Bass: Meet the man selling THE Joe Burrow card for $1 million (almost)

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Listing a Joe Burrow card for $1 million on eBay sounds crazy. And Sam Nubani is not crazy.

He lists his Burrow rookie card for $990,000. Plus shipping.

This is no joke, no sales gimmick to avoid seven-figure sticker shock. Not when you play at this level. The price avoids eBay protocols for $1 million listings. I had no idea. For me, shipping alone would be $44. I’d be out already.

Joe Burrow printing plate card
Joe Burrow printing plate card

Sam figures he ripped open 10 to 15 cases – at $28K-$30K a case – in search of a big hit and finally found one, weeks after the Super Bowl: The Burrow.

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Before long, Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson offered him $500,000. A week later, someone offered $550,000 or $560,000. Sam declined. He says The Burrow could approach $1 million, if the timing is right. Maybe double if Joey B and his revamped offensive line do something special this season.

“I think this could be a $2 million-plus card if he wins the Super Bowl,” he says. “Even if he goes to the Super Bowl, I think it could be a nice seven-figure card.

“Can you imagine if he wins the Super Bowl what that would do for his card?”

Joe Burrow card.
Joe Burrow card.

Sam and I are talking on the phone last weekend, and he asks me if I collect cards, too. He is curious, although this is like Paul McCartney asking if I sing, too. I collected cards as a kid, I tell Sam. Truth is, I still own most of them, but sold some a few years ago for a fraction of what they would be worth if slabbed upon opening. Who knew?

You and I might dream of pulling a golden ticket for a one-of-a-kind Burrow and a chance to change our lives. We might see Sam Nubani as a lucky man, able to buy and sell cards like they were candy or chocolate.

But what would you and I be willing to do to be in that position?

* * * * * *

Sam and I are talking for an hour, and it seems more like a minute. He asks me about being a Bengals fan, and he tells me about being a Bears fan. We both live in the Chicago area, but Sam is at work now at Nubani Distributors, because this is what he does on Saturdays.

And weekdays.

Until maybe 7 or 8 at night.

Sam talks a lot about his dad. Fouad Nubani taught him about the business and life and staying grounded. Fouad was in his early 50s when he started Nubani Trading in the 1980s, selling candy store-to-store from a station wagon. When Sam joined, he could drive the one company van to the stores, including to inner-city Chicago, a “traveling showcase” for the candy and chocolate.

When his dad retired, Sam took over a company with one employee and $70,000-$100,000 in annual sales. Today, Sam runs Nubani Distributors with younger brother Nader and has 45 employees and $40 million-$45 million in sales. Sam sounds proud to tell me this, not boastful.

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Sam is candid. He is driven. He cares about people. He is outspoken. He tries to remain humble, which his dad emphasized when the brothers started making bigger money. Which is why Sam says he was uneasy when he and Nader were featured collectors on an “Unvaulted” episode on YouTube by sports-card broker PWCC Marketplace. They called themselves the Candy Brothers.

Sam knows what he has, and what it took to get here. People, he says, might see his six-figure car and seven-figure house and think he is “so lucky.”

“But they don’t realize how hard it is to get to that point and the sacrifice you have to make,” Sam tells me. “They get to go home after work and enjoy their family and have dinner with their family and play catch with their son.”

Sam is 46. Collecting gives him a release at home. Work made him the money to pursue it at a high level. Instagram (@sam_nubz) allows him a forum to connect with other collectors and provide a bond with his son.

Sam and his wife have three teenagers, but their 17- and 15-year-old daughters were not into card collecting. Only the 13-year-old he calls “Junior” is interested in his father’s hobby, and Sam wonders if Junior also will follow him into the family business someday. For now, Junior will appear on Sam’s Instagram posts to open boxes and packages. In one video, Sam prods Junior to s-l-o-w-l-y open an envelope that reveals … The Burrow … which replaces the initial redemption card.

“Three-color patch!” Junior says.

“Three-color patch!” Sam yells. “Auto is clean! I love it! Bang, bang, Junior! Oh, look at that baby! One-of-one Joe Burrow RPA National Treasures, baby!”

To interpret: RPA stands for Rookie card with a uniform Patch and an Autograph. One-of-one means National Treasures made just one of this card, upping the value.

But how high?

* * * * * *

Sam says his most valuable card is a LeBron James  bought last year for $1.5 million. Now, Sam estimates, the card is worth $2 million to $2.5 million.

Second is a Stephen Curry he bought for $800,000 and might be worth $1.2 million to $1.3 million now.

“You never know until you sell it,” Sam says, “and somebody pays that much.”

This is generally a down time outside of baseball cards, plus the economy is struggling. Even some big-ticket card prices are falling. A million for The Burrow sounds high now, PWCC sales reps Andrew Ludlam and Aaron Hanan and Beckett Authentication Services regional sales manager Eugene DeMayo told me recently. The best money would have been around the Super Bowl, they say.

That was when Goldin auctioned a Burrow for $534,000, the record for a Joey B. Sam says his Burrow is better and that the only better card still has not been opened.

Sam says now might not seem ideal, but the late release of premium cards and the allure of so many young quarterbacks will help. He just landed a Mac Jones that he calls “a nice six-figure card.” And he bought a Josh Allen for $175K that he hopes will be worth $300K or $400K soon. It is fun to hear Sam paint the scenarios by the numbers. He gets excited. I keep thinking, “Wow.”

The Burrow eBay listing has not brought any offers so far, but Sam has a plan:

If he can’t sell the card now, he will target August first, during the preseason, then try September-October, after Joey B meets (and beats?) the Steelers, Cowboys, Jets and Dolphins. “The Bengals’ schedule is pretty light for the first four games,” he says. “They have a really good shot at going 3-1 or 4-0.”

Sam will try to sell The Burrow privately, through a broker. If that does not work, he will pursue an auction. Sam does not want to risk a Burrow injury or a Bengals collapse or a recession dropping the card to, say, 100-200 grand. But if he does not like the market, he will wait.

“Let’s say I didn’t sell that card early football season and I held it until the end and he went to the Super Bowl,” Sam says. “Oh, man, that card could be a … I can’t even imagine.”

It is fun to imagine living in Sam’s world, even just for today.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Joe Burrow National Treasure Panini card for almost $1 milllon