Serena Williams rookie card goes for $44,280, a new record price for female-athlete card at auction

A Serena Williams autographed rookie card from 2003 was sold at New Jersey-based Goldin Auctions on Sunday for $44,280.

The price was a record for any women's sports card, beating the record sale previously held by a 1992 S.I. for Kids Mia Hamm rookie card, which sold in late June with Goldin Auctions for $34,440.

The Williams card was bought by Alt, an alternative-asset trading platform, on behalf of a private client.

"People are accepting women's trading cards as collectables," Ken Goldin, executive chairman and founder of Goldin Auctions, said of the card, which features two swatches of match-worn apparel and features Williams' on-card signature. "We've seen that gradually increase over the past three years, with a heavy increase in the second half of 2020 up through 2021. On forum boards and social media, I see people looking for women's sports cards.

"The effect you have with Serena is that there are a lot of people putting together GOAT collections. They want Pele, Ali, Jordan, Tiger, Brady ... and they include Serena. I think that's the single biggest impact that is lifting her cards above all other women athletes."

While most record-setting cards feature high grades -- on a scale of 1-10, more often than not, from grading companies PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator) or BGS (Beckett Grading Services) -- the Williams card is graded a PSA 5. The card is numbered 1/100. Per PSA's population report, it is, however, the only known 5 grade from PSA.

"This particular card is serial numbered 1 out of 100," said Goldin, noting how a card's serial number matching the player's uniform number can sometimes double the value. "But they don't have uniform numbers in tennis. It's signed [and a similar] unsigned Serena rookie card went for $12,300."

On one hand, while the Williams sale may seem like good news for women's sports in the hobby, it also illustrated the existing and vast disparity. In the same Goldin Elite auction, a Pepekachu -- an illustration depicting an amalgam of the Pokemon Pikachu and Pepe the Frog meme -- NFT, one of 125 minted on Counterparty (XCP), sold for the exact same price. Additionally, a Naomi Osaka 2020 Topps Transcendent 1-of-1 autograph went for $40,590, the most expensive Osaka card of all time.

"Of course, there's still a long way to go," said Goldin.

In the same auction, there were more than 60 card and memorabilia sales that reached $100,000 and eight that reached $500,000. A 2003-04 LeBron James on-card RPA (rookie patch autograph) from the UD Exquisite Collection sold for $2.46 million, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in a PSA 8 sold for $2.029 million, and a 2000 Playoffs Contenders on-card rookie auto of Tom Brady sold for $1.537 million.

Even so, Serena is in the same breath as those other record sellers. Goldin doesn't think that'll change, even after she retires.

"I believe it will [get crazier] for Serena," said Goldin. "We're gonna have new women's tennis product come out, I think that's a 100% lock. Serena -- much like Jordan was included in Upper Deck basketball when they had the license for years after he retired -- will be included in those products long after she's retired."

"As new companies, like Fanatics, start producing cards, their job is to broaden the customer base and go more international: Serena is very international. I could definitely see tremendous future growth for all of her collectables, not just her trading cards."