At first blush, news that a really old baseball card fetched $92,000 at auction the other day seemed like a lock for this week's sign-of-the-apocalypse in sports.
For that kind of money, after all, buyer Jason LeBlanc could have bought himself a fully operational jetpack! Which comes with 600 pounds of thrust, and you don't even need a pilot's license to fly!
Or, if you prefer to stay grounded, how about an S-class Mercedes-Benz sedan? Or two toilets made entirely of 24-carat gold. Heck, LeBlanc could even have rented the 25-foot wide townhouse Irish real estate mogul Dennis Quinlan is offering on New York's Upper East Side for a month — and still had enough change left over to cover the cable bill. But no.
LeBlanc shelled out the money for a 148-year-old card depicting the Brooklyn Atlantics amateur baseball club, saying he bought it as an investment for his young son, and the craziest thing about the whole story might be that he actually got a bargain. Since there's very little chance we'll learn that ballplayers in the 1860s were using performance-enhancing drugs, odds are good that somewhere down the road, some other rich guy will be willing to buy that card from his kid for a lot more.
"Absolutely," said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions for Heritage Auctions. "A lot of these items, when they're one of a kind, we can put an estimate on, but often we miss the selling price by a lot.
"And there's this, too," he added a moment later. "This is still a growth market. Baseball is king right now, because it has the longest and most storied past, at least for Americans. But football is our most popular sport, and the collectibles there are starting to catch up. Plus, there's more and more people getting into the market all the time."
Of course, you'd expect a guy in the business to say exactly that. Heritage wasn't the seller in LeBlanc's case, but the firm expects to generate even bigger headlines later this month as it auctions off the jersey U.S. hockey team captain Mike Eruzione wore in the "Miracle on Ice" game at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, when a team composed mostly of college players upset the Soviet Union's Big Red Machine on its way to winning the gold. Heritage already has a standing bid of $325,000 for the jersey, one of two dozen items Eruzione put has up for consignment. Also included in the auction is the bloody sock that then-Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling wore in in Game 2 of the 2004 World Series. His reputation might be in the can, at least as a businessman, but the sock still could end up in someone else's drawer for a cool $75,000 or more.
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