REA Unveils Auction Details

The collection of former Topps’ executive Sy Berger, the ball from the famous 1908 “Merkle game”, a T206 Honus Wagner and three T206 Eddie Plank cards are just some of the items that will be up for grabs next month, when Robert Edward Auctions launches its annual sports memorabilia catalog sale.

The catalog will ship on April 9, with the auction scheduled to run April 12-May 1.

REA always presents the first copy to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York for their library. The remaining 10,000 catalogs will be sent to collectors all over the world.

Total sales for the event are expected to exceed $5 million.

“We try to make it a special event for everyone, to make it fun and at the same time to give collectors and historians some great reading with the catalog,” says REA president Robert Lifson. “With all the problems in the economy, and all the problems even in the baseball memorabilia world, we feel our auction has a special place in the field. We’re trying to do more than just have an auction. We’re trying to create a positive event that is historic,that makes collecting fun, and that everyone can be a part of, as a bidder, a consignor, or just as an observer.”

With only one auction per year, REA’s catalog is a monster and the company’s reputation attracts consignments from some of the world’s top collectors as well as those who have a historic piece of memorabilia they want to sell.

“This year, the material is unbelievable,” Lifson said. “The Sy Berger Collection. The Merkle ball. The T206 Wagner. It’s hard to know what to highlight. It’s an amazing lineup.”

The Sy Berger Collection. Sy Berger was the face of Topps for over fifty years, and is one of the most important hobby industry pioneers in the history of collecting.

“No single individual played a greater role in creating the Topps products that made card collecting such an important part of popular culture in the 1950s to modern times,” Lifson said. “If it weren’t for Sy Berger’s contributions to the field, I’m not sure where we’d be. It is a special honor for us to have the opportunity to work with Sy. Even talking to him, I feel like I’m ten years old. It’s a great thrill for us.”

Berger’s collection includes, among many other items, 117 original paintings used to create the 1953 Topps bubble-gum card set.

The Merkle Ball. Possibly the most incredible and historically significant item in this year’s auction is the famous “Merkle Ball.”

The ball was held by Chicago second baseman Johnny Evers that, when he touched second base, reversed a game-winning hit and changed the course of the 1908 pennant race for the New York Giants.

Rookie Fred Merkle, playing in his first full game ever, found himself on first base in the bottom of the ninth, with the potential winning run on third and Giants shortstop Al Bridwell at the plate. When Bridwell lined a single to center, the Giants scored what appeared to be the winning run. Unfortunately, since Merkle had simply followed baseball tradition by scampering to the clubhouse to avoid the fans swarming the field, he never touched second base.

In the confusion of a seemingly lost game, Chicago second baseman Evers produced this baseball, stepped on second, and demanded that Merkle be called out at second on a technicality, invoking a little-enforced rule. When the umpire ruled Merkle out at second, the winning run was negated. Mayhem ensued, and has never really abated. Since the field was then unplayable due to impending darkness and the presence of thousands of fans on the field, the game was called a tie.

The season ended with the Giants and Cubs in a tie for first place, which forced the tie game to be replayed. This time, the Cubs won handily, thereby winning the National League pennant. Had Merkle simply touched second base, everything would have been different.

This baseball represents perhaps the most controversial call in baseball history – the one that resulted in Merkle being vilified by fans and media for his entire career, and also represents the event that led to the Cubs’ last World Series Championship.

The “Merkle Ball” was personally saved as a special keepsake by Johnny Evers and comes with an affidavit directly from the Evers family (reserve $25,000; estimate: open).

The Jerry Smolin Collection. The auction also features the Jerry Smolin Collection of historic 19th and 20th century baseball programs.

Smolin has been well-known as a baseball historian and true connoisseur of baseball memorabilia for decades. He is one of the few collectors or dealers whose experience spans from the earliest days of the organized hobby as we know it to the present day.

His collection includes many of the greatest program rarities known to exist and is the finest collection of its type to ever come to auction. Included are many extraordinary scorecards from 1872 through 1914.

T206 Honus Wagner. A copy of the hobby’s “holy grail” returns to the REA auction block.

This time, a PSA 1 (PR-FR) example is offered with a $50,000 reserve and a $150,00 pre-sale estimate.

The card has been locked away in a safe deposit box for the past 25 years by its owners, a father and son collecting team, who purchased the card along with a complete T206 set for $10,000 at a Connecticut card show in the 1980s.

“But it’s important to remember,” notesLifson, “that in 1985, $10,000 for baseball cards was real money. Just like today, there are people who thought that was a crazy price at the time. But that’s just what it was worth back then.”

Legendary Card Rarities. In addition to the “Connecticut Wagner,” the REA sale will include virtually every one of the baseball card collecting world’s most revered cards.

One special highlight is a 1909-11 T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb Back (est. $25,000+; res. $10,000), one of only approximately a dozen known. Also offered will be a 1910 T210 Old Mill tobacco card of Joe Jackson (res. $25,000) featuring Jackson in the minor leagues long before stardom and the Black Sox scandal of 1919. This particular card, among the rarest and most sought-after of all tobacco cards, has the added distinction of having once owned by legendary collector Barry Halper.

