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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 8/27/2023

At the turn of the 21st century, when Upper Deck ruled the modern hobby with all “Big Four” pro sports leagues licenses, the card company pioneered the release of a nostalgia product across multiple sports called 1999 Century Legends that combined hardball, roundball and gridiron legends with contemporary superstars. The short-printed Epic Signatures subset (32 players) featured the most coveted chase cards, especially within basketball. All-time greats such as Bill Russell, Cousy, The Logo, Kareem and Dr. J autographed cards, hand-numbered to 100, packed out as special case hits in limited hobby boxes. This was followed by 1999-2000 Retro Inkredible (48 players) with a similar caliber of signed cards, either hand-numbered or unnumbered as super short prints.

Ultimate Collection, first released in 2000-01, was UD’s flagship high-end product [before Exquisite] and it continued the trend of mixing vintage and modern players. The 2008-09 Ultimate Collection Basketball release, looking to expand upon its impressive list of all-time greats, added Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to its Century Legends Epic Signatures Update subset. Today, these GOATS are easily the two most sought-after autographed cards in the 36-player checklist. For whatever reason (perhaps to avoid high-value redemptions) UD did not hand/serial-number them, creating a mystique among collectors about the quantity in circulation. A credible source with direct knowledge of this set's distribution (part of UD's product/design team at the time) has opined that likely 25 or fewer packed out. Beckett’s pop report has a grand total of twelve LeBrons – only four graded higher than this Mint 9 (surely fewer with a 10 auto) – and just ten Kobes. In the PSA pop, there’s literally two Kobes and three LeBrons in any grade; one of those LeBrons has been dual-graded. (SGC has not encapsulated any Kobes or LeBrons from this set according to its pop report.)

This mint-condition LeBron card boasts perfect centering (10 subgrade) and a perfect 10 on-card autograph in bold blue marker that pops beautifully. Both short-printed LeBron and Kobe cards from this elusive set are listed in this auction. (Our consignor owns near-complete sets of both the 1999 and 2008 Century Legends autographed sets to back these two.) With so few public sales to speak of, this remains one of the scarcest and more mysterious LeBron cards in the hobby. Speculation about how many ungraded examples are out there will continue to leave collectors wondering. If the sparse supply in the three pop reports is any indication, though, our expert's prediction of 25 or fewer seems accurate. After nearly 15 years, only fifteen LeBrons have been authenticated and slabbed.

2008-09 UD Ultimate Collection Century Legends Epic Sigs #CLLJ LeBron James (Only 14 Others Known to Exist!) – BGS MINT 9 w/ 10 Auto.
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