Collectors of high-end baseball cards and memorabilia were tuned in to Robert Edward Auctions as prices soared to astounding levels across the board during the record-setting April auction. In the end, 147 lots sold for $10,000 or more. Nine lots eclipsed the $100,000 mark. The final tally was $8.52 million.
World Record Prices
A never-before-offered 1874 Boston Red Stockings Cigar poster featuring George Wright sold for $189,600. This set a world record for a baseball-related advertising poster, and even more significantly, this result also represented a record price for any kind of American advertising poster ever.
A 1968 Mickey Mantle jersey, purchased in 1985 as a personal keepsake of his favorite player for the then-princely sum of $5,000 (and, fortunately, kept safely all these years), stunned the owner with its final realized price of $201,450.
Carlton Fisk’s iconic home run ball from Game 6 of the 1975 World Series drew national media attention and sold for $142,200. An outstanding 1916 Babe Ruth rookie card in EX-MT condition (reserve $25,000) was hammered down at $142,200. A newly-discovered example of 1887 N172 Old Judge tobacco card of Hall of Famer Deacon White, with his portrait on the card misidentified as “McGreachery,” perhaps best illustrates the strength of 19th-century cards at REA. One of only two examples known, the Old Judge “McGreachery” rarity soared to an astounding $130,350. This auction result set a new record for any Old Judge tobacco card ever sold privately or at auction.
REA president Robert Lifson comments, “These results speak for themselves: about the quality of the material offered, about the appreciation of the collecting world for how REA presents items and conducts auctions, about the well-deserved trust collectors have in REA, and about the strength of the market.”
T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb Back from Historic 1997 Find
One of only 13 examples known of the legendary T206 Ty Cobb with “Ty Cobb Tobacco” advertising reverse was consigned by the original collector who purchased it at Robert Edward Auctions in 1997. In that historic auction 17 years ago, a then newly-discovered find of five T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb back examples (approximately doubling the known population at the time) were offered at the same time. In 1997 this card sold for $22,224. In Robert Edward Auctions’ 2014 Spring Sale, it realized an astounding record $154,050.
“All T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb advertising back cards are rare and special, and all have gone up in value considerably since 1997,”Lifson said. “This particular card not only had a special provenance, but there was definitely a consensus that this card was undergraded. It may have technically graded a modest PSA 1, but it was just a very strong card, far better looking than suggested by the grade. It had everything going for it. There was an overwhelming amount of interest.”
1909 T204 Ramly Tobacco Card Collection
The finest collection of 1909 T204 Ramly Tobacco cards to ever come to auction included a total of 183 cards presented in 101 lots.
“This was an unprecedented Ramly collection,” according to REA vintage card expert Dean Faragi, “both in terms of quantity and quality.” The collector who assembled the Ramlys did so in the early days of the organized hobby, when condition was just starting to have a significant impact on value. “He constantly upgraded his set. When he found a high-grade Ramly, even if he didn’t need it, he bought it. His philosophy was ‘You can never have too much of a good thing.’”
That philosophy certainly paid off. The Ramly collection realized an astounding total of $297,790. The highest graded T204 Walter Johnson in the collection, a remarkable card graded MINT, which was once a part of the collection of legendary hobby pioneer Frank Nagy, all alone sold for $59,250.
The 1889 Brooklyn Base Ball Club Application for Membership in the National League was one of the most hotly contested lots in the auction. REA memorabilia expert Tom D’Alonzo picked the Brooklyn Application as perhaps the most historically significant item in the auction.
“This was a true treasure. It is the single most important document that could possibly exist relating to the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. This application literally represents the birth of the Brooklyn National League franchise.”
Long ago originating directly from the family of former National League President Nicholas Young, it was purchased by the consignor for $27,500 in the mid-1990s and has been the centerpiece of his advanced Brooklyn Dodgers collection for the past two decades. As far as value: Times have changed! “There’s no putting a value on an item as important as this. There’s no right number. But the final selling price didn’t surprise me at all,” comments REA’s Tom D’Alonzo. In this auction, the first and only time the Brooklyn National League Membership Application has ever been available for public sale, it was hammered down at $165,900. D’Alonzo’s summarizing comment on the result: “Really, it’s priceless.”
