I love a good baseball card ‘find’ story and if you follow us on Facebook, you might have already seen a little taste of this one. In 2010, Chris Avanzo, a collector from Rhode Island, was at an auction in Worcester, MA and spotted what turned out to be a very rare 1911 Sporting Life Cabinet Honus Wagner card.
“My wife and I had gone to look at some other baseball stuff that was at the auction,” he told us. “As we are previewing the sale, we are in the box lot room and I see an 1895 catcher’s mask and some early position instruction books. I continue down the table and there is a box lot of cast iron toys and it has this card in with it. I thought it was a little out of place. I pick it up and see that it is Wagner. I wasn't familiar with the card (most likely due to its rarity) and I turned it over to see the ad on the back. So I call a friend of mine and tell him about the card. He wasn't readily familiar with it and does a quick search on eBay. Only thing that turns up is small tobacco sized reprints. So, now I doubt myself as to the age of the card. I put the card back in the box and continue previewing.
“Now the auction gets under way and lots are moving along. This lot then comes up on the block. A couple start to bid on it and it hammers down at $35. As soon as the auctioneer hammers it sold, I immediately lean over to my wife and say ‘I just made a mistake’. I have taken chances on other lots at auction for a lot more money and for some reason didn't take this chance.”
After going back home, Avanzo sat down at his desk and got out his Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards and realized it’s a Sporting Life Wagner Cabinet. Only 16 have ever been graded by any authentication company. Amazingly, though, he got a second chance to buy the card just a week later, at another local auction company, about 50 miles away in his hometown of Cranston, Rhode Island. Apparently, the person who bought the box with the toys and the card only wanted the toys and chose to put the card back on the block.
“I immediately take a pic of it and text my wife,” Avanzo stated. “I tell her I can't believe my luck. She tells me that its fate that I should have this card. So I take comfort in that and sit down in a chair waiting for the auction to start. As I am sitting there waiting, one of my friends that I was talking to the week prior taps me on the shoulder and says ‘looks like you are going to get another crack at the Wagner’. I look up to see my friend John and I say to him ‘Are we going to be fighting for this?’ and he says ‘Oh yeah’.
Instead, the two decided to buy the card together since neither planned to keep it. There was only one other person in the room interested in bidding and the auction didn’t last long. “It goes back and forth just two times and we by the card for $15. With the 15% commission, we end up with a total of $16.50 and the card is ours,” Avanzo recalled.
They sold it, with no commission, via Legendary Auctions, for $2,500, which they split.
That same card was sold later by Goodwin and Company and is now back on the market again, this time on eBay. Bidding closes tonight. You can track it here.
Another interesting group of early baseball memorabilia is up for bid via Saco River Auctions, another small New England auction house. It’s a scorebook and tickets to a game played during the Civil War.
The Associated Press picked up the story. You can read the story and see photos here.
Look for a couple of new features starting soon thanks to a newly forged partnership between Sports Collectors Daily and eBay: The eBay Card of the Day will showcase a sports card that’s either unique or tied in with the sports news of the moment. We’ll show you where to find it amid the millions of items online and we’ll also showcase a category that might showcase more of the same.
The second feature will be the eBay Set of the Day, in which we’ll focus on a certain sports card set we think you’ll enjoy learning a little more about. It, too, will direct you to a special category page where you might be able to find similar items of interest.
Rich Klein will tackle most of these for us and he’s already got a few in the hopper.