70-Year Baseball Card Collection Set for Auction

Lionel Carter began collecting in the 1930s. His holdings include some of the hobby’s top vintage baseball cards–many in mint condition. Now, they’ll all be finding new homes.

It began when packs of 1932 DeLong cards caught his eye in a local drugstore. At age 15, thus began one of the world’s finest baseball card collections. Even at age 89, Chicago area resident Lionel Carter remained a collector at heart.

“I just loved them,” said Carter. “That’s all there was to it.”

Long before the days of plastic sheets and monster boxes, Carter painstakingly stored many of his cards in leather-bound scrapbooks, taking great pains to keep them in top condition.

Considered by long-time collectors to be a true hobby pioneer, Carter researched the history and variations of the sets he collected and others he knew about from his hobby friends. He shared his knowledge with thousands of hobbyists through the years through articles in early publications and via conversations with other serious collectors.

“We’d connect and swap cards through the mail,” said Carter. “I’d hear about another guy from one of the collectors I knew, write him a letter, send him a list of what I had and what I needed and we’d see if we could work out a trade.”

Sadly, the value of his cards made him a target for thieves late last year. Carter got his cards back but has now decided to sell. He’s consigned his holdings to Mastro Auctions, which will include the first installment in it’s April auction.

“What I would have really liked is to have people over, neighbors, kids and let them just look at the cards,” said Carter. “But because of how much the cards are now worth, I knew that wasn’t possible.”

Bill Mastro, who recently had the pleasure of viewing the cards again for the first time in over 25 years is even more amazed by their condition than he was a quarter century ago. “These cards are in a class by themselves. There is simply no comparison in terms of condition, particularly in the area of bright, blinding
color,” said Mastro. “If ever there were sets you would want to keep together, these would be it.”

But Mastro acknowledges that due to the high prices Carter’s cards are likely to fetch, the likelihood of many of the sets staying intact is slim. To address that issue and because of the importance and significance of this collection, Mastro
Auctions has partnered with SGC to ensure that the cards will be forever associated with Lionel Carter. The cards will be encased in special holders that identify the contents as part of the Lionel Carter Collection.

Among the items in the first of what is expected to be several installments of rare sports collectibles & memorabilia:

  • 2 1933 Goudey Nap Lajoie cards, PSA 9 and PSA 7
  • 2 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie cards graded PSA 8 and PSA 7
  • 1952 Topps Willie Mays graded PSA 9
  • Partial set of T206


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  1. […] grading has been around for decades.  Early collectors like Jefferson Burdick, Buck Barker and Lionel Carter gave grades to their baseball cards, even if they were a little different than some of the terms we […]