By Ross Forman
One of the most unique baseball memorabilia collections, with a splash of college football thrown in too, goes on the auction block Saturday, Aug. 19.
The Super Auction, which will be held at Washtenaw Farm Council Fairgrounds in Ann Arbor, Mich., features the archives of former Detroit Tigers Public Relations Director Dan Ewald.
Ewald spent about 20 years with the Tigers and, before that, was a baseball writer for The Detroit News. He has written 13 sports books, with such luminaries as Sparky Anderson, Al Kaline, George Kell and Bo Schembechler, among others.
The 300-lot Super Auction features some truly unique items, such as, the 1983 Detroit Tigers’ purchase agreement with related documents, signed by John Fetzer, Jim Campbell and Tom Monaghan. The Super Auction also includes original artwork for the Detroit Tigers’ head logo, along with the photo that inspired the image. The logo was used for many years and became a symbol of the team. And there is the 1962 paperwork for the Tigers’ Tour of Japan, including a sheet signed by the entire team.
Plus, The Super Auction includes Schembechler’s personal University of Michigan playbook, given to Ewald by the former Wolverines head football coach; and Sparky Anderson original artwork by Gary Greenshields, given to Ewald by Anderson.
“The Super Auction is an incredible opportunity to own items that are connected to some very prominent people in baseball history, and items that are truly one of a kind,” said longtime Michigan-based hobbyist Mark Dehem of J&M Card Co., which he runs with his brother, Jim. They are spearheading the sports memorabilia portion of The Super Auction.
“The auction is well-rounded with something for everyone, although there are no sports cards. There is a wide range of values that would fit any collector’s budget. I think the memorabilia and autographs will be appealing to any collector. There are hundreds of confidential letters, documents and financial paperwork, dealing with the inner workings of a baseball team. These rare documents give the fan the chance to go behind-the-scenes and see what really goes on.”
Mark Dehem, who lives in Macomb, Mich., runs The Athlete Connection, LLC, which coordinates player appearances and autograph signings, and he is on the board of the Detroit Tiger Alumni Association. Jim Dehem, of New Baltimore, Mich., also owns a Biggby Coffee Shop.
Both are hobby veterans, with about 45 years each in the industry. Both are regulars at the annual National Sports Collectors Convention. Heck, the story of Mark and Jim Dehem is story-worthy alone, if only as a walk down memory lane.
Mark started collecting cards decades ago and soon got his brother involved, and they eventually bought all the neighborhood kids’ cards as they got older and were getting out of the hobby. They held card sales on their grandmother’s porch in the summer.
“We were buying up so many cards that we decided to sell some so that we could buy other memorabilia,” Mark said. “Our dad would help (by) driving us to (card) shows, (help with) set up, (or make) phone calls to promoters and other dealers. We were basically young kids setting up at shows in the 1970s.”
Their first show was in 1972.
They sold at shows in the ’70s in Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and elsewhere.
Today, Jim and Mark have set up at every National except the first, in 1980, and 2016 in Atlantic City.
They will be back at this summer’s National in Chicago.
Mark and Jim have had two card shops over the years.
They acquired the goods for The Super Auction directly from Ewald, who was trying to downsize. They jumped at the collection.
“At first I wasn’t too impressed with the book collection (offered in The Super Auction), but as I began to go through them and see many were embossed with names of former owners and executives, such as Frank Navin, Walter Briggs, John Fetzer and Jim Campbell, the more I realized the significance of these books. I think collectors would love to have something that was once in the personal library of one of these gentlemen. They might end up doing very well,” Mark Dehem said.
“Dan was always a collector at heart and his boss, Jim Campbell, and Sparky Anderson knew his love for memorabilia. Over their 32-year friendship, Sparky presented him with many of the items given to him throughout his life. When Jim Campbell was leaving the Tigers, he gave his personal files to Dan.”
The Super Auction includes many baseballs, bats, books and memorabilia that certainly will carry national appeal.
“Overall there is a great Detroit connection to The Super Auction, but there are some historical documents that would be of interest to collectors around the country,” Dehem said.
Certainly the original, signed Purchase Agreement of the Detroit Tigers is intriguing, and, Mark Dehem admitted, an item he first overlooked, thinking it was just a copy of the sale. But, looking closely it was discovered to be the original, signed agreement.
“If it’s like a normal sale agreement, there would be no more than three copies of this in existence – one for the buyer, one for the seller, and then one filed copy with the title company.
“The thought that this is actually available is unbelievable,” Dehem added.
The Super Auction is held twice annually and features important collections from many genres. About 10 professional auctioneers are selling at a fast-pace throughout the day. Professional auctioneer Kenny Lindsay, of American Eagle Auction & Appraisal Company, will be the lead auctioneer for the Ewald Collection.
“I think every veteran in the sports memorabilia industry reaches a point in their career when they think they’ve seen it all. I hit that point well over a decade ago … and then this collection surfaces.” Lindsay said. “When you start getting into confidential files and documents, you’re exposing a time capsule of history. You cannot help but shake your head in disbelief with the significance of what laid dormant for so many years.
“The collection of documents will appeal to the more in-depth collector who has a deep appreciation for behind-the-scenes talks, negotiations and happenings. You (can) learn first-hand how these teams were managed. You’re seeing the game from the executives’ perspective. With that, you gain so much more appreciation for what they had to deal with behind the scenes. It’s pretty intense.”
For more information about The Super Auction, or to pre-bid, go to www.MichiganAuctionCompany.com.
The live auction is Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Washtenaw Farm Council Fairgrounds (5055 Ann Arbor-Saline Road) in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.