Back in April I had an incredible opportunity to connect with a long time basketball card collector and owner of a 1 of 1 2005-06 Topps Finest Lebron James SuperFractor card. This collector took the time to answer a number of questions about his one of a kind Lebron card, as well as talk shop about his collection and collecting more generally (you can check out that interview here).
Since that time, the Lebron Superfractor card sold through Goldin Auctions and I was able to connect again with this individual to get a sense for what the Goldin Auction experience was like. For those unfamiliar with Goldin Auctions, they’re essentially the Christies of collectables. Without further ado, lets get right to the interview.
Collector: As a preamble, I just want to say that I worry this will appear very financially focused. I got into card collecting as a kid because I love basketball and I loved having cards of my favorite players. I never for a moment thought about cards as a way to make money and prior to this, I had never sold a card or even had a card graded.
My plan was for the LeBron Superfractor card to become something of a family heirloom, but when it became apparent that I could use the card to buy a house, I felt like I had to sell. That being said, this is a story about the sale of one unique basketball card, so I will be including financial details.
1. When we connected last time, you were excited to list you 1 of 1 Lebron Superfractor card with Goldin Auctions, can you please explain what the listing process was like and were there any surprises along the way?
I think I mentioned last time that I knew I had a good card, but I didn’t realize just how good. When I reached out to Goldin, I was connected with a consignor who wanted to see photos and then immediately sent me a pretty lengthy contract to sign.
At the time, I was very surprised to be signing a contract, but in hindsight, it makes total sense and certainly came into play later on when I started receiving private offers. I was nervous about sending it through the mail and after some back and forth, they arranged for shipping labels to be sent to me, so it could be insured under them during transit.
The biggest surprises were how highly it was slotted in what was an enormous auction (slot 22), and the opening bid price of $50K.
2. Did Goldin Auctions get the card graded prior to the auction, and if so what did it grade?
Goldin took care of the grading, which I appreciated. People I spoke to assumed it would be sent to PSA because I guess some people think Nat Turner (recent owner of PSA) and (Ken) Goldin have a relationship of some sort, but it ended up being sent to BGS.
The card was really in great shape, with the only defect being a couple of small white flecks along the bottom edge on the back so I was hoping for a 9.5, but it got 9 with 8.5 for edges. I think the gold plate on a 9.5 would have really made the card pop, but what can you do!
3. You’d mentioned to me in an earlier email the craziness of the final hours of the auction, can you please describe what happened in the final hours and what you were feeling as those final bids were rolling in?
The opening bid was $50K and over the first night it went to $150K which was obviously very exciting. Then nothing happened for 3 weeks except for one more jump to $160K.
The auction was scheduled to end at 10:00 PM for new bidders; anyone that had placed a bid already could bid again in “extended bidding” after 10 PM. At 9:50, I figured it was mostly over, but in the final 5 minutes, someone bid, and then another bid.
With every bid, the countdown re-started at 30 minutes. I was at home watching a basketball game and having a couple beers and a friend was watching and texting me every time it jumped. The increments were $10K, so the jumps were enormous.
It was one of the final lots to close from the whole auction and it went into extended bidding for a couple of hours, finally closing around midnight I think. It was a ton of fun (obviously).
4. Do you have any regrets about listing with Goldin, or would you have done anything differently selling your 1 of 1 Lebron Superfractor card?
I don’t think so. In the weeks after I initially spoke you, I did a lot of research about big LeBron cards, big personal collections, etc. From what I could find, there are two collectors who own almost all of the LeBron superfractors that people know of – both active on Instagram.
Aside from those two, there is one for sale on Heritage Auction (Chrome 2004) and one for sale on Alt Investments (Finest 2007), both asking 1 million dollars. This is an insane price at baseline, but also considering we are talking about non-rookie, non-auto, non-patch cards.
After I found out about the grade, I spoke to a couple of huge personal collectors and got two enormous offers if I could get it out of the auction. I spoke to a couple of friends who’s judgement I trust, and both agreed that it made sense to keep it in the auction, as obviously these buyers were trying to get it for a price lower than they expected to pay at auction.
