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What do you do when you deeply love the 1980s brand of NBA basketball and have more money than you know what to do with? You could hire Charles Barkley to speak at your company event for $100,000. You could help send piles of cash to several bankrupted former “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons. Or you could buy a 1980 Topps card featuring then-rookies Larry Bird and Magic Johnson on eBay.
An anonymous card collector chose option No. 3 on Wednesday night. The eBay auction opened at a measly 99 cents, and bidding began at $1,000. Ten days and 91 bids later, the unnamed benefactor got his or her card for a whopping $125,200 — one of the highest prices ever paid for a basketball card.
The changing value of the Bird-Magic rookie card
The card, which also features Julius Erving, was in “gem mint” condition — the highest rating possible from Professional Sports Authenticator. The previous high for a gem mint version of that particular 1980 Topps card was $96,423 at an eBay auction in November 2016, according to PSA. Two others sold at auction houses last year for $74,725 and $66,000. Prior to that, the card sold for $8,687 in 2010.
One could also purchase the Bird-Magic rookie card in merely mint condition for $550, as somebody did in an eBay auction last month. You probably wouldn’t even notice the “very slight wax stain on reverse, a minor printing imperfection or slightly off-white borders.” Then again, you wouldn’t have bragging rights when your wealthy friends are sipping Isabella’s Islay scotch around the fireplace.
The most valuable basketball cards in history
You better hope your friends don’t own the few basketball cards that sold for higher prices at auction. Per VintageCardPrices.com, Lew Alcindor’s 1969 Topps rookie card fetched a record $501,900 in 2016. A rare autographed LeBron James rookie card sold for $312,000 in 2016. George Mikan’s 1948 Bowman rookie card sold for $218,550 in 2015. The Bird-Magic card now ranks as the fourth-most valuable.
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