NHL

Rare Connor McDavid rookie card sells for $135K

    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

Connor McDavid just made a retired carpenter from San Diego more than $100,000 richer.

McDavid’s 2015-16 Upper Deck “The Cup” rookie patch autograph card sold for a final bid of $135,811.20 in the Lelands Spring Classic Auction on Friday. The sale price includes a 20% fee that goes to the auction house, according to The Action Network.

While other versions of the card are valued at more than $50,000, this was a one-of-a-kind item: Out of a 99-card run, this card was No. 97, which is McDavid’s jersey number with the Edmonton Oilers.

The card’s seller is a man named John who lives in San Diego. (Given the size of the winning bid, John requested that his last name not be used.) He is a hobbyist collector who acquired the McDavid card through some special circumstances.

John paid to be part of a hockey card case break at Jaspy’s Sports Cards & Collectibles in Hermosa Beach, California.

“I’m recently retired after 30 years of being a carpenter. I had never really collected a card in my life. A friend of mine last year got me into breaking cards as a hobby and really enjoyed it,” he told ESPN. “I picked Jaspy’s because my father was a lifeguard in Hermosa Beach in the 1940s. His elementary school is across the street from Jaspy’s.”

Essentially, John won a lottery to earn the chance to own the McDavid card. This is how the case break worked: Thirty spots were randomly assigned via computer program to collectors who invested in the break. John couldn’t recall the exact amount he paid but said it was “under $150.” Along with the individuals, there were five “random number blocks” that had teams assigned to them; each of the “blocks” included nine investor names, each assigned a random number that corresponded with the last digit of the numbered card that was pulled for that team.

In the McDavid case break, the “random number block” was assigned the Oilers, and John was assigned No. 7 within that block. Because of these assignments, John lucked into one of the most coveted hockey cards in the industry: Connor McDavid, No. 97 of 99.

Jaspy’s films its case breaks and posts them on YouTube. In a video posted Dec. 3, 2019, host Jason Cordero of Jaspy’s visibly lurched forward when the McDavid card was revealed. His hands started shaking, and he told a coworker that he was “going to have a heart attack.”

It was the most lucrative card pulled in a break in the store’s history.

John said he discovered his good fortune by watching that YouTube video.

“I watched that video and saw the reaction that [Cordero] had. And he was very excited, even though I didn’t know the ramifications at that time,” he said.

John received an email that night from the store, asking him to go to Hermosa Beach to see the card.

“People were contacting them directly about the card that night. I knew at that moment that I had something valuable,” he said.

John said he has seen the McDavid card for only a few brief moments at the store, with it sealed for safekeeping. Then it was shipped to Lelands for the auction, which was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. John said parting with the card was an easy decision.

“I don’t really have an emotional attachment to the sport,” he said. “It never really crossed my mind to hold on to it. If I put it in a shoebox in my closet, it’s not doing anything. It would be better for someone else [to have it].”

The auction began on May 17, with an initial bid of $2,500. By May 28, the bids jumped to $53,000. On June 17, the bid increased to more than $93,000. At auction’s end, the McDavid card sold for $135,811.20.

“I’ve been trying to wrap my head around it. I guess there’s a market for it,” said John, who added that the auction was watched by friends and family, including his 87-year-old parents.

John said he has spent upward of $6,000 on his hobby, selling some cards on auction sites while keeping others for himself. Never did he think one would bring the windfall that the McDavid card has.

“I was truly blessed. My stars were aligned,” he said. “It’s a godsend, especially in today’s times.”

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