2017 for $64,800.

1917 E135 Collins-McCarthy #147 Babe RuthGrade: SGC 2.5Sold For: $63,000


This early playing days Babe Ruth is one of Ruth’s most popular cards.

This issue from the Collins McCarthy candy company from 1917 is one of the rarest and valuable Babe Ruth cards.  PSA has graded less than 15 copies.  This sale at $63,000 was well below the PSA 4.5 that sold for $204,000 in late 2019.  A PSA 2 sold for $66,000 in 2018, thus I think this buyer made out pretty well.  

1914 Cracker Jack “Shoeless” Joe JacksonGrade: SGC 2.5Sold For: $63,000


Cracker Jack cards remain sizzling hot as this Shoeless Joe fetched $63,000 at auction

The market for Shoeless Joe Jackson cards remains red hot, as does the market for Cracker Jack cards which are by far one of the hottest pre-war sets on the market.  

This SGC 2.5 Cracker Jack Jackson isn’t the prettiest copy, yet a collector was willing to pay up to have it.  PSA has graded less than 40 copies.  A PSA 3.5 sold for $66,790 back on April 13, 2020, thus someone paid nearly the same price for a lower graded copy.   Who says the vintage market is dead?

1986 Fleer Michael Jordan (Rookie Card)Grade: PSA 10Sold For: $51,600


This sale of a Gem Mint Jordan Rookie broke sales records.

The market for Michael Jordan’s rookie card remains red hot.  This Gem Mint PSA 10 graded copy set an auction record, fetching $51,600, eclipsing the past auction record for a Gem Mint copy of $50,000 back in 2019.  

Again don’t forget that Jordan Fleer rookies are the most counterfeited cards in the hobby.  Beware when buying any raw (or graded) copies for that matter.  

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  1. Hi I wanted to ask you about baseball card .if they have nothing on the back are they reprints ?. Or are they originals

    1. Hey Gavino, not necessarily. Many strip cards have blank backs and many caramel cards. Nearly all of the major Topps or Bowman issues have something on the back so it would be earlier pre-war issues that are more often to have blank backs.

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