Six Figures or Bust: One Man’s Big Gamble Lands Him Most Valuable Zion Williamson Card on the Market
Last month, 28-year-old consultant Tom Carroll was feeling a little bit risky. A recreational bettor who had just gotten back into the memorabilia space thanks to “The Last Dance,” Carroll found himself looking at case breaks on eBay.
Various companies sell the rights to get certain cards in a box or a case. One of the methods for a person to gamble is by choosing a team.
The highest bidder of that team when the auction closes gets all of the cards of players from that team in the case. The Lakers, the Bucks, the Mavericks and the Pelicans often command the highest prices because of LeBron, Giannis, Luka and Zion.
Carroll wanted to make a bet on Zion and was feeling lucky. He won the bid for all Pelicans players in a case of Panini’s National Treasures — four boxes, 40 total cards — for a price of $6,200.
“I figured I would go for it,” said Carroll, noting that $6,200 was a significant enough sum in his life. “It was the biggest bet I had ever made. If I didn’t get what I wanted, I would learn from the experience.”
With just 40 cards, it was possible that a single Pelicans player wouldn’t come out of a pack and Carroll would get no action and his money back. That night, June 20, Carroll tuned in on the stream to watch the company open the packs.
Sure enough, on the second box, the 19th card, a Zion Williamson National Treasures signed jersey patch card, numbered 21 out of 99, was pulled. Carroll was so ecstatic he couldn’t talk. In the other two boxes came a Brandon Ingram and two Nickeil Alexander-Walker cards. He would have been deep in the hole had the Zion card not been plucked.
With the set being relatively new, Carroll didn’t know exactly how much he’d win, but he knew he had won big.
“I couldn’t have it shipped to me,” Carroll said. “So the next day, I booked a flight for $180 and flew from Chicago to New York, rented a car, drove to Long Island, picked up the card and flew back.”
A few days after Carroll returned, some of the cards started selling on eBay. A three-color patch card, signed and out of 99, ungraded, sold for $74,600.
Carroll hastily listed his on eBay. It reached $67,000 in bids, but Carroll was told that going through an auction house would potentially be better. He pulled his listing.
In the meantime, another card had sold — this time one graded a 9 out of 10 by Beckett — sold for $90,300.
Carroll worked out a deal with Goldin Auctions, the biggest sports auction house, to have them pay to get his card graded at Beckett in exchange for being able to list it in Goldin’s auction that closes Aug. 22. A couple days later, the card came back from Beckett. It was graded a 9.
As Carroll waited, no other Beckett 9 had hit eBay, while three ungraded of the same cards sold for in between $50,000 and $58,600 in July.
Goldin opened for bidding on Monday and Carroll’s card is already at $48,000
“Beckett graded 13 National Treasures cards that are the same of mine,” Carroll said. “None are higher than a nine. It’s a very condition sensitive set.”
Carroll, like so many card investors, sees cards as the new IPO of sorts. So the elasticity of how high his card can sell for is more dependent on Zion himself than ever before. And he’s only played 19 career regular season games.
“I’m hoping the return of basketball and Zion’s hopeful continuation of his dominance will contribute to driving his and other modern card prices higher,” Carroll said.
Carroll is a Bulls fan, but he has a new team now.
“They’ve become appointment television for me,” he said. “I ordered a Zion Mardi Gras swingman jersey that I’ll be wearing for every game.”
After leaving the NBA bubble for a family emergency, Williamson came back, quarantined and has returned to practice. He’s expected to play the team’s first game back on Thursday against the Utah Jazz.