I wanted to know if it was even an option to pull it from the auction at this point, but my consignor indicated it was too late (the auction was going to preview the following day). I didn’t think that was unreasonable and I was not sure that I even wanted it pulled from auction – but it did feel insane not clamoring to accept the huge private offer.
Over the next three weeks after the auction opened, there was a lot online about a significant pull back in the card market, which made me nervous and feel pretty stupid for not pressing to have it pulled from auction. At the time I made the decision, I think letting it hit auction was the right call.
5. The owner of Goldin Auctions, Ken Goldin, is pretty lively on social media. Did he offer to speak with you directly or did you have any contact with him?
I did not have any contact with Ken leading up to the auction. I follow him on Instagram and he did a live preview where he unboxed a bunch of items. I was hoping the Lebron Superfractor would be one of them, because they are so rare and because refractors really benefit from live looks where you can demonstrate the shimmer.
When it wasn’t included, I sent him a DM about pumping it up and he did message me back saying there would be promotion for it once the auction opened. There was a really cool Instagram post from Goldin about it during the first week which I was happy with, and it was included in multiple emails that went out.
6. What advice would you give someone contemplating listing a very rare sports card with Goldin Auctions?
I think if you have something really rare, like a one-of-one, you can find a lot of the potential buyers on social media and save the very large fees the auction houses charge.
If I could to it all over, I would have had the card graded myself and then talked to the monster LeBron collectors on Instagram to see about a private sale. This is obviously hindsight, and I still might have ended up placing it up for auction, but you can really find a lot of people on Instagram that are into buying huge cards.
7. What was the final sales price for your 1 of 1 Lebron card, and what was the share you received from the sale?
The hammer price was $280K, which is my take-home after deducting grading and shipping; then there is a buyer’s premium of 20% added (and then there was some other small fee added), so the sale price for the card was $344.4K.
As per Goldin, this is the largest Topps Finest sale ever (they love to advertise their record breakers). The sale price did not reach the pre-auction private offer I received, but I am incredibly fortunate and thrilled with it.
8. Is there anything else you want to say about your experience selling through Goldin or just about your experience selling such a rare basketball card?
I think overall, Goldin does a good job. My consignor responded to my emails incredibly quickly and they do a good job advertising.
The whole thing was a wild ride after I posted the photo on reddit. Watching all the news about the card market plummeting made it stressful (a very welcome stress) at times, knowing about the private offer before auction, but in the end, I am incredibly lucky to have pulled the card and sold it at a time when the market was insane.
My partner has tolerated me talking about this to no end over the several week stretch leading up to and during the auction. She knows more about sports cards than she would like to at this point. I can’t thank her enough for her support and engagement over that stretch.
9. This has been an awesome interview and thank you so much for answering so honestly. My last question for you is do you miss owning the card at all, or are you happy that you sold?
I miss it so much! It sounds very odd to say, but there is something strangely satisfying about owning something so rare and coveted by others, hahaha.
For years, whenever I would be talking about childhood hobbies and I would mention card collecting, people would ask “do you have any that are really valuable” and I would smile and say “I have one really good one”, but I can’t say that anymore, hahaha.
I do know where it ended up and I’m thrilled the collector that won has it now; he is pure class all around (I’ll leave it in his hands if/when he wants to reveal it). Ultimately, I am glad I sold it as the proceeds will be the down payment on a house where I will be hanging a framed version of my now favorite basketball card – 2005 Topps Finest LeBron James #85 base.
Wow – what a great way to wrap up the interview.
Funny how bidding on Goldin for such a big ticket item is so similar to how things go on eBay, with prices barely moving for the first 6 days and change, then price moves going crazy in the final few minutes.
I want to again thank this collector for taking the time to thoroughly respond to my many questions and offer my congratulations for the successful sale of such a cool and rare Lebron James card. I’m confident that many people will not only be entertained by this experience, but also this interview may help a future lucky collectors better understand what to do if and when they pull acquire a whale.