Record Prices For Classics
A Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig dual-signed baseball (graded NM-MT 8 by PSA) was hammered down for $82,950, a record price in this grade for this classic. A Lou Gehrig single-signed ball with remarkable provenance (including a VHS tape, produced in 1998, that features the original owner describing how he obtained it in 1935) sold for an exceptional $32,587.
A stunning 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle Rookie Card graded EX-MT was the most hotly contested postwar card in the auction. The SMR value in the assigned grade was $23,500. It was hammered down for $41,475.
1914 Cracker Jack Cobb and T206 Eddie Plank
A 1914 Cracker Jack of Ty Cobb graded NM-MT+ 8.5 was on the radar of dozens of bidders, especially those that missed out on it when this iconic condition rarity was last sold at REA in 2012. A favorite of collectors and by far the finest example REA has ever seen, the last time this gem sold it realized $88,875. In this auction, it sold for a well-deserved new record $106,650.
An example of legendary T206 rarity Eddie Plank graded EX 5 by PSA sold for $88,875, setting a new record for this card which last sold for $85,236.
The Pulse of The Market
“The market was extremely strong across the board,” Lifson said. “The auction results were staggering and exceeded our highest expectations. Most important, they exceeded our consignors’ expectations. The great prices are the result of many factors including, of course, being given the very best material in the world to offer, taking great care in cataloguing all material, having the largest circulation, extensive research and authentication, the well-deserved confidence of buyers, and an emphasis on the integrity of the auction process. Altogether, it’s a very powerful combination. The bidders appreciate what we do. And this naturally attracts consignments.”
The stunning prices on all 19th and early 20th century baseball cards and memorabilia totaled a staggering $8.52 million. The 1,866 lots, offered on behalf of 230 different consignors, were won by 649 different bidders on 24,231 bids.
“All areas of the auction received a tremendous response and very strong prices. Nineteenth-century baseball items were unbelievable, as always, as were all early baseball cards, advertising and display pieces, graded cards, Babe Ruth items, autographs, memorabilia, non-sport cards and artwork.”
Nineteenth-Century Baseball Card Rarities
One of the most fascinating new discoveries ever offered by REA was an 1869 Forest City Base Ball Club Imperial Cabinet Photograph featuring Hall of Famer Al Spalding as a player. Originating from the collection of Cleveland News sports columnist and pioneer collector Charles W. Mears, the photo was consigned directly from the Mears family and realized an astounding $47,400.
A collection of three circa 1870 team cards, each with advertising for Peck & Snyder Sporting Goods, were another exciting find included in the auction. The three cards, which included one featuring the 1869 Cincinnati Reds, famous as the first professional baseball team, were recently discovered in a 19th century photo album at an estate sale in Ohio. The three cards were each trimmed, but their great rarity made them extremely desirable to pre-1900 baseball collectors. The three cards together sold for $45,030.
Vintage Card Prices
REA is first and foremost a baseball card auction, so it is not surprising that the big money, as usual, was in the cards: An uncut sheet of 1933 Goudey Gum cards with three Babe Ruths and a Lou Gehrig, one of only several examples known, sold for an impressive $98,800. A second 1933 Goudey uncut sheet featuring the classic green background #181 Babe Ruth card was hammered down at $35,550. The auction featured two extremely rare 1913 Boston Garter advertising cards, Ed Walsh and Frank Chance, which sold for $22,515 and $41,475 respectively. A 1933 R319 Goudey #106 Napoleon Lajoie PSA NM 7 realized an extremely healthy $41,475, representing a new auction record for the grade. A very attractive example of the 1909-1911 T206 White Border Sherry Magie error card rarity in VG+ condition realized $17,775. A rare 1909 E92 Croft’s Candy Ty Cobb card realized $14,220. A near-complete collection of 1911 M116 Sporting Life cards presented in 14 different lots realized a combined $57,654. A stunning 1948 Bowman Stan Musial PSA MINT 9 rookie card nearly doubled the existing auction record for a MINT example, selling for an extraordinary $32,588. Collectors competed fiercely for a breathtaking 1914 Cracker Jack Ty Cobb SGC EX/NM 80, raising the bidding until it stopped at $26,663, a new auction record and almost exactly double the previous highest-recorded sale for the card in the same grade.
