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Rare Vintage Finds, Ruth Signed Baseballs Highlight Just Opened Memory Lane Auction

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America’s attics and closets are still surrendering pieces of baseball history.  When Memory Lane Inc. opens the doors to its next catalog auction, it won’t take long to understand why they chose to call it “The Find”.   From never before seen examples of 19th century baseball cards to a fresh-to-market 1916 M101-5 set that is one of the best known to a Babe Ruth baseball complete with video of the Babe actually signing it, the auction contains numerous items that will get collectors’ attention.

Eddie Plank T206Just opened, “The Find” also includes one of the best known examples of one of  collecting’s rarest cards:  a T206 Eddie Plank graded PSA 5.  Bid up to $57,000 in the first few hours, the Plank card leads off the auction, which includes hundreds of old and new pieces of sports memorabilia.  Bidding will close December 15.

“This auction is going to be a lot of fun,” said Memory Lane’s J.P. Cohen.  “These are some truly great finds that baseball fans and collectors will both enjoy seeing.  We were very fortunate to get a chance to bring them to auction and tell the stories behind them.”

In addition to the Plank card, the auction also includes a complete set of 1916 M101-5 cards being broken into six lots.  Recently graded by PSA, the set carries a GPA of 5.371 not including the five stars that will be sold as individual lots:  Ruth, Joe Jackson, Honus Wagner, Jim Thorpe and Walter Johnson, all of which are similar in grade.  The 195-card lot has a starting bid of $20,000.

“The consistency of this set is really amazing,” said Cohen.  “It’s a very appealing collection which is remarkable considering the cards were never graded until recently.”

Autographed Babe Ruth ball PSA DNA 8Two unique Babe Ruth autographed baseballs are also generating a buzz.  One comes with a professional grade that ranks it among the best.  Another is paired with actual video of the event itself.

Just 11 days after tearfully embracing the stricken Lou Gehrig following the delivery of his “Luckiest Man” speech in 1939, the retired Ruth—having just been elected to the brand new Baseball Hall of Fame– signed a ball for a young fan.  That ball, signed boldly in black fountain pen, carries a PSA 8 grade with the autograph itself registering a ‘9’, making it one of a precious few at that level.   Earlier this year, Memory Lane sold a PSA 8.5 Ruth signed ball for $97,000.

Another Ruth-signed ball dates from ten years earlier and this one comes with iron clad provenance in the form of a piece of film shot by the young recipient’s father who worked for Eastman Kodak.  Taken at Yankee Stadium, the short piece of video, now on DVD, shows James Tonkin III approaching the Babe who signs a side panel and then coming back to the camera with a wide smile.  Shellacked later in its life, it’s been in the collection of the Florida sports memorabilia dealer who bought it from a Tonkin relative in 1993.

“We’ve never seen actual video of Ruth signing a ball that’s eventually come to auction,” said Cohen.  “The fact that this event was captured on film and then preserved for so many years is very special.  Ruth signed a lot of baseballs but when you see the moment on video, it brings this ball to life like no other has ever done.”

There are two autographed Ruth books in the auction as well including a mint ‘9’ signature inside “Babe Ruth’s Own Book of Baseball” and a 1940 Ruth signed check.

A Gehrig inscribed photo dressed in cowboy gear will also be up for bid.

1888 Scrapps Tobacco uncut panelAnother find generating attention is a group of previously undiscovered 1888 Scrapps die-cut cards.  The embossed die-cut portraits of 19th century heroes and political figures have been popular with vintage baseball collectors but not until now have so many been seen in uncut form, with two players attached by tab.  Meant for placement in collectors’ scrapbooks, the cards are virtually mint despite having been issued 124 years ago.

Serious collectors and investors will also appreciate a 1914 Cracker Jack Christy Mathewson graded VG, an 1888 Allen & Ginter Buck Ewing, a 1911 Turkey Red Ty Cobb with checklist back, a T206 O’Hara Polar Bear variation, a 1934 Goudey complete set ranked 7th on the PSA Registry, a 1933 Goudey Nap Lajoie PSA 4, a 1948 Leaf Satchel Paige PSA 7, a 1954 Red Heart set with all cards PSA 8 and better, a 1910-12 Sweet Caporal graded pin set and the #1 rated 1967 Topps Who Am I set with an unopened wax pack.

Football card collectors can bid on sets of 1951 Bowman and 1955 Topps All-American both rated among the top ten known accumulations.

Game used bats in the auction include a 1933-34 Tony Lazzeri game used bat as well as game bats from Al Kaline (1966-68) and Roberto Clemente (1971).  According to an accompanying letter of provenance, the Clemente bat was obtained directly from the late Hall of Famer at the 1971 World Series.  Minimum bid on the bat is $7,500.

For more information or to receive a catalog, visit MemoryLaneInc.com or call 877.606.LANE (5263).

About Rich Mueller

Rich is the editor and founder of Sports Collectors Daily. A broadcaster and writer for more than 30 years and a collector for even longer than that, he's usually typing something somewhere. Type him back at [email protected].

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