Inside the REA Auction

You know the final results; $10.1 million in sales. Here are a few more tidbits from what the auction house is calling "the most successful vintage baseball card auction of all time."

The economy isn’t much of a factor when high grade, rare or popular vintage sports cards and memorabilia are offered for sale.

There was no shortage of that type of material when Robert Edward Auctions mailed out its phone-book sized catalog earlier this spring. The company’s annual auction event is always a big deal with ultra rare and never before seen cards and other items surfacing–and then selling at heavy six-figure prices.

“The financial crisis may have actually brought a few things to the marketplace that might have otherwise not been sold at this time," said company president Rob Lifson. "The surprising thing was that everyone was expecting the market to be softer, especially since prices have been lower elsewhere, but the exact opposite happened. Collectors really do come out of the woodwork for our auctions. The results speak for themselves.”

Highlights were cataloged in our story following the auction, including the sale of a T206 Honus Wagner and other scarce cards but REA is now offering some of the facts, figures and tidbits from the sale that are worth noting:

**The company’s single-day realized price total surpassed last year’s hobby record mark for a multi–owner, all consignment sale.

**The 1551 lots, offered on behalf of 208 different consignors, were won by 630 different bidders which included some of the nation’s most prestigious museums and corporate institutional collections, as well as representatives from numerous Major League teams. “We set record prices across the board,” Lifson reported. "Nineteenth-century baseball items were unbelievable, as always, as were all early baseball cards, advertising and display pieces, graded cards, Babe Ruth items, autographs, memorabilia, non-sport cards and artwork.”

**23,369 bids were placed and more than 99% of the lots sold. The average lot sold for $6,545, and on average realized more than double the high-end estimate.

**An extraordinary find of unopened 1930s boxes and packs was a late 1920s Star Player Candy find consignment that generated a buzz. Saved by a candy and gum distributor as ordering samples, the numerous boxes had remained untouched and perfectly preserved on their product sample shelves for the past 70+ years, until just recently discovered. The family consigning the find hoped that the total sales for the collection would approach $100,000.

“Several days before the auction close, this figure had been reached, and they called REA to say they were already thrilled with the results, and that if the bidding went any higher, that would be great, but their expectations had already been exceeded,” Lifson said. When the dust settled on the final night of the auction, the total sales for the collection more than tripled to $336,343. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime offering. Collectors wanted to take something home from this find,” adds Lifson. “When something is really special, that’s when only an auction can do justice to material, both for buyers and sellers. This was that type of a collection.”

**The collection of nine 1953-54 Briggs Meats two-card panels (reserve $5,000), which were issued with hot dogs and saved for decades by an old time Baltimore-area collector, was extremely hotly contested. “There was a lot of debate Briggs Meats panel and even second-guessing of the auction house about whether this group should have been broken up or offered intact as a collection,” according to Lifson. “This was such a special group, we just couldn’t break them up. We thought that advanced collectors would appreciate them more if they were kept intact as a collection. We’ll never see another group like this. They had to stay together.” Advanced collectors agreed. The best group of this rare regional issue to ever be offered at auction sold for $82,225.

1932 George Miller set **The 1932 R300 George C. Miller complete set of 32 cards, all graded by PSA, carried a reserve of $10,000, and an estimate of $20,000/$30,000+. In the nineteen minutes between 3:15 AM and 3:34 AM, just before the auction close, the set was bid up from $85,000 to a final selling price of $246,750–a nearly three-fold increase. In the remaining minutes of the auction that followed, the unsuccessful underbidder went on to move his funds to other lots that he would not have otherwise bid on, moving other expensive lots much higher.

T206 Eddie Plank **When just four low-grade 1910-era tobacco cards were found in the attic of a non-collecting family, they were shocked to learn that the T206 Eddie Plank card was one of the great treasures of baseball card collecting. As they noted in their communications with REA, they felt like they hit the lottery with the lucky find. Though only graded in Poor condition by PSA, because the card had a great story and great eye-appeal, it sold for $38,187.