The market for high end, rare sports cards and memorabilia appears as strong as ever. Robert Edward Auctions says 147 lots in its recent auction sold for $10,000 or more with 649 different bidders winning a total of 1866 lots.
REA says successful bidders included museums, universities, and corporate institutional collections, as well as representatives from numerous Major League teams. A total of 24,231 bids were placed in the $8.52 million auction. All but 21 lots sold including nine that brought more than $100,000 each.
“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," said REA's Rob Lifson. "Thousands of bidders from all over the world participated. The average lot realized more than double the high-end estimate."
Bidders also lined up to bid on a game-worn jersey from Mickey Mantle’s final season as an active player. It sold for $201,450.
The gray flannel #7 jersey was originally acquired by a former Yankees’ clubhouse attendant who acquired it as the old Yankee Stadium was about to undergo an extensive renovation in 1973. Mantle signed the jersey years later.
The final price includes an 18.5% buyer’s premium that was added to all lots.
A one-of-a-kind 1874 Red Stockings Cigar poster, believed to be the first to show an athlete endorsement of a commercial product, sold for $189,600. The 11x15 poster featured 19th century baseball pioneer George Wright, shown in a pose copied from a well-known cabinet photograph.
REA says the price also represented a record price for any kind of American advertising poster.
The baseball hit by Carlton Fisk to win one of baseball’s greatest World Series games in 1975, traded hands for $142,200. The ball was belted over the left field wall by the Red Sox catcher in Game 6 to beat the Reds and even the series. Thanks to a famous isolation shot, baseball fans are aware of Fisk madly waving his hands in an attempt to ‘will’ the ball fair.
As always, vintage baseball cards played a huge role in the REA sale with a 1916 Globe Clothing Co. Babe Ruth graded PSA 6, rocketing to $142,200 to lead the way.
A scarce T206 Ty Cobb card, originating in tins of the short-lived Ty Cobb Tobacco, sold for $154,050. The card had been originally purchased via REA in 1997 for $22,224; quite a profit for the owner.
“All T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb advertising back cards are rare and special, and all have gone up in value considerably since 1997,” noted Lifson. “This particular card not only had a special provenance, but there was definitely a consensus that this card was undergraded. It may have technically graded a modest PSA 1, but it was just a very strong card, far better looking than suggested by the grade. It had everything going for it. There was an overwhelming amount of interest.”
A near set of T206s, with all cards graded, sold for $100,725 while a T206 Eddie Plank graded PSA 5 sold for $88,875.
A 19th century baseball mystery card intrigued pre-War card collectors to the tune of more than $130,000. The 1887 Old Judge card pictures Hall of Famer Deacon White but he’s identified as ‘McGreachery’ which could be the result of the card producers having some fun with the veteran player.
The highest graded example of the 1914 Cracker Jack Ty Cobb, rated PSA 8.5, sold for $106,650.
The application filed by owners of the Brooklyn Dodgers to join the National League in 1889 was hotly contested in the wee hours of the morning, with the multi-signed item reaching $165,900.
Other memorabilia that generated strong bids included the second highest graded Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig dual-signed baseball which sold for $82,950, Ed Walsh’s 1914 White Sox contract signed by both the pitcher and owner Charles Comiskey ($50,362) and the contract signed by Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez in 1930 when he led the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts ($47,400).
To read REA's blog post on the auction including more highlights and stats, click here.