Nearly 45 years since he played his last game -- and despite the sustained, almost two-decade run of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo -- Brazilian luminary Pele is still considered by many to be the greatest to ever play the world's beautiful game.
That sentiment was reiterated this week with his rookie card becoming soccer's first to sell for $1 million.
As early as Monday, fractional ownership company Rally Rd. will finalize the sale of a 1958 Alifabologet #635 Pele rookie card for $1.33 million.
According to population reports, there are only six Pele cards of this kind that have received at least a nine grade (out of 10) by card grader PSA, and none higher. Last November, collectables marketplace Goldin brokered a $900,000 sale of a different PSA 9 Pele card, a then-record.
This Pele card (matched by PSA serial number) was sold at a Goldin auction in November 2020 for $288,000. Now, it's the most expensive soccer card of all time and soccer's first million dollar card.
Fractional ownership companies -- such as Rally Rd., Collectable, Dibbs and others, which offer shares in items rather than outright sales -- have flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic and particularly in the sports cards and memorabilia space. Typically, offerings are kept in-house -- hence, fractional ownership.
But the offer for this Pele card was too good to pass up.
"Soccer has gotten a lot of attention recently and this particular card has broken the record of 'most expensive soccer card' a couple of times," says Rob Petrozzo, chief product officer and co-founder of Rally Rd. "It was issued during the 1958 World Cup campaign, the true Pele rookie, none graded higher: It's kind of a holy grail for [soccer] cards."
This particular Pele card IPO'd with Rally in January 2021 at $315,000, going for $10 a share. There was a previous buyout offer this past November for just over $800,000, which was rejected. Recently, however, a $1.1 million offer materialized, a bidding war ensued, and the $1.33 million offer was ultimately approved by 51% of the card's 464 investors.
"It was once such a counterculture, under-the-radar sport compared to football and basketball [in collecting]," Petrozzo said. "For soccer to hit a million dollars, it's a really important milestone and benchmark for the space."