Additional Vintage Card Highlights
The All-Time Finest Ernie Banks PSA Collection was presented individually in separate lots. The 19 cards, spanning Banks’ entire Major League career, totaled $104,931, were paced by an astounding $44,438 for the 1954 Topps rookie card of “Mr. Cub” in PSA 9 MINT condition, a record price for the grade. Thirteen PSA MINT 9 Mickey Mantle cards, spanning the years 1953 to 1969, were each offered individually and sold for a collective $111,153. A newly-discovered collection of 156 T206 White Borders, still affixed to their original album pages, sold for an impressive $35,550. A near-complete set of 1909-1911 E90-1 American Caramel cards, saved for decades by the consignor (who ironically was not a card collector but fortunately took great care with the cards since acquiring them in his youth), drew very spirited bidding and ended at $22,515. The Joe Jackson rookie card from the same set realized a very healthy $21,330. A near-complete master set of 1949 Bowman baseball cards sold for an impressive $20,145.
T206 Drum Checklist Addition Discovery
A previously unknown T206 card of Wid Conroy featuring a very rare Drum advertising reverse, which was discovered by REA in an old-time collection, sold for $16,590. “This was a particularly exciting card for us in the auction,” Lifson said, “because when it was given to us, it was presented as just a $75 or $100 T206 card of a common player in VG-EX condition. It was part of a near-set assembled decades ago, long before collecting rare T206 backs became popular. We always check the backs for rarities and this gem just happened to be there.” The discovery of any T206 Drum back is noteworthy, but this was a particularly special find as this front-back T206 combination had not been previously confirmed. It was a new checklist addition. “The consignor didn’t understand the significance when we told them. But they understand now!”
Vintage unopened packs and boxes is a specialty at REA and as always delivered strong prices across the board. A 1963 Topps football wax box with twenty-four unopened packs (res. $2,500; est. $5,000/$10,000) sold for an astounding $32,587. A 1959 Topps football cello box (res. $2,500; est. $5,000/$10,000) set a new auction record, hammering down at $21,330. A 1971 Topps football second-series wax box (res. $2,500; est. $5,000) far exceeded expectations and when the bubble-gum dust finally settled, closed at a remarkable $17,775. A rarely-seen 1959 Fleer Ted Williams unopened wax box with 24 packs (res. $2,500; est. $5,000/$10,000) sold for $17,775. The only known unopened wax pack of 1962 Topps “Mars Attacks” trading cards (res. $1,000; est. open), one of the signature pieces from the Fred Walstrom “Mars Attacks” Collection, sold for $11,850. Tobacco collectors were equally as enthusiastic about an extraordinary unopened pack of 1911 Piedmont Cigarettes (res. $500; est. open). This pack – the first REA had even seen which could possibly contain a T206 card – was riveting to T206 and pack collectors alike, who competed until it hammered down at $8,887. A single 1952 Bowman baseball wax pack (res. $800; est. $1,500/$2,500) realized an amazing $5,628. Not a bad return for a nickel! A newly-discovered 1973 Topps football cello box (res. $500; est. $1,000+) was also hotly contested and realized $7,110. Five additional early 1970s football wax and cello boxes from the same collection were enormously appealing to collectors and sold for a combined $16,116. Unopened 1975 Topps Mini cello boxes continue to be on the rise, and the crisp box offered in this auction (res. $500; est. $1,000/$2,000) realized $3,258.
