October 2019 Fall Classic Auction
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 11/3/2019

Brazilian-born Edson Arantes do Nascimento is widely regarded as the single greatest player in the history of the world's most popular sport. Like many of history's most celebrated figures, so famous is the undisputed king of The Beautiful Game that he is known throughout the world by one name: Pelé. When organizations around the globe began naming their "century" awards in 1999, the International Olympic Committee elected him its Athlete of the Century. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, the governing body of soccer, named him joint winner of its Player of the Century Award. Argentinian legend Diego Maradona also won the award based on an internet poll, while Pelé won the most votes from FIFA officials, journalists, and coaches. That same year, another integral soccer association, the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) voted Pele the World Player of the Century.

Pelé's electrifying ambidextrous play was nothing short of superhuman, and to this day it is a breathtaking experience to watch his highlights on video (see here, here, and here). To call him the Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan of soccer, however, would be unjust. If Ruth and Jordan were as popular as bread and beer in every nation around the world, then maybe it would be a fair comparison, but the reality is that Pele stands above all other athletes in world history. In many communities around the globe where the names Ruth and Jordan may no longer be spoken, Pelé is still revered. A more accurate comparison would be to align him with the world's greatest artists—Picasso, Michelangelo, Rembrandt—or its most humble and benevolent leaders—Washington, King, Gandhi, even Jesus Christ. Indeed, Pelé is remembered not just for his heroic play on the field but for his outspoken support of the poor. From Ruth and Jordan to King and Christ, combine all of these massive figures into one superduperhero, and in him we might find the equivalent of Edson Arantes.

Offered in this lot is a noticeably high-end copy of the increasingly iconic card that has risen above all others to be recognized as Pelé's key rookie card, the 1958 Alifabolaget card #635. Issued in Sweden and reminiscent of tobacco and candy cards from an earlier age, what I love most about the card is its pure and uncluttered design. There is more cultural and historical significance packed into this tiny cardboard memento, however, than most American baseball and basketball card collectors could possibly imagine. While Pelé appears on a number of additional issues in 1958, it is the Alifabolaget card that has spearheaded the recent international revival in soccer cards, and it will be the Alifabolaget card that continues to lead the way as PSA and other major hobby players expand their presence around the globe.

Importantly, no PSA 10 of this key hobby rookie card has ever surfaced, but the last PSA 9 to sell fetched $57,000 in a 2018 Heritage auction, and the last PSA 8.5 fetched $26,400. To be fair, the offered PSA 7, one of just five ever graded, looks as good if not even better than either of those, which we're showing in the pictures here for comparison and to prove that we're not exaggerating. Indeed, the offered card is perfect in every regard except for the lightest imaginable touch to its top right corner, a nearly identical feature shared by both the illustrated PSA 8.5 and PSA 9 graded copies. Were it not for the astronomical Heritage Auction results, this copy would likely have graded just as highly. It is clearly a nicer card, and it should be considered one of the very finest examples in existence.

Important Note: Similar to the Swedish-printed 1912 Jim Thorpe Olympiska Spelens Stockholm Brefkort rookie card available in this current and also past Small Traditions auctions, the offered Pele rookie card is one of a small handful of specimens graded on behalf of our consignor from Sweden. It is distinctly not one of the same cards that sold in past auctions, but it is clearly one of the finer copies.  

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $2,500
Final prices include buyers premium: $7,192
Number Bids: 9
Auction closed on Sunday, November 3, 2019.
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