The Allure of Graded Magazines: CGC 9.9 Sports Illustrated

Graded magazines are not just any old periodicals; they are carefully preserved time capsules of sports history that are gaining increasing recognition in the collectibles realm. The Certified Collectibles Group (CGC), a pioneer in magazine grading for the past 15 years, has appraised over 28,000 editions of Sports Illustrated (SI), reflecting a burgeoning fascination with these encapsulated fragments of sporting moments.

In the annals of magazine selling, the peak price was $126,000, achieved by a 9.8 graded newsstand copy of the December 10, 1984 issue of SI, showcasing Michael Jordan’s debut with the Chicago Bulls under the title “A Star is Born.” This iconic cover is one of more than 2,000 SI issues to receive a grade of 9.8.

Yet, the record may soon be eclipsed by a groundbreaking advancement in magazine grading. In an unprecedented move this February, CGC bestowed a perfect 9.9 grade upon a December 2022 issue of SI featuring soccer sensation Kylian Mbappé just before the 2022 World Cup. This pinnacle grade was assigned to a magazine submitted by a collector from the Midwest and is the first SI issue to garner a 9.9 rating. The magazine is currently up for auction through Goldin and has already captured substantial interest. Recognizing the potential of graded magazines, Goldin has even created a dedicated category for these unique items.

Goldin’s Director of Vintage Memorabilia and Photography affirmed that the allure of these magazines extends beyond sports aficionados to enthusiasts of photography, as many illustrious photographers have contributed to the iconic covers over the years.

The publication highlighting Mbappé was printed in two versions, with the other cover showcasing the US soccer team. As the auction progresses until June 8, the leading bid for the Mbappé cover stands at an impressive $1,708.

Among other notable items in the auction are a 1965 Topps Mickey Mantle card graded at 8.5, a rare 1956 Floyd Patterson card with a 9.0 rating, a 1989 SI for Kids edition featuring Michael Jordan graded at 9.6, and a signed Muhammad Ali cover from 1967.

While a majority of graded magazines find their way to new owners through eBay, boasting over 6,000 listings, significant transactions also take place in exclusive auctions. For instance, a CGC 9.6 graded edition showcasing soccer legend Pele from 1975 commanded $25,000 in March 2023, while a 1986 Mike Tyson cover graded at 9.0 secured over $11,000 last year. Noteworthy is the fact that four out of the six most lucrative graded SI sales on eBay in recent times spotlighted Michael Jordan on the cover, emphasizing the enduring charm of the basketball icon.

This burgeoning market for graded magazines testifies to the multifaceted interests of collectors and the widening scope of sports memorabilia as a valuable investment avenue.


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