In the high stakes world of sports memorabilia, Ken Goldin is a king.
Goldin is the New Jersey-based founder of Goldin Auctions, one of the most distinguished auction houses in the world for sports collectibles. He’s been in the business for over 30 years, initially starting as a collector, before moving to the business side of sports trading cards and other verified memorabilia.
Goldin Auctions has sold some of the most valuable artifacts in sports, including a rare 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner baseball card that sold for a record-breaking $7.22 million in October 2022 and a LeBron James rookie card that sold for $2.46 million in 2021. Previously, Goldin sold the same Lebron James card for $1.8 million.
King of Collectibles: The Goldin Touch on Netflix
Now, thanks to a new Netflix series, we get a look behind the curtain of Goldin’s memorabilia empire. The new six-episode series, called King of Collectibles: The Goldin Touch, is now available on Netflix to stream. The show is like Pawn Stars and American Pickers with an added touch of modern celebrity intrigue: Drake, Peyton Manning, Mike Tyson, Ric Flair, and Logan Paul all make an appearance, enlisting Goldin’s assistance in searching for or selling their valuable collectibles.
Last week, I caught up with Goldin in Los Angeles ahead of the series premiere. Before guests arrived, Goldin gave me a guided tour of some of his most treasured collectibles, all for a special auction he calls “the Golden 100.”
As a ’90s baby who grew up collecting Michael Jordan Wheaties boxes and basketball cards, the tour was a dream come true.
“It’s an idea that I came up with, which is the 100 best collectibles I can possibly get, not just sports that we’re famous for, but entertainment, rock and roll, comic books, historical. Anything really cool,” says Goldin.
Listen to my conversation with Goldin here, via YouTube. I’ve recapped some of the best parts in text below.
Tour Of Goldin’s Tour Most Mind-Blowing Sports Memorabilia
Some of the items on display from the Goldin 100, in no particular order:
A 2018 LeBron James game-used NBA finals jersey.
The last championship jersey that Kobe wore in the 2010 NBA Finals.
Jackie Robinson’s 1955 World Series game-used bat, when Brooklyn won their only World Series, the famous World Series he stole home.
A LeBron James RPA Limited 23, of which Goldin glowingly says this “little piece of cardboard made in 2003 is a couple of million bucks.”
A 1954 Hank Aaron rookie card PSA9.
The dress Kate Winslet wore in Titanic.
George Reeves original Superman costume from the 1950s.
An assortment of rare comic books worth millions, including the Amazing Fantasy 15, featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man; action comic number one, featuring the first appearance of Superman, first ever superhero’ and detective comic number 27, featuring the first appearance of Batman.
“All this stuff I’m showing you, the jerseys, they’re not only authenticated, they’re photo-matched,” Goldin explains.
Goldin asks me to name Michael Jordan’s most famous game of all time. I respond, ‘The Flu Game, of course’, and he leads me to a glass case with a pair of autographed 1997 red and black Air Jordan XII shoes.
It’s the actual shoes Jordan wore during the famous The Flu Game, which Goldin explains were acquired from the ball boy in the game.
“He provided Jordan with applesauce after every game,” Goldin tells me. “He gave Jordan the applesauce, and Jordan said, ‘Here.’ In 1997, 26 years ago, he had the thoughtfulness to take a picture of Jordan signing the shoes and handing it to him.”
Without asking Goldin, he offers a value, as a proper auctioneer would: “So this might be like 5 million…”
The story behind Michael Jordan’s 1992 Dream Team jersey and shoes
Which brings us something that “annihilates everything in the room,” in Goldin’s own words. He guides me to a glass case with a white USA Basketball jersey, number 9 and a pair of signed Olympic Air Jordan VIIs in the ultra rare red, white, blue, and gold color scheme.
“This is the only known existing photo-match jersey of Michael Jordan from the Dream Team,” says Goldin.
“He took it off and he gave it to Karl Malone right after the game. We got it from Karl, that’s where all these come from. This is a photo-match Dream Team jersey. This is from the semi-final game against Lithuania, so this is the medal round, and those are the sneakers he wore in the game. And this is the exact same thing with Magic Johnson,” he adds, pointing to a USA Basketball number 15 jersey.
