‘Holy Grail’ of Tom Brady rookie cards sparks bidding war at spring auction

Lelands Auctions says early bids for the penultimate Brady rookie card are already approaching $1 million.

Tom Brady Patriots
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws a pass during his first NFL start against the Indianapolis Colts. –Winslow Townson, AP

In a sports memorabilia auction that includes coveted items from megastars Mike Trout and Michael Jordan, the rookie card of a spindly sixth-round New England Patriots draft pick is stealing the show.

A rare Tom Brady rookie trading card is making headlines at Lelands’s 2021 Spring Class Auction, less than a month after the longtime Patriot legend’s historic seventh Super Bowl victory.

The card is one of just 100 Brady rookie cards printed in 2000 and is the second-to-last one ever manufactured, according to Lelands.

“This is the best of the best, the Holy Grail,” says Jordan Gilroy, Lelands’s Director of Acquisitions.

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Gilroy said Lelands obtained the card from a private owner who bought the memorabilia in the early 2000s for about $3000 and held onto it as Brady gradually entered the pantheon of the NFL’s all-time greats. But as Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers deeper into the playoffs this past January and the market for his memorabilia climbed, the owner contacted the auction house for a chance to cash in.

Before Brady and the Bucs made the Super Bowl, Gilroy says, the card was worth around $250,000. Now, one record-setting Super Bowl win later, this collector’s item could set records of its own.

Lelands said early bids for the card have already hit $700,000 since the auction opened last Thursday, which represents a total sale value of $849,000 once the auction house’s 20 percent premium fee is accounted for. And that’s with nearly a month left to go in the bidding process, which will continue until April 2.

“We’re a few bids away from getting to $1 million,” Gilroy said, “which would be the most expensive football card to ever sell in a public auction.

While other auction items from Trout, Jordan, and LeBron James are performing “as expected,” according to Gilroy, the Brady rookie card’s popularity has far outpaced the field at this stage in the bidding. Gilroy says he’s been refreshing the auction page every few minutes to check for new offers.

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“It seems like there are bids being placed on it every single day,” he said. “People are willing to go at it and show each other, ‘I want this card, so bow out.’ But no one’s backing down.”

Gilroy says the demand for the item is fueling requests for Lelands’s next auction, which will include more of Brady’s trading cards. He also notes the Spring Classic includes a “beautiful” game-worn glove used by Red Sox great Ted Williams nearly 70 years ago, an item Gilroy laments isn’t getting as much attention as the more popular cards.

“But that might mean it’s the perfect time to buy it,” he added. “In a couple months, a year, the price you’d pay now could be considered dirt cheap.”

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