In one of the major auctions in recent years featuring items from a single player, the personal collection of Joe DiMaggio was offered at public auction in New York City during an historic sale conducted by Hunt Auctions, Inc. The collection garnered national and international interest with thousands of absentee, telephone, Internet and live bids.
The two-day auction, which took place on May 19-20 at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square in New York City, exceeded its presale estimate ranges by nearly 25 percent, totaling nearly $4,200,000. A portion of the auction proceeds will be donated to the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation by the DiMaggio family.
The most anticipated item in Friday’s session, DiMaggio’s 1947 American League MVP Award, was offered with a presale estimate of $150,000-$250,000. Although this was the third and final AL MVP presented to DiMaggio, it proved to be the most valuable as the only plaque among the three awards. The plaque opened at $125,000 and quickly escalated to more than $200,000. After a lengthy and often tense battle, a floor bidder emerged with a winning bid of $281,750.
The DiMaggio 1951 New York Yankees World Series home uniform was easily one of the headliners during the Saturday session, a pinstriped jersey that had been photo matched to DiMaggio’s final major league game. The uniform sold for $195,500. One of the more recognizable items in the auction was the original oil on canvas painting titled “The Wide Swing” by Harvey Dinnerstein. The painting has graced the covers of numerous publications and has been exhibited in countless museums. The provenance and eye appeal carried the winning bid to $109,250.
Just as DiMaggio’s marriage and relationship with legendary actress Marilyn Monroe was a central portion of his life, the union took center stage at the auction. The bidding for the Marilyn Monroe related items could only be described as frenzied. A completely full bank of telephone bidders actively volleyed with numerous live bidders.
Highlights included: 1954 Oriental Tour photo album – $21,850, Marilyn Monroe autographed photo inscribed “I Love You Joe, Marilyn” (used on the cover of the Feb. 10 issue of SCD) – $80,500; Monroe’s U.S. passport signed four times – $115,000; custom-made necklace attributed to Monroe circa 1950s – $17,250, 1954 handwritten and signed letter from Marilyn to Joe – $51,750; 1954 DiMaggio and Monroe marriage certificate – $23,000; 1954 handwritten and signed letter from Marilyn to Joe with accompanying wallet – $35,560; and an original painting of Monroe by Jon Whitcomb – $34,500.
Other highlighted pieces:
- 1951 DiMaggio Yankees road uniform …………$166,750
- “Sultan of Swat” award crown and trophy $86,250
- 1933 DiMaggio 61-game hit streak presentational pocket watch $74,750
- DiMaggio’s Hall of Fame Induction ring $69,000
- 45th consecutive hit baseball $63,250
- 1935 Pacific Coast League MVP trophy $57,500
- DiMaggio Yankee Stadium Monument Park decorative plaque $57,500
- hoard of (207) autographed checks $50,600
- 1936 Yankees sluggers signed photo with DiMaggio and Gehrig $43,700
- DiMaggio’s 1996 Yankees World Series ring $42,550
- DiMaggio’s 2,000th hit baseball $29,900
- DiMaggio’s 1977 and 1978 Yankees World Series rings $32,200 and $23,000, respectively
- 1937 Yankees World Championship watch $27,600
Several early images related to DiMaggio also fared well, including 1930-40s image of Joe batting which was selected for the catalog cover selling at $2,875, 1938 Yankees sluggers photo including Gehrig and DiMaggio sold at $1,150, and six batting photos of DiMaggio brought $2,070. A fine grouping of Old-Timers Day and Yankees-related signed baseballs were offered with presale estimates ranging from $500-$1,000 per baseball. Prices in this category were outstanding throughout the auction ranging from $1,000-$3,000 per baseball.
An enormous figural trophy awarded to DiMaggio in 1949 at Yankee Stadium, which included a presentational album with related letters and photographs, ended at $17,250. Various credit cards and related small items sold well, including DiMaggio’s 1992 California driver’s license at $4,887, 1986 DiMaggio U.S. passport at $5,750, and three DiMaggio Visa credit cards for $2,645.
DiMaggio’s Rolex wristwatch sold at $5,750, his gold ID bracelet brought $2,760, a Longines wristwatch from 1949 ended at $3,105, a 1937 Hamilton wristwatch with a photo of DiMaggio wearing the watch sold for $6,325, and a very fine sterling silver presentational humidor as given to DiMaggio by the Yankees in 1985 brought $12,075.
Other highlights from the initial session included DiMaggio’s 1986 Oakland A’s Old-Timers uniform ($4,888), several DiMaggio single-signed baseball bats (range $2,000-$3,000 each), several vintage golf club bags as used by DiMaggio, which hammered down between $1,000-$3,000 each, unusual pair of baseball bat golf clubs that drew spirited bidding and sold for an incredible $4,888, a 1983 Yankees Old-Timers Day uniform ($5,750), 1939 DiMaggio Golden Laurel award ($6,325), and a 1936 photo picturing DiMaggio crossing home plate after his first home run which sold for $3,525.
The second session sold on Friday evening and provided a glimpse into the excitement to come during the final two sessions on Saturday. The evening offerings were again varied with a focus on Joe’s military service and the 1940s era. Numerous pieces of original baseball cartoon artwork sold between $500 and $4,000, including a fine Willard Mullin illustration.
