Memory Lane’s latest auction, the Historic Rarities Auction, generated $1.88 million in bids, with a 1916 M101-5 Sporting News Babe Ruth rookie card and a complete, unopened cello box of 1959 Topps packs leading the way.
The Ruth card, No. 151 in the popular set of cards issued while he was still a pitcher with the Red Sox, was graded PSA 4 sold for $59,500, inclusive of the 19 percent buyer’s premium. The blank-backed card was given away as a premium by the popular sports weekly and has grown in interest significantly over the last year.
A second, scarcer Ruth rookie card from the same time, this one issued by Famous and Barr and in lower grade, sold for $39,792.
Full boxes of unopened packs from more than a half-century ago are rare and there was intense bidding for the 1959 Topps Baseball cello box offered in the auction. The final realized price was $44,948 – more than $1,200 per pack. Originally selling for a dime each, the 36 clear-wrapped packs were housed in the original counter display box.
A 1972 Topps Baseball cello box also generated attention from bidders, bringing $9,926, while a 1972 wax box sold for $6,861 and a 1969 Football Series 2 box sold for $6,237. Individual packs offered included a 1960 Topps rack with a Carl Yastrzemski rookie showing. It sold for $5,869.
In addition to the1916 Ruth cards, the Historic Rarities auction contained dozens of other items associated with the Bambino. Highlights included a 1933 Yankees team-signed bat obtained by two men from the Midwest who journeyed to Yankee Stadium that year and secured the signatures while hanging out near the team dugout. The bat featured 24 autographs, including Ruth and Lou Gehrig. It sold for $28,061.
One of the more historically fascinating items was a 1927 Ruth signed bank check, made out on the day he hit the first home run of his historic 1927 season, when he set the mark for single-season home runs with 60 and the ‘Murderer’s Row’ Yankees took baseball by storm.
A 1933 Goudey Ruth No. 53, graded PSA 5, brought $8,803, an inscribed ball sold for $8,205 and a Type 1 photo from 1921 went for $3,643.
The auction also included a remarkable collection of more than 1,100 first day covers,
signed by famous athletes, historic figures and others issued in a long-running series by Gateway Stamp Co. of St. Louis. The group sold for $38,998.
One of only 265 1909-1911 T206 cards ever to be awarded a ‘9’ (mint) grade by PSA was sold in the auction, as well. The Piedmont Germany Schaefer changed hands for $6,614. A rare Broad Leaf back card from the T206 set sold for $6,455.
Memory Lane had a large group of vintage Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio cards available. Many sold for more than $10,000 each including:
• 1951 Bowman Mantle rookie card (NM/MT) $21,043
• 1938 Goudey PSA 8 DiMaggio $16,975
• 1958 Topps Mantle PSA 9 $15,991
• 1956 Topps Mantle PSA 9 $13,540
• 1960 Topps Mantle PSA 9 $9,684
• 1953 Topps Mantle NM+ $5,094.
Bidding on a pair of scarce Ted Williams issues was competitive. A regionally issued ’54 Wilson Franks card, graded PSA 7, sold for $20,540 while an example of the hard-to-find ’54 Bowman pulled from production early that year, brought $9,040.
More recent vintage cards also generate numbers when they reach the highest grade levels. Case in point, a 1973 Topps Nolan Ryan, one of three to ever reach a Gem Mint 10 level in PSA’s history, sold for $12,581.
The 1969 Topps Lou Brock is legendary for its scarceness in mint condition. Just four reside in PSA 9 holders despite more than 540 submissions. MLI offered one of those four in this sale, though, and as expected, bidding was fierce. It was finally nailed down for $5,463.
A 1963 Topps common of Floyd Robinson in a ‘10’ holder, sold for $2,576.
Other interesting pieces of baseball memorabilia that were sold included a program and ticket stub from the 1951 Giants-Dodgers playoff game in which Bobby Thomson hit the ‘Shot Heard ‘Round the World’. The lot sold for $5,155. A pair of Bob Feller’s MLB Lifetime Passes sold for more than $6,000 combined.