Michael Jordan's used sneakers had game, but they didn't stand a chance against Honus Wagner.
One of the iconic, exceedingly rare T206 Wagner baseball cards, the most famous card in sports collecting, may have been worse for the wear over the years, but it was the big winner, fetching US$609,294 (NZ$844,787) at auction Sunday.
The dirty, presumably smelly Converse sneakers Jordan wore during the 1984 Olympic gold-medal game against Spain set a record, too, although it was far less: US$190,373 (NZ$264,103), according to SCP auctions.
"The record-shattering price proves that Michael Jordan has no equal in the marketplace for game-used basketball memorabilia," Dan Imler, vice president of SCP Auctions, told ESPN.
Not surprisingly, a pair of Jordan's game-worn shoes set the previous mark. The shoes, worn in the "Flu Game," Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, fetched US$104,765 at auction in 2013. (A pair of his rookie shoes brought over US$70,000 two years ago.)
The Olympic shoes, believed to be the last Jordan wore as an amateur as well as the last Converse sneaks he wore in an official game, bear Jordan's signature and his orthotic inserts. They were grabbed after the game in the Forum in Los Angeles by the 11-year-old ballboy son of the Los Angeles Lakers' Gail Goodrich. Jordan scored 20 points in the victory over Spain and, in case you were wondering, he wore Converse, then sported by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, during his North Carolina career because of the school's contract with the company.
Drafted by the Chicago Bulls, he struck a business deal with Nike in October 1984, a month after signing with the team, and Air Jordans - and history - were launched.
Still, the Wagner card, which was graded a 1 out of a possible 10, was the big winner. Cards from the epic T206 series printed from 1909 to 1911 turn up from time to time and, when they do, the world takes notice. Another Wagner, known as the "Jumbo" card because of an imperfect border, rated a 5 out of 10 and was sold for US$3.12 million at public auction last October. That surpassed a T206 Wagner that brought US$2.8 million in 2007.
Only 200 Wagner cards were made and only about 50 are in circulation. Of those only a handful are none the worse for wear. As for why there are so few for a star like Wagner, he demanded that he be removed from the card series, for reasons ranging from the fact that they were marketed by a cigarette company to the desire to be paid more money for the use of his image.