Rings and award-related pieces were easily among the strengths of the entire sale, including a run of DiMaggio’s personal All-Star Game award items. Several notables included: 1977 All-Star Game trophy ($2,070), 1977 All-Star Game ring ($4,600), 1951 All-Star Game silver box ($9,200), 1949 All-Star Game silver box ($6,612), 1947 All-Star Game wristwatch ($4,140), and 1936 All-Star Game tie bar ($5,750). A shotgun inscribed to DiMaggio in 1941 sold for $4,888, while a presentational fire helmet given to Joe in 1975 was singled out by several bidders, selling for $2,875.
DiMaggio’s military service was well represented, including several unique pieces relating to Monroe. That list includes: DiMaggio’s WWII U.S. Army dog tags ($7,360); 1950 Oriental Tour photo album ($10,063); 1951 Oriental Tour photo album ($5,290); oversized image of Monroe secretarial signed, “Marilyn Monroe DiMaggio” ($4,600); Monore cigarette lighter ($2,990); and 1965 DiMaggio U.S. passport ($7,763).
Several other jewelry and small items were offered, including DiMaggio’s unsigned American Express card ($2,415), four commemorative police badges ($4,888), a pair of “JD” diamond cufflinks ($3,220), and a custom-made 14K gold money clip picturing DiMaggio ($1,840).
“The Saturday session offerings were easily the most significant with relation to quality and quantity ever to have been offered from a single-player collection,” said David Hunt, company president. He also noted that the day began with a poignant “surprise welcome” from the legendary voice of the New York Yankees, Bob Sheppard. “For over 56 years, Mr. Sheppard has announced some of the most historic moments in the history of the game,” said Hunt. “He will always be remembered for his famed introduction of the Yankee Clipper as “Number Five, Joe DiMaggio,” Hunt continued, which Sheppard graciously announced for the crowd to begin the auction. H unt called it “an extraordinary and moving moment which the bidders in attendance will not soon forget.”
After the introduction, the session began with a flurry of bidding on items primarily dating to the 1940s-50s, including a 1951 Yankees team-signed ball ($17,250), a 1947 DiMaggio presentational wristwatch ($7,590), and a set of three 1969 Greatest Living Player trophies which brought $18,400.
“Although the auction included countless astounding prices realized, there was a notable air of surprise when a 1976 Yankees Opening Day wristwatch was hammered down for a record $19,550 against a $500-$750 estimate,” said Hunt.
Presidential related items had heavy interest, with a G.W. Bush autographed photo selling for $1,840, Richard Nixon single-signed ball for $2,530, and a unique Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev autographed baseball for $27,600. A trio of All-American Certificates signed by Babe Ruth were among the most popular of any items within the collection. The bidding was highly competitive and the prices blew past the presale estimates of $7,500-$10,000, selling for $23,000, $29,900, and $25,300. A related photo signed by Babe Ruth to Joe DiMaggio also knocked down at a staggering $26,450, which was nearly three times its presale high estimate.
The third session ended with a whirlwind of bidding on DiMaggio’s 1939 and 1941 American League Most Valuable Player awards. The two presentational wristwatches remained in pristine original condition and were given to DiMaggio by the Baseball Writer’s Association in honor of his selection as the American League MVP for seasons 1939 and 1941. A bank of telephone bidders competed against lively in-person competition, with the bidding finally settling at $86,250 and $92,000 respectively. One of the more unique items in the auction was DiMaggio’s 1991 Mercedes presentational sedan with a custom “NY” logo. The car sold to a bidder on the floor for $20,700. A set of (10) replica World Series rings as presented to Joe DiMaggio by the Yankees closed the third session. Each ring was sold individually with very strong results ranging from $18,000-$23,000 against estimates of $10,000-$15,000 per ring.
The monumental two-day auction culminated in the fourth session. “The room was filled to capacity with the largest crowd of the four sessions and the bidding was incredibly exciting and equally impressive,” Hunt noted. “The final portion of vintage jewelry crossed the block with incredible results, almost all of which far exceeded the presale high estimate.”
A selection of wristwatches and cufflinks from makers such as Longines and Cartier all sold well, between $2,500-$10,000 each. A beautiful Tiffany & Co. wristwatch with a photo of DiMaggio wearing the watch brought in $16,100. The overwhelming winner for the most surprising result of the sale was a very rare Patek, Phillippe & Co. wristwatch as worn by DiMaggio. The finely crafted watch interested bidders from around the world and after a very long bidding process settled in at $97,750 which was over six times its high presale estimate of $15,000.
The Internet/Phone portion of the Joe DiMaggio collection was online, with bidding closing on June 9. Hunt Auctions, Inc. is currently accepting consignments for the November 2006 Louisville Slugger Museum auction. The next live catalogue auction will take place at Major League Baseball’s All-Star FanFest and will include the first home run baseball hit by Babe Ruth in the history of the All-Star Game, along with Ruth’s 1921 game-used bat attributed to his record-setting 59th home run.
For more information, go to www.huntauctions.com.