Sports Illustrated Blog #107 – More on Vintage Grading and Pricing Expectations.

Welcome to my Sports Illustrated/TIME magazine blog – Your collector’s guide to the latest hobby updates and insight into what’s trending now.

By now I’m confident the entire hobby is keenly aware that an SI sold in public auction for $32,400 several weeks ago making the two highest public auctions for graded SI’s to be the 81 Gretzky CGC 9.4 ($30,000) and the 64 Koufax CGC 9.8.   This blog will focus on what we can learn as a result of the Koufax event.  

In collecting vintage (pre 1980) graded magazines for fun and/or profit, your first consideration should be condition.  The hobby is excited over the Koufax event but be careful in what we learn.  It’s not about the price.  It’s about the condition.   

Case in point, although the Koufax was well received, I can think of 50 vintage mag covers I would prefer having a CGC 9.8 over the Koufax.  And please don’t misinterpret what I am saying.  I am not disparaging the Koufax but its superlative condition is the major contributing factor in its sell price.  It’s a second tier cover.  If a second tier cover goes for $32,400, what would a 9.8 first tier cover be worth? 

We have not seen that type of buying/selling event yet in our hobby.  For example, I predict a 9.8 68 Rose would go for more than $100,000.  Likewise, Bird, Ryan, Namath, Clemente, Maris, Brown, Nicklaus, Unitas, and many others all have that potential.  The reason for the confidence behind my prediction is that there will only be ONE!  That’s what “whale” collectors like. 

In my grading experience over the past 10 years, I have seen only one vintage CGC 9.8 between the years July 1956 and December 1980.  Given there may be 2 or 3 not publically advertised, that’s not very many – few enough to extinguish any expectation of ever owning one without significant resources.  

I spend a concentration of time within the vintage years of our collecting hobby.  I’d like to think I have a pretty good handle regarding ongoing vintage developments as well as overall graded status.   

Here are some of my broad characterizations on the vintage era of our hobby.  

1. Early SI’s (8/54 thru 6/56) are more durable and capable of withstanding time related wear issues than subsequent issues.  This includes some of the most iconic SI releases ever – Mantle, Mays, #1, #2, 1st Swimsuit, and many HOF baseball players.  I predict, in time, all of these issues will count a 9.8 among their ranks.  

2. Dark Era Issues (7/56 thru 12/69) are more sensitive to time related wear issues than earlier vintage SI’s.  The CGC census of graded mags from this era supports this supposition.   
The real question is “by how much is the condition adversely effected?”  In my opinion, a 9.4 or a 9.6 from this era will most likely never be beat.  I don’t expect any more 9.8’s from this group, EVER, with the exception of the occasional outlier (one per year).  Not sure what happened in the Koufax 9.8 event but a cursory inspection of the mag in the encapsulation shows imperfections that normally would have taken the grade to 9.2 or maybe 9.4.  That’s my opinion.  I’d love to hear other opinions on this.  

3. Later vintage (1970 thru 1979) issues have the same sensitivity issues to wear as the dark era except to a bit lesser extent – maybe due to their younger age.  Condition expectations from this era should mirror dark era expectations except a 9.4 in this group has a slightly greater chance of being beaten than a 9.4 in the dark era group.  

High grade, vintage, ungraded, newsstand SI’s are so scarce that when they come to public auction, a $10 value 5 years ago, will often eclipse $1000.  

In summary, vintage, high grade, newsstand, Sports Illustrateds make hens teeth look like a commodity.  Don’t be surprised by whale-like buying when the real first tier, none higher, POP One issues hit the auction block.  I predict, in time, some of these issues will be priced equally or even HIGHER than the TOPPS 52 Mantle – YES – Millions!  More esthetics, more history, better presentation and best of all, there will be ONLY ONE!  

Feel free to submit any questions/comments you may have on these subjects to [email protected] .    

I hope you are enjoying the reads on the history of SI, SPORT, and TIME magazines as well as an insight into relevant magazine collecting.

Great collecting to you in our second century of blogs and best fortunes with Sports Illustrated/SPORT magazines.

For a complete review of previous blogs, please visit