Three different extremely rare T206 Eddie Plank cards will be offered. Two are graded GOOD 30 by SGC (one with a $5,000 reserve and an estimate of $10,000/$20,000; the other with a $2,500 reserve and an estimate of $5,000/$10,000) and one graded VG 40 by SGC (with a $10,000 reserve and an estimate of $20,000/$30,000).

The finest example in the world of one of Ty Cobb’s most important cards, the 1911 D304 Brunners Bread Ty Cobb (graded NM-MT by PSA) is featured (reserve $25,000, estimate: open).

Also represented is the classic 1993 Goudey Nap Lajoie, graded EX/NM 80 by SGC (reserve: $5,000, estimate: $10,000/$20,000).

Two examples of Babe Ruth’s M101-4/5 Sporting News rookie card, one of the most famous and popular of all baseball cards, and the first to feature Ruth in the Major Leagues as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox, are included in the auction, one in Excellent condition (res. $5,000; est. $10,000/$20,000+), the other in astounding Near Mint condition (res. $10,000; estimate: open).

Nineteenth Century Baseball. Nineteenth-century baseball cards and items of great historical significance have always been a special area of interest for REA. .

A newly-discovered example of the famous 1889 Round Album poster is a special highlight (res. $25,000; est. $50,000+).

An original circa 1865 albumen photograph of James Creighton, baseball’s first superstar, is the first photo of Creighton to ever come to auction and has been consigned directly from the family of legendary collector and sports writer Charles W. Mears (res. $10,000).

Over 800 Old Judge baseball cards issued by Goodwin & Co from 1886 to 1890 will be up for bid, one of the largest offerings of Old Judges to ever come to auction. This unprecedented offering includes at least one of every Hall of Famer in the set, several important newly discovered checklist additions, a near-complete set of 1886 N172 Old Judge New York Mets “Spotted Ties” (reserve: $2,500, estimate: $5,000/$10,000+), and a particularly extraordinary high-grade example of 1889 N172 Old Judge of key Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty that is graded NM 84 by SGC (est. $5,000/$10,000; res. $2,500).

Also presented will be N173 Old Judge cabinets of Hall of Famers Roger Connor and Tim Keefe; a selection of 1887 N690 Kalamazoo Bats cards highlighted by a rare New York Mets portrait card of Al Mays (res. $10,000); a newly discovered 1893 Just So Tobacco card of Buck Ewing (res. $5,000), the only documented copy in existence, which was literally found in the wall of a house being remodeled in Pennsylvania (when the bathroom was broken through. It was discovered nailed to a wood beam, having likely been used as a marker during construction in the 1890s.

There is a newly-discovered 1887 Red Stocking Cigar card of Charles “Hoss” Radbourn (reserve: $5,000, estimate: $10,000) and one of 19th century card collecting’s most intriguing and extreme rarities: an N172 Old Judge California League player – Cornelius Doyle of the San Francisco team of the California League. This is the first California League Old Judge that REA has ever had the opportunity to auction, and has a reserve of $100,000.

1933 Goudey Gum Uncut Sheets. The auction includes two of card collecting’s greatest uncut sheets: The finest example in the world of the famous “Triple Ruth Sheet” which features 24 cards including three Babe Ruths and one Lou Gehrig (res. $25,000; est. $50,000+); and a 1933 Goudey “Bengough Sheet”, one of only two examples known and also the finest in the world, featuring key early number condition rarities including #1 Benny Bengough. This is the first “Bengough Sheet” to ever come to auction (res.$5,000; est. $10,000+).

The Fred Tenney Collection: One of the great highlights of the auction and a special honor to present is The Fred Tenney Collection, consigned directly from the family.

The Tenney Collection includes Fred Tenney’s 1908 New York Giants jersey (res. $5,000), Tenney’s Game-Used First Baseman’s Glove, as well as perhaps his most treasured keepsake: the 1897 Boston Trophy Ball, the decorated game ball that clinched the pennant for Boston over Baltimore on Septemeber 27, 1897.

Game-Used Bats: The auction features three of the finest Babe Ruth game-used bats in existence. Each dates from a different period of his career, and is of superior quality according to REA.

The 1916-1920 Ruth game-used bat was once the prize Ruth bat of the famous Barry Halper Collection; the 1920s Ruth game-used bat was a Christmas gift directly from Ruth to his great friend, restauranteur Jimmy Donahue, and is personally signed, dated (December 25, 1924), and inscribed to Donahue by Ruth; the third Ruth bat dates from 1934 and is the actual bat Ruth used to hit home run #702; it is signed by the Yankees team, including Ruth and Gehrig, and is accompanied by documentation that includes newspaper accounts tracing the bat’s history directly from Ruth’s hands, when he gave it as a special gift between games of a double-header in 1934. It is one of only three known fully documented Ruth home run bats. Each carries a minimum bid of $25,000 and an estimate of $50,000+.

