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LeBron James’ Photo-Matched Rookie Sneakers Lace Up For Heritage’s Decades-Spanning May Sports Catalog Auction

As always with one of Heritage’s Sports auctions, extraordinary history and unassailable rarities draw the collector’s attention every which way thanks to the more than 2,800 pieces representing every sport and every decade in which professional games have been played. And every legend, too — from Ted Williams’ Sultan of Swat Crown to signed pieces from Pelé’s collection to a photo-matched pair of LeBron James’ rookie-season sneakers. One could crack the spine on the May 11-13 Sports Catalog Auction and start with what has long been one of The Hobby’s holy-moly Holy Grails: 73 high-grade 1952 Topps baseball cards pedigreed from The Lionel Carter Collection, so named for the man who famously accumulated only the very best of the very best.

In The Hobby, at least, Carter’s name is better known than most of the players on these cards – Ken Raffensberger, say, or Dick Kryhoski. He was a connoisseur among collectors, among the first to concentrate solely on well-centered, well-struck baseball cards with the highest grades. Most of his assemblage went straight from wax packs into his albums, where they remained until their auction debut 16 years ago.

Carter’s 1952 Topps collection alone consisted of what was likely the most extensive single assortment of Mint and Gem Mint cards from that historic set. Sharp corners, white borders, bright colors, shiny surfaces — every one of his cards looked like it came from a 5-cent wax pack just this morning. Most of the 73 cards offered here are the highest-graded examples.

“I expect the 1952 Topps cards from The Carter Collection are going to rewrite the record books for commons cards from the 1952 Topps set,” says Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage.

This wax box of 1962 Topps Baseball (First Series) cards, with 24 unopened packs, is no less dizzying. This green cardboard treasure chest is so rare Heritage has never before offered one, and the Baseball Card Exchange says this is the first 1962 Topps baseball box they can recall authenticating in a decade.

Some of baseball’s rarest cards make their auction debuts at Heritage in May: a select group of signed baseball Exhibits cards from the 1920s. A father and son bought them in the 1970s and only now part with this estimable collection that includes cards autographed by Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson and a 1925 rookie card signed by Lou Gehrig that’s one of just a handful known to exist. The remainder of the extensive, historic and sought-after signed Exhibits collection will be offered in the coming months.  

The memorabilia is no less extensive or impressive, beginning with an astonishing assortment of collectibles, including LeBron’s rookie sneakers and a lifetime’s worth of memories owned by soccer’s supreme legend, Pelé.

In this event are pair of sneakers making their auction debut: the very shoes on King James’ feet when he played only his second game in the National Basketball Association. Photo-matching reveals James laced up these size-15 Nike Air Zoom Generations on Oct. 30, 2003, when the 19-year-old Cleveland Cavalier dropped 21 points against the Phoenix Suns, beginning his two-decade-long march toward the NBA’s all-time career points record once held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

As the catalog notes of these Nikes, “This is unquestionably one of the most important artifacts of 21st-century sports ever to be placed upon the hobby’s auction block.”

“LeBron’s second-game sneakers are just one of the incontestable highlights of the May 11-13 Sports Catalog Auction, which is rich in history,” says Chris Ivy, Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions. “Collectors won’t have to wait until the Summer Platinum Night Sports Auction in August to spring into action given the varied and valuable memorabilia available in May, which includes tools of the trade used by such icons as Tiger Woods and Ted Williams, with gamers worn into battle by some of the best to play any game and a historic collection spanning the extraordinary career of a man who transcended his sport: Pelé.”

About Jerry Milani

Jerry Milani is a writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 30 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and as a freelance professional. His PR clients have included Wizard World and FAN EXPO, which produce pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America, USA Wrestling, the National Lacrosse League, Strat-O-Matic Media, the Pacific Life Open and Pilot Pen Tennis tournaments and dozens of others. Milani is also the director of athletic communications for Caldwell University. He is a proud graduate of North Rockland High School and Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at Jerry (at) JerryMilani (dot) com.

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