Some sports collectors did early Christmas shopping for themselves at Mastro Auctions' Legends sale.
The beans have been counted and results analyzed. Mastro Auctions' New York sports memorabilialast month generated $2.7 million in sales.
The auction was divided into two parts: “Legends of the Diamond” which offered over 80 premium lots of high-end baseball memorabilia and “Legends of the Gridiron” that presented over 250 Hall of Fame-associated pieces of football memorabilia.
“Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and heroes such as Christy Mathewson are big league players in every sense of the word when it comes to baseball memorabilia,” says Doug Allen, COO and President of Mastro Auctions. “The premier items associated with these players was a driving force behind the overall success of the Legends auction.”
The top performing baseball item in the auction was a Mickey Mantle 1958 New York Yankees World Series game worn road jersey that sold for $216,000. Mastro was able to connect the jersey to use during Game 2 of the 1958 World Series when Mantle hit two home runs. Until its appearance in Mastro Auctions’ “Legends” live sale, the jersey had never before been sold with the acknowledgement that it was worn during World Series play. “Collectors pay for new ‘finds’,” said Allen. “The ability to attribute this jersey to Mantle World Series play for the first time creates a ‘wow’ factor that is difficult to resist.”
There were other Mickey Mantle items bidders found hard to pass up including his World Series home run ball #16 hit on October 1964. The ball that broke Babe Ruth’s record of 15 runs in October play sold for $96,000. Also impressive was the selling price of $66,000 for a Mickey Mantle 1951 H&B game used bat. The rare "L16" model was only ordered in Mantle’s rookie season.
Mastro also featured Babe Ruth memorabilia that had been consigned by the family of Ruth friend Jimmy Donohue. For more than half a century, Donohue’s restaurants were well-known eating establishments for New Jersey and New York VIPs. Donohue provided secluded, welcome retreats for the area’s most well-known residents. As a result, Donohue became fast friends with many of his famous patrons. One of the most notable and enduring bonds was with Babe Ruth. Over the years Ruth gifted Donohue with many personalized items that became prized, family-held possessions until they were consigned to Mastro Auctions in the fall of 2008.
Babe Ruth collection will be sold in subsequent Mastro Auctions’ sale, but the Ruth item that stole the show at the Legends auction was a Babe Ruth 1927 signed photo display commemorating his 60 home run season. The unique item sold for $66,000. The display provides a visual depiction of Ruth’s signature 1927 season. It features an action photograph and 60 illustrated baseballs, one for each Ruthian hit that went out of the park. In each baseball the name of the pitcher who yielded the home run and the date is noted.
Another auction category that created considerable buzz in the “Legends” sale was the selection of vintage baseball cards. A 1903 E107 Breisch Williams Type 1 Christy Mathewson - SGC 20 FR 1.5 baseball card, graded SGC 20 FR 1.5, sold for $120,000. Mathewson, a Hall of Fame inaugural inductee player considered baseball’s first great gentleman, died prematurely as a result of being exposed to poisonous gas on the battlefield in World War I.
The price put the Mathewson card near the range of low grade T206 Honus Wagner cards.
“The lower six figure range was the exclusive domain of the fair grade Wagner cards,” said Allen. “This auction changes all that.”
The marquee item of the “Legends” football session was the 1979 Heisman Trophy that was awarded to Charles White. It sold for $216,000. The new owner of the White’s Heisman is John Rogers of Little Rock, Arkansas. Rogers made national news recently when he purchased a medium grade 1909 T206 Honus Wagner baseball card for the record-breaking price of $1.6 million in Mastro Auctions’ August 2008 Live Sports sale. Rogers, who bid by phone, is hoping to find a way to get the trophy back into White's hands.
"When you’re talking about football memorabilia, nothing compares to a Heisman,” says Rogers. “Considering only a few have ever been sold publicly, I thought this might be my only chance to own one. And, compared to the Wagner, it was a relative deal.”
Other top football items included in the New York sports memorabilia auction included a 1962-1965 Jim Brown Cleveland Browns signed game worn home jersey (HOF) went for $57,000; a Johnny Unitas 1970 Baltimore Colts twice-signed game worn road jersey (HOF) sold for $42,000.