hot card courtesy of Huggins & Scott
While the world was watching the World Cup and Major League Baseball was mourning the death of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, collectors were preparing to see if the 1-of-1 Stephen Strasburg trading card really was worth a million dollars. Well not really. The World Cup ended shortly after the card's owner took it down off eBay as it approached a million bucks, and baseball folks were paying homage to The Boss at the All-Star Game in Anaheim as the card showed up on the Huggins and Scott auction page to debut July 14th. Getting the card was a huge coup for the auction company.
"Absolutely, the media attention that Strasburg and his cards have made is unprecedented and the publicity for the baseball card industry, and hopefully our company, can only be positive," Vice President Josh Wulken told Examiner. "I believe the honesty, reputation and trust that Huggins and Scott has throughout the industry played a major role in the consignor pulling it from eBay and deciding to sell it through a respected and reputable sports memorabilia auction house."
Officials at H&S say the switchboard has been flooded with calls since the word got out the company had the card. The owner, a collector from Florida, has chosen to remain anonymous. The day before the auction nearly 1800 people had clicked on the auction to view it. It ends July 28.
The card's history is almost as well documented as the only other million dollar trading card; the Honus Wagner T-206. Pulled from a pack of Bowman Trading Cards (a Topps brand) the card is a 1-of-1 autographed version. The collector placed it on eBay and within days the card was approaching $1 million, which everyone in the know realized was bogus. Likely kids and the sarcastic bid it to extremes never intending to pay. Sadly, this has been part of the history of eBay. As we here at Examiner reported at the time the card was over $900,000. Then the owner pulled it and re-listed it only to see it reach a ridiculous $500,000 quickly. Other sellers point out the fact the first time the seller did not qualify the bidders, a process which eBay offers so only legitimate bidders can cast their lots. It was pulled again.
Enter Huggins & Scott, a Maryland based on-line auction house which holds several auctions each year and issues a catalog as well. The reputable firm has reps all over the country and has been pulling in lots of merchandise in recent years; both vintage and new. It is unknown what the company will take for a percentage but they usually get a 15% buyers fee from the purchaser. The minimum bid for the item is $9000.
H&S had it graded by Beckett Grading Service and it came back as a Mint-9 out of a possible 10. The autograph was rated 10. A similar non-autographed version released by Bowman as a 1/1 card sold for $16,000, the owner had it graded and resold it on eBay for $22,000.
Strasburg was the top pick in his year of the draft and has been throwing the proverbial BB's at hitters in this his rookie year. In 7 starts the hard throwing right hander has struck out 61 hitters in 42 innings, and boasts a 2.32 ERA. He has won 3 of his 5 decisions. He struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates in his debut.
Even so, he is a rookie pitcher and fans and collectors have seen this before. The names Mark Prior, David Clyde and Oliver Perez once struck fear into the hearts of hitters. Today their rookie cards fill the commons bins at baseball card shops around the country. Still, Strasburg is something special, today.
"I guess any purchase of any player playing today is a risk," said Wulken. "However, this hobby has not seen anything such as Strasburg-mania since the emergence of Shaquille O'Neal."
O'Neal was all the rage coming out of LSU in 1992. The Score Board had signed him to an exclusive pre-NBA deal which helped drive the young star's trading cards to crazy heights and when he came out, collectors couldn't get enough Shaq. Topps is the only licensed trading card company making baseball cards and this too limits the amount of cards Strasburg can have. This is a major factor; something finally learned by trading card manufacturers and the licensor's. Too much when it comes to collectibles is a bad thing. "Limited" should be just that; not very many.
How high will the card go when it closes at auction on July 28th? Wulken isn't venturing a guess.
"I would not want to put an estimate on the final hammer price," he said of the card. "It will sell to the highest bidder."
He wouldn't be opposed to the figure reaching a million dollars. Then again neither would a collector in Florida who hit the jackpot with this one.