At Loddon Auctions in Reading, Berkshire, the card depicting inside-right Steve Bloomer (1874-1938) had attracted a surge of interest with pre-auction bids taking it beyond £11,000, way in excess of the £800-1200 estimate.
By the day of the sale – November 30 – it had become the most viewed live lot on thesaleroom.com and it took more than eight minutes of bidding before auctioneer Gary Arkell brought down the hammer.
The card, consigned as part of a lady’s extensive collection that is being dispersed over a number of sales at Loddon, was bought by an American collector who is an existing client of the auction house.
The price, £30,821 with 19% buyer’s premium, appears to be the most ever realised for a single British cigarette or trade card.
“There has been a recent upsurge in interest in certain footballers who have iconic status among buyers,” says Arkell. “When I saw it, I thought it might make £10,000 whereas three or four years ago it would have made about £1000. I don’t know of any UK card that has achieved a higher result than this one.”
In a career spanning 22 seasons from 1891-1914 Bloomer made 655 first-team appearances, most of them for Derby County. His tally of 332 goals for the Rams makes him the club’s all-time leading scorer. A bust of Bloomer was unveiled at Pride Park in 2009 and today the club anthem Steve Bloomer’s Watchin’ is played and sung before every game.
Bloomer scored 28 goals in 23 games for England, a stellar ratio of 1.22 goals per game.
Cards featuring Bloomer do sell at auction for more modest sums. However, this one was issued by the obscure firm St Petersburg Cigarette Co Ltd of Portsmouth. Just 17 St Petersburg designs are known, all of them featuring footballers.
For all Bloomer’s successes, he still has some way to go to achieve the highest-ever price for a sporting cigarette card.
That record is currently held by a Honus Wagner T206 baseball card that was bought for $7.25m in a private sale in August this year.