$150,000 for a Ben Simmons Rookie Card May Not Be Enough for This Collector

Joon Lee@iamjoonleeStaff WriterApril 26, 2018

Photo courtesy of Wendell Williams

If he was going to drop $150 on a pack of seven basketball cards, Wendell Williams needed to get lucky. He'd walked into his local collectibles store, Hoody's in Beaverton, Oregon, to buy some hard cases and sleeves for his budding card collection, a hobby he got back into just two months ago.

Six boxes of Panini's Gold Standard line had been sitting on the store's shelf for an entire year. Williams had recently been watching videos of other card collectors on YouTube who were looking for that elusive card, the one everyone was chasing.

His son, two-year-old Wendell Williams III, who accompanied him to the store, turned out to be his good-luck charm.

Williams broke open the box his son had chosen, and as he flipped through, he found what everyone was seeking. A one-of-a-kind 2016-17 Ben Simmons Panini redemption rookie card made out of 14-karat gold—a holy grail in the basketball card community.

A month has passed since he hit the luck of the draw, the card-collecting forums barely containing themselves, and Williams is receiving offers of nearly $100,000 for his discovery. For now, he's turning them all down, waiting on the right price.

"I went to the store not to buy cards but cases and sleeves," Williams told Bleacher Report. "I end up buying a box thinking I'm going to get cardboard and got gold."

A few hours after he posted the card on eBay, offers started coming in to Tait Hoodenpyl, one of the owners of Hoody's Collectibles. He'd originally estimated the card might net $10,000 to $25,000, but the first major offer came in at $89,000. The card is listed by Hoody's Collectibles on eBay with a "Buy Now" price of $150,000, with the option to send in offers.

"When you get a card like this, some people just send in joking offers, too, of like $69," Hoodenpyl said. "We all know what that means."

Here's the thing: Williams says he's not sure whether he wants to sell the card. Simmons, 21, is his favorite young player, and since getting back into card collecting, Williams had been trying to find one of his rookie cards. A card this nice wasn't what he was expecting, however.

"With the playoffs and where it's at, Ben Simmons playing the way he is, and my love of the card, there could be $150,000 non-taxed in my face, and I don't know if I would take it," Williams said. "Most people would. I just love the card literally that much."

Photo courtesy of Wendell Williams

That this 2016-17 Simmons is a "true rookie card," as collectors call it (do what you want with that information, Donovan Mitchell), makes it all the more valuable. The card's one-of-a-kind nature, the integration of gold and Simmons' massive potential underscore the high price tag. Hoodenpyl likened this kind of collecting to gambling: investing money into a high-priced basketball card box for the off chance that you land a prize like Williams'.

"He bought it for $129, and he pulled this $95,000 card out of the pack," Hoodenpyl said. "It's really based around value, kind of like gambling. … If you want the big-time stuff, you have to pay the price for it."

Panini, licensed to make cards by the NBA and NBA Players Association, says while it often considers what the secondary-market value of its products may become, it did not expect this level of monetary demand on the Simmons gold card.

"We certainly look at what the secondary market is going to be at the time of manufacturing, but Ben was injured that season and we didn't really know what to expect coming out of it," said Jason Horwath, Panini's vice president of marketing. "He's obviously had a really good season this year."

And because there are potentially many more good seasons to come, Williams may hold on to the card as an "investment." Hoodenpyl points toward Exquisite's LeBron James rookie autograph patch card, which recently resold for $312,000, as precedent for what Williams' Simmons card may become should the Philadelphia 76ers star fulfill his basketball potential.

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

People who are bidding on the card "are assuming that he might turn out to be the caliber of LeBron James, so these people … play this like the stock market and are willing to throw this money at a card," Hoodenpyl said. "It's an investment."

Williams still isn't sure when or if he'll cash in but says he could use the money from the potential sale. Sometimes, Williams says, he and his longtime girlfriend will lie down at night and reflect on the absurdity of the entire situation.

"Of all the things that could get us this pay ... We play Powerball for fun. We go to the casino," Williams said. "But of all the poker hands, of all things, it's a card."

Simmons himself was surprised to hear people were paying that much for basketball cards.

"You hear this, Kelle?" Simmons said to Sixers rookie Markelle Fultz in the locker room. "Some guy is trying to sell this playing card of mine for $150,000. I don't know who's gonna pay $95,000 for a playing card."

"Somebody offered that?" asked Sixers forward Robert Covington.

Simmons paused.

"I'm about to make my own cards."


Yaron Weitzman contributed to this report.