One wouldn’t think a variety of items owned by a turn-of-the-century minor league ballplayer would garner a five-figure winning bid but that was the case at the Huggins & Scott March 15-16 Auction.
James Downey was a career minor leaguer who played shortstop for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Eastern League. Downey helped the Leafs to an impressive 85-42 record in 1902, and helped the team earn the distinction of the No. 76 ranking on the list of top-100 Greatest Minor League Baseball Teams. While Downey’s heroics on the field wouldn’t likely have attracted that type of interest, the players Downey would often correspond with did. The players Downey exchanged correspondance were: Hall of Famer Ed Barrow, Bill Massey, Harry Farmer Vaughn, Clarence Frank Currie, Jack Quinn, Walt McCredie, Lew Carr and Tom O’Brien among others.
Fortunately for collectors, Downey was meticulous in the way he organized and preserved items from his playing days. Contained within the large collection of personal items (100), 30 are letters with baseball content, 35 were telegrams, mostly about playing baseball, five postcards, there are 15 photographs, a pair of his brother’s Army dog tags, several newspaper clippings and other miscellaneous items.
More than 30 bidders chimed in on the interesting collection of memorabilia before one collector snared the lot for an auction-high $10,925.
Vintage cards were also among the collector favorites, with a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 5) topping the cardboard entries ($16,100). Other vintage cards to peak the curiosity of collectors were: a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth (SGC 60) for $6,325; a T206 Ty Cobb “Green Background” (PSA 4) nabbed $3,162 and a E90-1 Joe Jackson rookie card BVG 1 each sold for $3,162; a 1948 Leaf Bob Feller (GAI 5) sold for $2,415 and a 1933 Goudey Lou Gehrig (SCG 50) nabbed $2,070. A 1950 Bread for Health George Mikan card rounded out the top-selling vintage cards, selling for $2,415.
Although in terms of popularity it was the cardboard that ruled the day, signed memorabilia was another niche area collectors couldn’t get enough of. A signed Harmon Killebrew game-used bat fetched $6,325 and $4,887 was paid for a Walter Johnson single-signed baseball. A single-signed Satchel Paige baseball sold for $3,162 to round out some of the highest priced items in the sale.
“We’ve already begun to accept consignment items for our next auction, scheduled for the end of September,” co-owner Josh Wulkan said. “Our next auction is shaping up to be even better than this one. Our consignment deadline is July 31. We don’t cherry pick your collection and we are best at breaking down a collection to maximize the dollar profit for our consignors. We don’t just group everything into one lot.”