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LeBron James logo card expected to auction for more than $6 million

Goldin Auctions Executive Chairman and Founder Ken Goldin sits down with Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the NBA logo card being auctioned for a record price, the culture of sports card collecting, and collector communities pivoting to NFT trends.

Video Transcript


DAVE BRIGGS: Collectibles of all kinds are having a moment. Andy Warhol's Marilyn sold for a record $195 million. A 1955 Mercedes smashed the record car price, $143 million. And the three biggest auction houses in New York City cleared more than $2 and 1/2 billion in sales in just a couple of weeks.

And tonight, just a couple of hours from now, we could see the highest price ever paid for a sports car. Let's talk about it with Ken Goldin, who is the founder of Goldin Auctions. And Ken, you have that card with you I believe. Tell me why you refer to it as the Holy Grail. And how high do you think the bidding will go?

KEN GOLDIN: Sure. Well, here's the card. And it is called a triple logo man. It is a LeBron James 2020 Panini triple logo man. It is one of a kind card. And what they did to make the card unique is they took a game used jersey from each of his three teams, the Cavaliers, the Heat, and the Lakers. They cut the jersey up, the game used, and they took off the logo man patch on each. And they placed it on one card and one card only, a true one of one. Then they hid the card in thousands of boxes of their ultra high end product flawless for someone to try and open and find it.

Really like a modern day "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" golden ticket, truly, truly, truly the ultimate lottery ticket. And logo men in the hobby traditionally are the most desirable of all modern cards. So to give you an example, in 2016, we sold a rookie LeBron 2003 logo man from Ultimate for $312,000 which, at the time, was a record.

Since then, that client has been offered over $10 million for that card and turned it down. So these are truly the upper echelon of all trading cards. It's one of one. It's the first time it has ever been done in our history where there's three images of one player on a card. And of course, it's LeBron, who is the most popular of all modern players, and will be the all time scoring king within the next two years. So it's really the ultimate achievement for a trading card.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: And as you mentioned there, it really was this Willy Wonka hunt for this thing. We saw that Canadian rapper Drake bought 10 cases of these very expensive cards trying to find it. Wasn't lucky enough to get it. Talk about the evolution then of some of these collectible sports cards, when you consider how things work like in the '50 and the '60s with baseball versus the kind of products that are coming out now.

KEN GOLDIN: Sure. And of course, Drake, the guy opening those cases for Drake was me. I flew up to Canada and was opening with him. And I've been collecting cards since I was a very little kid in the 1970s. Back in the day originally in the 19th century and the early 20th century, they were actually given away for free in packs of cigarettes if you can believe that. And then they were really used as advertising pieces, until finally in the 1930s, they were sold with a stick of bubblegum.

And that became the norm all the way through the 1990s when they just took out the gum. But back in the day, nobody knew that they were collectibles. It's like comic books. People didn't take-- look at their Mickey Mantle cards and their Babe Ruth cards. They didn't keep them in perfect condition the same way they didn't keep their Superman and Batman comic books in perfect condition.

When I was a little kid, I used to flip the cards and try and get them heads up or tails up in a contest. Kids would put them in the spokes in their bicycles to make the motorcycle sound. It was only really until the 1980s when trading cards began to be considered a true collectible, an asset class. And it's really with the advent of professional grading in the 1990s that trading cards took that giant leap to where you can have a single card that can sell for $30 million.

DAVE BRIGGS: And it's not just cards. I mentioned all the paintings, and the car, a Wayne Gretzky jersey, his last with Edmonton just went for 1.45 million. What do you make of this moment where these collectibles, in particular sports, are skyrocketing? And yet you're also in the NFT business where we're seeing plummeting prices.

KEN GOLDIN: Sure. Well, I don't find a big correlation between NFTs and hard asset collectibles. Traditionally, the people who collect trading cards, paintings, art, comic books, video games are now collectibles, they like-- first of all, they like to look at it. It's different than a stock or anything else. So it's an asset, but it's also collectible.

If you look behind me, I have some in my collection behind me, including old wax boxes where you can find Larry Bird and Magic Johnson rookie cards. And that's a game used Mickey Mantle bat sitting behind me as well, as well as some 19th century cards. So I have not found a correlation between the crypto NFT market and trading cards, especially not the older collectibles. Some of the new modern, because it skews younger, the people who are buying cards from 2000 to present tend to be a younger audience than the individuals buying cards from the '50s, '60s, and earlier.

So it might have a little more effect there. But the biggest boom in my business happened from March through June of 2020, which is when, as you know, the stock market was absolutely crashing. So I think people pulled their money out of the market, they figured, hey, I'm going to collect a hard asset, I'm going to collect something I control, I'm going to keep it in my hand, and I'm going to enjoy it. And what I want to sell it, hopefully I make money. And those people who did that have done exceedingly well.

DAVE BRIGGS: Can't wait for this auction. It's tonight, 8:00 o'clock eastern time. Check it out. goldin.co. That's G-O-L-D-I-N. Ken Goldin, been a real pleasure. Appreciate it. Best of luck tonight.

KEN GOLDIN: Thank you for having me.