Additional Auction Highlights
Autographs: REA’s spring auction featured one of the finest selections of signed baseballs in recent memory with many significant rarities. A 1934 Tour of Japan team-signed baseball with Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, and Berg (res. $2,500; est. $5,000+) sold for $21,330. A 1949 Mel Ott & Carl Hubbell Dual-Signed Baseball graded NM+ 7.5 by PSA/DNA (res. $1,000; est. open), of special note to “500 Home Run Club” collectors as the ball could be displayed as a Mel Ott “single” (true Mel Ott single signed balls are particularly rare), sold for an impressive $13,035. An incredible multi-signed baseball, signed by sixteen Hall of Famers, including Ruth, Cobb, Wagner, and Johnson, hammered down at $29,625, more than ten times the modest opening bid of $2,500 (representing the seller’s original cost some twenty years ago). A beautiful single-signed Jimmie Foxx baseball (res. $1,000; est. open), graded EX-MT 6 by PSA/DNA, sold for $17,775. A fascinating collection of autographed baseballs, consigned by the family of the original owner, who attended many significant games and then had players sign game-used baseballs, was presented in twenty-three different lots and sold for a collective $77,795, paced by an incredible 1937 All-Star Game baseball (res. $1,000; est. open), which sold for $10,072, and a stunning single-signed Ty Cobb baseball (res. $500; est. $1,000/$2,000), which realized $9,480. Canceled checks have always been highly prized among autograph collectors due to the inherent authenticity they provide for the signatures. This auction featured a particularly extraordinary Christy Mathewson check (res. $2,500; est. $10,000+) that was all the more special because it was accompanied by a letter from Mrs. Christy Mathewson, who personally sent the check as a gift to the consignor’s husband in 1955. This special provenance further distinguished it as one of the best, if not the finest, and most interesting Mathewson check in existence, and collectors took special note. The Mathewson check sold for an astounding $21,330, setting a new record for any Mathewson check to ever appear at auction.
Player Contracts: Player contracts have long been a specialty at REA. Collectors again showed their tremendous interest in this popular area of collecting, responding with record-setting prices. An extraordinary 1914 Ed Walsh Chicago White Sox Contract (res. $2,000; est. open) with a letter of provenance directly from the Veeck family sold for a remarkable $50,362. A 1930 Lefty Grove Philadelphia Athletics Contract (res. $2,000; est. open) realized $47,400. Roy Campanella’s final contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers dating from 1958, signed just weeks before his career ending car accident, was hammered down at $32,587. Signed contracts for ten Hall of Famers, each presented individually, realized a combined $187,170.
Game-Used Jerseys and Bats: Collectors are often driven towards memorabilia issued to specific players and REA’s selection of game-used jerseys and pro-model bats was especially well-received by bidders. A 1924 jersey of Chicago Cubs pitcher Vic Aldridge (res. $2,500; est. $5,000+) was offered that was recently discovered, in of all places, in a house on Catalina Island, off the coast of California. While that might seem like a most unlikely place to find a 1920s Cubs jersey, research reveals that the island was owned by William Wrigley Jr., owner of the Cubs, and for years he made the island the team’s spring-training headquarters to help promote tourism. We don’t know if this really helped tourism, but it helped the gentleman who found this jersey. It sold for $10,072. An outstanding 1919-1922 “Shoeless Joe” Jackson “Black Betsy” Pro-Model Bat graded GU 8 by PSA/DNA and A10 by MEARS, which sold for $48,809 when previously offered at auction elsewhere in 2004, was hammered down at $65,175. An extraordinary 1958-1960 Mickey Mantle signed bat that was obtained in 1958 as the top raffle prize at a father-and-son school dinner sold for a lot more than anyone imagined when it was given away as a prize over 50 years ago. In 2014, this prize sold for $22,515. A signed Roberto Clemente bat (res. $2,500) that was presented to the consignor as a personal gift by the Pirates star in the stands during the middle of a game, sold for $10,072. Jackie Robinson was another magic name represented in the auction. His game-used jerseys sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars when offered, which is rare. This auction did not have a Jackie Robinson jersey, but did, however, feature a pair of Jackie Robinson Brooklyn Dodgers game-used pants! Dating from his final season of 1956, the pants (res. $5,000) were a more affordable alternative to a jersey. But “affordable” is relative when talking about Jackie Robinson. Amid feverish bidding, they still set the buyer back $26,625.
Many other auction records were shattered for pre-1948 baseball cards, 19-century baseball cards and memorabilia, non-sport cards, and Americana. Further information and complete auction results are available online at www.RobertEdwardAuctions.com.