The combination of hall of famers from baseball and football helped propel Mastro Auctions second successful live sports auction of 2008. The event, held on Dec. 8 at The Sports Museum of America in New York City, featured two sessions, “Legends of the Diamond” which offered more than 80 premium lots of high-end baseball memorabilia and “Legends of the Gridiron” that presented more than 250 Hall of Fame-associated pieces of football memorabilia.
Mastro officials noted that while there was solid bidding in both auction sessions, it was obvious that the appeal of baseball memorabilia coupled with the iconic status of Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and even Christy Mathewson resulted in the most significant sale highlights.
“The auction proved conclusively that even in tough economic times, there is enduring value in baseball’s greatest legends,” said Doug Allen, Mastro COO and president.
“Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and heroes such as Christy Mathewson are big-league players in every sense of the word when it comes to baseball memorabilia,” Allen continued. “The premier items associated with these players was a driving force behind the overall success of the Legends auction.”
The top-performing baseball item in the auction was a Mickey Mantle 1958 Yankees World Series game-worn road jersey that sold for $216,000. Mantle donned the jersey during Game 2 of the 1958 World Series when he hit two home runs.
Until its appearance in Mastro Auctions’ “Legends” live sale, the jersey had never before been sold with the acknowledgment that it was worn during World Series play. According Allen, this recently acquired “newness” of the jersey also contributed to the final price of the item. “Collectors pay for new ‘finds,’ ” said Allen. “The ability to attribute this jersey to Mantle World Series play for the first time creates a ‘wow’ factor that is difficult to resist.”
There were other Mantle items bidders found hard to pass up, including his World Series home run ball No. 16 hit in October 1964. The ball that broke Ruth’s record of 15 home runs in October play sold for $96,000. Also impressive was the selling price of $66,000 for a Mickey Mantle 1951 H&B game-used bat. The rare “L16” model was only ordered in Mantle’s rookie season.
More “firsts” to the collecting public were to be found in items offered from a notable Ruth collection. The Mastro Auctions “Legends” sale debuted pieces from the treasured Jimmy Donohue Collection.
For more than 50 years, Jimmy Donohue’s restaurants were well-known eating establishments for New Jersey and New York VIPs. Donohue provided secluded, welcome retreats for the area’s most well-known residents. As a result, Donohue became fast friends with many of his famous patrons. One of the most notable and enduring bonds was with Babe Ruth. Over the years, Ruth gifted Donohue with many personalized items that became prized, family-held possessions until they were consigned to Mastro Auctions in the fall of 2008.
Other pieces from the Donohue Babe Ruth Collection will be sold in subsequent Mastro Auctions’ sale, but the Ruth item that stole the show at the Legends auction was a Babe Ruth 1927 signed photo display commemorating his 60 home run season. The unique item sold for $66,000. The display provides a visual depiction of Ruth’s signature 1927 season. It features an action photograph and 60 illustrated baseballs, one for each Ruthian hit that went out of the park. In each baseball the name of the pitcher who yielded the home run and the date is noted.
Another auction category that created considerable buzz in the “Legends” sale was baseball cards. An exemplary 1903 E107 Breisch Williams Type 1 Christy Mathewson, SGC 20 baseball card took top accolades with a selling price of $120,000. The significance of the final price of the Mathewson card is substantial. According to Allen, it represents the first time a lower-graded card has come close to drawing a price realized in the same ballpark as a lower-condition T206 Honus Wagner baseball card.
“The lower six-figure range was the exclusive domain of the fair grade Wagner cards,” said Allen. “This auction changes all that.”
The marquee item of the “Legends” football session was the 1979 Heisman Trophy (shown) that was awarded to Charles White. It sold for $216,000. The new owner of the White’s Heisman is John Rogers of Little Rock, Ark.
Rogers made national news last year around the time of the National Convention when he purchased a medium-grade 1909 T206 Honus Wagner card for the record-breaking price of $1.6 million in Mastro Auctions’ August 2008 Live Sports sale. It is the highest amount ever paid for a single baseball card at public auction.
As with the Wagner card in August, Rogers called in his winning bid by phone. “When you’re talking about football memorabilia, nothing compares to a Heisman,” Rogers said. “Considering only a few have ever been sold publicly, I thought this might be my only chance to own one. And, compared to the Wagner, it was a relative deal.”
Other top football items included an important 1962-65 Jim Brown Cleveland Browns game-worn and signed home jersey went for $57,000 (shown above); a Johnny Unitas 1970 Baltimore Colts twice-signed, game-worn road jersey sold for $42,000; and a Johnny Unitas late 1960s Baltimore Colts game-used and signed helmet realized a final price of $30,000.
For more information or a complete list of auction results, go to www.mastroauctions.com or call (630) 472-1000. Mastro Auctions is currently accepting consignments for all upcoming 2009 auctions.