DALLAS – For Heritage Auctions, 2021 was a year to remember.
The Dallas-based auction house recorded $1.4 billion in sales last year, marking the first time in its 45-year history the Dallas-based auction house has surpassed the billion-dollar mark. Heritage also set numerous auction world records during 2021, including ones for the world’s most valuable comic book, J.C. Leyendecker painting, video game, Michael Jordan jersey, Peanuts artwork, hockey trading card and Harry Potter book.
“Heritage is built by collectors and for collectors,” says Heritage Auctions CEO and co-founder Steve Ivy. “Even when we are talking about serious money, the passionate pursuit of a collector is still a pursuit of fun, and we will never forget this. Our extraordinary success in 2021 was due to this very fact: We don’t sell things. We offer memories, passions, pursuits that bring broad grins to our clients’ faces.”
As a result, Heritage Auctions’ collector-client base grew to more than 1.5 million worldwide in 2021 – an addition of more than 270,000 clients since January 2020. They are also younger than ever, as 37% of first-time bidders in 2021 were millennials, a marked increase over last year.
It’s not surprising that Heritage, founded in 1976 as a coin-seller, had a stellar year in numismatics sales. The category recorded $434 million in sales in 2021, nearly 50% higher than the previous year, highlighted by the sale of the four most expensive U.S. coins in its history.
In January, the finest-known 1787 New York-Style Brasher Doubloon that fetched $9.36 million in January. That same month, the best-known rare early gold proof of an 1804 Plain 4 Eagle sold for $5.28 million. Then in August, two more national treasures sold for auction-house records: the best of one of two known 1861 Paquet Double Eagles, which realized $7.2 million and the 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar that sold for $6.6 million.
For the second year in a row, nearly every one of Heritage’s more than 40 categories saw marked year-over-year increases, among them Heritage Sports, which saw another historic year in 2021. Its nearly $200 million in total sales more than doubled the amount realized during what had been a momentous 2020.
Heritage made headlines in May with a private sale of the Canadian version of Wayne Gretzky’s 1979 rookie card sold for a world-record $3.75 million. Two weeks later, Heritage sold two 1909 Honus Wagner T206 cards for more than $2.2 million each. In May, the only known Michael Jordan game-worn University of North Carolina jersey photo-matched to his “Player of the Year” season sold for $1,380,000, making it the most expensive Michael Jordan jersey ever sold.
Heritage’s Comic Book & Comic Art division had an impressive year with sales reaching $181,628,214, a 117% leap over last year’s figures to firmly establish Heritage as the world’s leading auctioneer of comics and original comic art.
In September, Heritage sold one of four known near-mint copies of Amazing Fantasy No. 15 for $3.6 million, making Spider-Man’s debut the most expensive comic book ever sold at auction. The auction house kicked off the year with an equally impressive record, when the sole best-known copy of Batman No. 1 brought $2,220,000 – the highest price ever paid for a Dark Knight comic book.
In September, a December 1966 Sunday comic strip featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas sold for $360,000, the highest price ever paid for an original Charles Schulz Peanuts strip.
A new chapter in the Rare Books category’s history was written in December when a rare first edition of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold December 9 for $471,000, the highest price ever paid for the boy wizard’s debut in any form (or any single modern novel, for that matter).
Not to be out done, two works by magazine-cover masters each topping $4 million: Norman Rockwell’s beloved Home for Thanksgiving sold for $4.3 million in November, its proceeds benefitting an American Legion post in Massachusetts; while Joseph Christian Leyendecker’s Beat-up Boy, Football Hero sold in May for $4.12 million, shattering the previous world record for a work by the influential illustrator.
The record year, while incredibly rewarding, was not totally unexpected, according to Heritage’s Ivy.
“We were equipped for this moment in history because of our legacy of innovation,” Ivy says. “The global pandemic has sped up what had been a gradual reliance on the internet to create a borderless and frictionless auction experience.
“We knew that we had the platform, the expertise and the emphasis on the experience of our client-collectors to provide what was needed when it was needed. I am so proud of our team, across offices and categories, for their effort and ingenuity in the face of an unprecedented challenge and for our ability to realize unprecedented results.”