Rare HOF autographs highlight Clean Sweep sale

The phrase “saving the best for last” is an accurate description of Clean Sweep Auction’s upcoming sale, especially if you’re a collector of autographs from members of baseball’s hall of fame.

The company’s last major auction of 2008 closes Sept. 24, and company president Steve Verkman said it’s one that signature aficionados won’t want to miss.

“This sale has a big variety of material,” Verkman said. “But the heart of this auction is the baseball autographs.”
Leading off the sale is Lot No. 1, a high-quality photo of Babe Ruth in a Red Sox uniform with a large, bold Ruth signature that carries a PSA 8 grade. How rare are Ruth-signed Red Sox items? “This is the first time we’ve ever offered one,” Verkman noted.

Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott and Walter Johnson are just some of the premium names whose signatures can be found in this sale. But it’s the rarities among Cooperstown’s inductees that are likely to attract the hard-core autograph collectors.

“We have items from the likes of Nap Lajoie, John McGraw, Joe Tinker, Hilton Smith, Ed Walsh, Jim Bottomly, Roger Breshnahan, Branch Rickey,” Verkman said. “If you’re working on a collection of Hall of Fame signatures, this is really a great auction.

One of the pieces Verkman is especially excited about is a 1922 New York Yankees payroll check signed by manager Miller Huggins. “It’s really a great signature of Huggins,” Verkman said. “To me, this is so much better than a Ruth or Gehrig autographed check because Huggins is so rare.”

The rarities continue with a couple of Perez-Steele offerings. The first is a card signed by Paul Kerr, former president of the Hall of Fame. Verkman said autograph hounds he’s talked with estimate that only about 20 signed Kerr cards exist. This one is slabbed as authentic from PSA.

The next Perez-Steele item is a Richie Ashburn autographed card from the Greatest Moments series. “Greatest Moments cards by themselves aren’t all that rare, but Ashburn died a very short time after becoming a Hall of Famer and very shortly after the Greatest Moments series was produced,” Verkman said. “Some people believe only about 50 of these autographed cards exist.”

Not one, but two, Cy Young autographs appear on a hand-written letter from the pitching ace that’s being offered, as well as a sheet of signatures from the 1927 Philadelphia A’s roster that includes Cobb and Foxx. Also available are single-signed baseballs from the likes of Ducky Medwick, Roger Maris and Kennesaw Mountain Landis.

For pure emotional impact, Verkman’s choice in this auction is lot No. 178, a ticket stub from the July 4, 1939, game between the Washington Senators and New York Yankees from Yankee Stadium. That, of course, was the date on which Gehrig delivered his famous “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech. The ticket itself is special, but adding to its value is the fact Gehrig signed the back of the item. The piece comes with a letter of authenticity from James Spence.

“How amazing is it to have a ticket signed from Lou Gehrig’s most famous day on the planet?” Verkman said.

The autograph section isn’t the only part of the auction loaded with desirable collectibles. Uniform collectors will certainly be tempted by game-used Red Sox jerseys from Pedro Martinez (2003 model) and Manny Ramirez (2004). New York Mets fans will want to take note of the 12-inch replica World Series Championship trophy from the team’s 1986 title.

Fans of classic baseball figurines should note that Clean Sweep’s current sale also features a very clean Hartland statues set that is being offered in single lots. There’s also more than a dozen mini bobbin-head baseball dolls from 1962, including a highly sought-after Mickey Mantle model.

Every Clean Sweep sale is loaded with high-grade vintage cards, and this event is no exception. One of the lots features some more 1907 Cutlery Postcards that were first offered in the company’s last event. “We had incredible bidding on those items, and this time we’re offering two more from that set – Tris Speaker and Roger Breshnahan,” Verkman said.
Among some of the other highlights:

• A 1925 Exhibit card of Cobb in SGC 6 and 1934 Demery die-cut of Ott in PSA 6. Verkman noted that both cards are very hard to find in these grades.
• A set of T205 cards, with most cards ranging from Good to VG-EX condition. This set was put together more than 20 years ago and has never been on the market before this sale.
• Complete versions of the unique 1913 Tom Barker and National Game sets.
• A very rare Old Judge Gypsy Queen card of Del Darling and a beautiful L-1 leather of Chief Bender.
• A selection of R312 cards from 1930s that includes the Joe DiMaggio “rookie” card.
• Most of the popular Topps baseball issues from 1950s and ’60s in complete set form.
• A strong selection of high-grade cards featuring such stars as Mantle, Maris, Willie Mays and others.

Bidding closes Sept. 24. For more information, visit the company’s website at www.csauctions.com, or call (516) 338-8557. Many of the auction items are featured in a four-page, full-color advertisement on pages 25-28 of this issue of SCD.

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