Sports cards have risen in value and in prominence to the point that they have undeniably emerged as an alternative asset class. Some buyers may want to collect these cards for personal collections, but some sports card investors may simply want to own a card to make money selling it down the road for a higher price than they paid.
Collectors Dashboard is not alone in having seen the values of vintage and new hot rookie sports cards skyrocket in value in recent years. Many collectors have had a hard time competing against buyers with deep pockets who treat the transaction no differently than buying shares of General Electric, Apple or Microsoft.
One key vintage basketball card that has been one of the longstanding faces of sports collectibles is the 1948 Bowman George Mikan. In some ways, this card is more important than a rookie Michael Jordan. Still, this pertains to vintage basketball cards rather than the modern era sports cards.
Many collectors might assume that George Mikan was rather glad he didn’t have to play against the likes of Michael Jordan and other key modern basketball players. His numbers and stats may not deliver that message at all.
The real question that basketball card collectors and their rival investors alike need to know some answers to is why they need to own this 1948 Bowman George Mikan card. For starters, this card represents the dawn of post-war basketball card sets. George Mikan was also considered basketball’s first marquee player, and a note from the PSA Cardfacts site said Mikan is responsible for making basketball a nationally recognized sport more than any player of the post-war era.
It would be easy to point out that professional athletes of the 1940s might not even make team rosters in the modern era. On top of segregation being so prominent in the 1940s, the “big guys” generally were usually not that big by modern standards. George Mikan clocked in at 6’10” and was listed as 240 pounds in this 1948 Bowman card, easily within modern playing standards.
Until the monster sales of modern basketball stars shattered records, the best graded 1948 Bowman George Mikan rookie (PSA 10) held the record for an auction’s highest-paid price for a single basketball card. And in modern lingo, Mikan was the “GOAT” of his era and he lived until the age of 80 until his passing away in 2005.
The 1948 Bowman card is from the Minneapolis Lakers of the National Basketball League. The card’s back noted the 23-year old Mikan breaking every National League scoring record with 1,195 points in 56 games — and with a league record of 42 points in a single game. If that isn’t strong enough, Bowman also noted 383 free throw points scored in 56 games.
Vintage collectors and investors alike do tend to gravitate toward the greatest players of each era. This Bowman card spells out point blank that Mikan was “rated by experts as the greatest basketball player in history.” The Associated Press poll of 1950 also named Mikan as the greatest basketball player of the first half of the twentieth century. That made Mikan the GOAT of the late 1940s and 1950s
One issue which has helped this card’s and prominence was that the Minneapolis team of that era was really the first dynasty as it won 5 championships in just 6 years. While Mikan ended with a career average of 23.1 points per game, it was even more impressive that he averaged 28 points per game in hist first 3 seasons. After retiring as a player, Mikan became the first commissioner of the ABA at that time.
While this card is widely sought out, samples do routinely come up for auction in the mid-grades. One issue which is hard to ignore and which is common with all Bowman sports cards of the late 1940s is that it has almost no eye appeal at all. Maybe that’s a bias or opinion, but buyers today would likely shun any card set that looks like this if it was issued in the modern era.
When Joe Orlando’s ‘The Top 200 Sportscards in the Hobby’ was published in 2002, Mikan’s 1948 Bowman card was the first basketball card listed due to its age. Orlando also pointed out that centering of this card issue in particular was often very poor and that toning was frequent around the edges and on the back.
The PSA population report showed as of April 2021 that there were 312 regular graded samples of his base card, with another 35 in the “+” grades and another 13 graded samples with qualifiers. Of PSA’s 3 other variations, only 16 graded samples have been counted in its registry. SGC lists more variants of the card as well, and it counts 100 total graded samples between new and old grading.
The Collectors Dashboard zone related index for the main base grade is a PSA 4 with 46 graded samples. That said, there is a closer grouping of better grades as follows: PSA 5 (41); PSA 6 (43); and PSA 7 (41. The PSA population report for the ultra-high grades count just 4 samples of PSA 9 and just 1 PSA 10 grade. The sweet spot index in SGC’s universe would be between 9 samples of a 40/3 SGC grade and 8 samples of the SGC 70/5.5 grade.
In April of 2021, a PSA 5 sample of the 1948 Bowman George Mikan sold for $9,885.77 via eBay (PWCC). A PSA 6 sample sold earlier in the month for $17,220.00 via Goldin Auctions. The biggest sale seen to that time was a PSA 8 which fetched $132,000.00 via Heritage Auctions in February of 2021. Another standout sale was $73,200.00 for a PSA 8 in August 2020 via Goldin Auctions.
Despite incredibly strong card price sales in 2020 and 2021, the 1948 Bowman George Mikan’s Gem Mint card has commanded strong prices for more than a decade when it has come up for sale. The PSA 10 1948 Bowman George Mikan rookie card sold for $225,000 back in 2009 via SCP and then sold for $403,664 in a 2015 auction via SCP Auctions. To clarify this sale, SCP’s website showed the $403,664.00 sale taking place in its Fall 2015 auction.
If you ever get to go back in time, collectors and investors alike may do better financially buying a rookie George Mikan rather than buying shares of Microsoft or Apple. The very first edition of the annual Sports Americana Football & Basketball Card Price Guide from 1979 indicated prices of $4.00 in Mint and $3.00 for VG-EX condition. Those prices had risen to $75 and $35, respectively, by the same expanded publication in 1985.
And for another very strong outing, the fractional ownership Collectable app sold the original wire photo for the 1948 Bowman George Mikan fractionally with a market cap of $53,500.00. That was after the wire photo sold for $40,800.00 through Heritage Auctions in February of 2021.
It has generally been considered to be the case that baseball cards are the number-one focal point of sports collectibles. Basketball cards have been coming on strong, and the meteoric record-shattering prices from 2019 to 2021 has been impossible to ignore.