This Saturday, an auction that is expected to break sports card price records will end over at Goldin Auctions. In the past, sales records have mostly belonged to vintage cards like the T206 Honus Wagner and 1952 Mickey Mantle, with modern cards like rare rookies of Mike Trout and Lebron James peppered in as contestants for the top spot.
The auction ending Saturday isn’t a vintage card, and it’s not a rookie card, but it is an ultra-modern card: it’s a 2020-21 Panini Flawless card of Lebron James. This card is a 1/1 triple logoman patch of James, and contains a game worn logoman patch from his time with each of his three teams: Cleveland, Miami, and Los Angeles. The card has received a substantial amount of hype since the Flawless product was released. Bounties were put out for its acquisition, and rapper Drake very publicly bought 10 (very expensive) cases of the product, then opened them live online, specifically searching for this very card.
Several things set this card apart from the usual contenders for the top sales record of all time. As previously mentioned, it’s not a rookie card, which is very rare for multi-million-dollar cards. But even stranger is that it’s not autographed, which never happens with cards of this ilk. Previous high sales were both autographed and rookie cards, like the $5.2 million sale of a Lebron James card and the $4.8 million sale of a Luka Doncic. This card is also unique in that it is not graded with a numeric grade, but rather, simply encapsulated as “Authentic” by PSA.
It’s clear that its value is more about what it represents than about the card itself. It is, of course, a rare card, as it’s the only copy in existence. It’s also the biggest card from the most high-end basketball set produced. If it were autographed, or a rookie, it would make more sense as a record-setting sale. At the end of the day, however, this card is sort of like a Kardashian — it has some wonderful qualities, but is most famous for being famous. The Drake chase, the bounties, and the hype videos by Goldin frontman and namesake Ken Goldin are all just as important to this card’s value as the logoman patches are.
As of this writing, the card has reached $1.8 million. I personally think it will fall short of the sales record and end somewhere in the $3.5M to $4.5M range. It’s an incredible card, whether you think it’s the “most important modern card” or not.