Ticket from Jackie Robinson’s pro debut, jersey from Mickey Mantle’s final game set records at auctions
The Mick's New York Yankees road gamer sells for $2.19 million, while stub from Robinson’s 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers debut realizes $480,000.
One of seven known ticket stubs from Jackie Robinson’s big-league debut in the spring of 1947 sold Sunday morning for $480,000, making it the most expensive sporting-event ticket ever sold at auction. But Robinson wasn’t the lone baseball hero to hit a major milestone during Heritage Auctions’ two-day Winter Platinum Night Sports Auction, which concludes Sunday night.
The jersey worn by Mickey Mantle when he played his final game as a New York Yankee on Sept. 28, 1968, sold for $2,190,000. That’s the highest price ever paid at auction for a Mantle jersey, shattering the previous record of $1,320,000 set at Heritage Auctions in August 2018.
“We’ve always known this was an incredibly special jersey, as The Mick wore it when he hit his 535th home run and then signed it for a dear friend,” says Chris Ivy, founder and president of Heritage Sports. “But when it was confirmed to be the very jersey he wore when he took his final swing as a New York Yankee, that’s when it became something historic, as evidenced by the night’s results.”
It was also a very big night for two iconic women, as this session saw a record set for a Serena Williams card ($163,200). And heated bidding over a flight cap worn by aviator Amelia Earhart drove the final price toward the million-dollar mark early Sunday morning.
The only known full ticket from Michael Jordan’s NBA debut in October 1984 sold during the same session for $468,000. Like the Robinson stub, the Jordan ticket shattered the previous record for a sports ticket set in December, when a stub from MJ’s first game as a Chicago Bull sold for $264,000.
Jordan and Robinson had already broken that 2-month-old high-water mark days earlier, with the MJ ticket initially outpacing the Robinson stub. But in the final hours of the auction, Robinson eventually slid into home with the new record. The Brooklyn Dodgers’ new second baseman actually went hitless on April 15, 1947, at Ebbets Field and scored the go-ahead run only after reaching base on an error, but no mere box score can hold the weight of that spring day in Brooklyn.
“Interest in the Jackie Robinson material featured in this auction was immediate and came from all over the globe the very moment the auction was opened,” Ivy says. “Because, of course, he wasn’t just a Hall of Fame ballplayer, but a trailblazer. We are not surprised his ticket is now the record-holder, and were incredibly honored to present these significant items from these landmark moments in a career that defined a sport and a nation.”
Several other significant items associated with Robinson also set records early Sunday morning, among them his March 1946 American Baseball Bureau questionnaire, which realized $1,680,000. For that document, Robinson was asked about his “ambition in baseball.” In the space provided, he wrote: “To open door for Negroes in Organized Ball.”
Seth Kaller Inc. was the winning bidder for Robinson’s questionnaire, and has arranged for its display at the Jackie Robinson Museum set to open this summer in New York City.
Seventy-five years after Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, collectors clamor for his keepsakes more than ever before. That was evident throughout the auction’s first session, as myriad Robinson items realized far more than their initial estimates, including: his 1948 Leaf rookie card graded PSA NM-MT 8 (which sold for $468,000), a 1946 Heilbroner Baseball Bureau Information card filled out and signed by Robinson before his debut as a Montreal Royal (which brought $120,000, three times its estimate) and a copy of Robinson’s book Wait Till Next Year, in which the author penned a note for his teammate – and friend – Pee Wee Reese (which sold for $144,000, nearly five times estimate).
The Jordan debut ticket, kept in a manila envelope for 37 years before being authenticated and encapsulated by grading service PSA, belonged to Michael Cole, who hung on to that sliver of history decades after he couldn’t find anyone to accompany him to the Oct. 26, 1984, game at Chicago Stadium pitting the Washington Bullets against the hometown Bulls. The 21-year-old Jordan scored 16 points, nabbed six rebounds and garnered seven assists in the Bulls’ 106-93 win over Washington. But it’s fair to say Cole had the much better night, even if he had to wait a few decades.
“What an unbelievably great outcome,” Cole said. “I’m incredibly excited and fortunate, and I can’t wait to share my good fortune with family and friends.”
“We knew when the Jordan ticket came in that we had something remarkable on our hands – and something likely to rewrite the record books, too,” Ivy says. “So it was as thrilling for us as it was for Michael when the ticket broke that barrier. It certainly deserved to as the only known survivor from one of basketball’s most historic debuts.”
One of the finest-known examples of Mickey Mantle’s iconic 1952 Topps baseball card, graded NM-MT 8, sold for $1,560,000 – an almost unfathomable number only a few years ago. But tennis great Serena Williams made the news on this night, only one month after her 1999 SI For Kids Series 4 rookie card sold for $117,000. During this first session of the Winter Platinum Night Sports Auction, the 2003 Netpro International Serena Williams (Court Authentic Series A) No. 2A, graded PSA NM 7 and Auto 10 numbered 24/100, sold for $163,200.
Williams wasn’t the only woman in the session to soar past expectations: The cap aviator Amelia Earhart wore when she made her famous first flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928 realized $825,000. A young man found the cap on the ground after Earhart participated in the National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio, in August 1929, and gifted it to a young woman named Ellie Brookhart. The leather helmet had been in her family’s possession ever since.
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