I ask him if he knows why Karl jersey-swapped with Michael… If you can even call it a jersey swap.
“He said that his wife told him he should get these jerseys and that he and she walked around to every single player after Lithuania and said, ‘Do you mind if we keep your jersey?’ And they all gave it to him,” Goldin explains.
“He wasn’t even giving his own, he would just say, ‘Can I keep it?'”
Just another anecdotal tidbit that adds to the Dream Team lure, over three decades later.
Uncovering a sports memorabilia gold mine
I ask Goldin if he has any good stories of someone stumbling into a memorabilia gold mine that they didn’t really realize was a memorabilia gold mine. You know, stumbling upon pay dirt via a baseball card collection in Grandma’s attic.
“We happened to have one of those things in the show. There was a French-Canadian little boy who opened up a pack of cards and pulled out a million dollar card,” says Golin.
“We get him a million dollars. It’s gonna change his family’s life,” he adds.
“We also have another one from the show. We have somebody who when they were 14, bought a box with their birthday money of Topps basketball cards and pulled out Topps Chrome Gold Refractor. They put it away and they forgot about it for the next 18 years. Then he brings it to us and we tell him what it’s worth, and it blows his mind,” says Goldin.
Then Goldin launches into a true whale of a tale.
“The coolest story,” Goldin contemplates. “Well, I gotta look, I have a lot of cool stories, but two really cool stories.”
“One time there was somebody who was a picker, an old-fashioned picker, went to a house outside of Boston. Somebody was moving, he was basically buying all the old furniture and things like that, and they said, ‘Oh, we’ve got an old bat.’ Honestly, I think the guy probably paid a dollar as spare wood for the bat. Okay? Then he looked at the bat and it was like 46 ounces, probably not a store bat at 46 ounces,” says Goldin.
“And looked at the bat, turn-of-the-century bat, maybe 1915, 1916, he sees a name on it: R-U-T-H in block letters, not script like they have in the ’20s, so block letters. He contacts me, we get the bat authenticated for him. Louisville Slugger kept ordering records all the way back to the turn of the century. So we look in the ordering records, and this is Babe Ruth model bat from 1916 to 1918. He had ordered this model three times this way, it comes out a PSA 9.”
“I feel bad for the family, but it’s this guy is clearing out somebody’s house and found this bat worth, when I sold it, $400,000, today probably two-and-a-half million.”
Jackie Robinson’s bat and a face-to-face meeting with history
“The other cool story I have,” Goldin continues, “I was contacted one time by a guy said he had a couple of Jackie Robinson pieces, and he goes, ‘I was personally handed this on the field in 1956 in-between games at Ebbets Field.'”
According to Goldin, this statement came with a touch of cautious skepticism.
“You hear all these stories and you don’t know if they’re true,” he tells me.
“So guy gave me his name and I met him. We literally met, went to New York City, took the bat and said, ‘I’ll get it authenticated.’ And he goes, “Oh by the way, I’ve got this scrapbook too, I don’t know if this is worth anything,” he gave me a scrapbook. Scrapbook has about four or five signatures of Martin Luther King Jr. And all civil rights leaders and famous athletes from the ’50s and ’60s. So we signed a consignment agreement. I look up his name, and his grandfather started the New York chapter of the NAACP way, way back in the early 1900s,” Goldin describes.
“So this was his grandson. And his father was a famous civil rights protester in the 1940s because he fought for the country in World War II. Then he got famous, because before it was a thing, by publicly criticizing the treatment they got. They’re treated equally in the war and then they come back and they’re not. So I said, ‘This is the guy.’
“I guess all these people went to his father’s house, his grandfather’s house to visit him. That’s how he saved all these autographs. So it turned out this bat was game-used by Jackie Robinson,” says Goldin.
“We were able to date it to 1956. So to me, I’m never gonna meet somebody who personally got this autograph from Babe Ruth or personally got this on him, but to meet somebody who personally knew Jackie Robinson and got his game-used bat on the field at Ebbets Field in-between games of a double header, that was one of the greatest stories.”