Other game-used bats include those used by Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Frank Robinson, Miller Huggins, Joe Cronin, among others, as well as more modern stars such as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

Also included is by far the finest Ty Cobb bat Robert Edward Auctions has ever offered and what REA calls “arguably the finest Ty Cobb bat in the world”, an early 1920s side-written example that is graded A10 by MEARS (res. $25,000; est. $50,000+).

Game-Used Uniforms: Included are Al Kaline’s 1954 rookie jersey (res. $5,000, est); 1911 Jack Killilay Boston Red Sox Road Jersey (Res. $2,500; est. $5,000/$10,000); 1919 Muddy Ruel New York Yankees Home Jersey, recently found in the Harry M. Stevens estate! (res. $2,500); 1969 Orlando Cepeda Atlanta Braves Game-Used Home Jersey (res. $2,500; est. $5,000+). In addition to uniforms, the auction includes Sandy Koufax’s circa 1955 game-used Brooklyn Dodgers Cap (res. $2,500; estimate: open).

Autographs: Signed photos of legends such as Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth from the collection of hobby pioneer Larry Killeen, assembled with great care over a span of decades beginning in the 1950s, will be featured.

The collection includes thousands of autographs including checks, photos, letters, and one of the most advanced collections of signed Hall of Fame postcards ever assembled. Single-signed Hall of Fame balls include those autographed by Warren Giles, Chuck Klein, Ed Walsh, Bill Klem, Tom Connolly Willie Wells, Hilton Smith, Elmer Flick, Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper, Chick Hafey, and Sam Crawford, in addition to spectacular high-grade examples of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb.

The highlight of all autographed items in the auction may be the 1933 Ed Hanlon Letter (res. $5,000), originating from the collection of early hobby pioneer Dr. John O’Meara. It is the only Hanlon letter to ever come to auction and may be the only example known.

Rare Books: Baseball’s history in the 18th century is revealed in a rare book offered in the auction. A Little Pretty Pocketbook, by John Newberry, published in 1787 by Isaiah Thomas, Worcester, Massachusetts (res. $5,000; est. $10,000+).

It is one of fewer than five examples known to exist and features the first known appearance in print of the word “Base-ball”. Examples of the 1861 Base Ball Player’s Pocket Companion (Res.$2,500; est. 5,000+) and 1868 Chadwick’s American Game of Base Ball (Res.$2,500; est. 5,000+) are also featured, each universally recognized as among the most important and rare of all early baseball volumes.

Memorabilia: Extremely rare example of a 1922 New York Giants World Series ring – the first World Series ring ever produced. Issued to Hall of Fame outfielder Ross Youngs, it remains in near-pristine condition (reserve $10,000; estimate $25,000+).

Other memorabilia items include: Lou Gehrig’s 1938 Signed New York Yankees Contract from his last full season (res. $5,000); a four-foot tall 1928 Fro-Joy Ice Cream freestanding diecut advertising display (res. $10,000; estimate: open); and the “Mighty Casey” Original Bronze Statue by Mark Lundeen – The most famous of all baseball bronzes – Currently on Display at the Baseball Hall of Fame, on loan since 1987 (reserve $10,000; estimate: open).

Prewar Card Rarities. REA will have an exceedingly rare 1915 Victory Tobacco Ty Cobb Graded GOOD 30 by SGC (res.$5,000 est. $10,000); a 1915 E145 Cracker Jack Joe Jackson, graded EX-MT 6 by PSA (res. $2,500, est.$5,000/$10,000); and a high-grade 1916 M101-4 Sporting News Joe Jackson (graded PSA 7 with a reserve of $5,000 and an estimate of $10,000+).

The collecting of rare T206 advertising backs has long been a very popular area of collecting but no one has ever assembled a complete set. That may change soon.

This auction will be the first in the history of collecting to include every rare advertising back in the T206 set. Included in the offering will even be the famous Southern League Old Mill Overprint back, the only example known of one of T206 collecting’s most legendary rarities.

Additional pre-war baseball cards highlights include: The highest-grade example of T205 Gold Border R. Hoblitzell “no stats” variation (graded PSA EX-MT 6), the key rarity of the T205 set (res. $5,000; est. $10,000+); a collection of six 1904 Allegheny Card Company cards (res. $1,500, est. $3,000+); an extraordinary selection of W600 Sporting Life cabinets including Ty Cobb (res. $1,500, est.$3,000/$5,000) and Christy Mathewson (res. $5,000, est. $10,000+); 1909-1911 T206 Walter Johnson – PSA MINT 9 – Highest Graded (res. $10,000; est. $25,000+); a high-grade 1909 E90-1 American Caramel Joe Jackson (his rookie card) graded EX 5 by PSA (res. $10,000, est.$20,000+); a 1910 T210 Casey Stengel graded EX-MT 6 by PSA (reserve: $10,000, estimate: open); and an offering of fifteen different examples from the 1911 T208 Cullivan’s Fireside tobacco cards including Hall of Famers Chief Bender (graded VG 40 by SGC) and Home Run Baker (graded VG/EX 50 by SGC).

In some cases multiple examples of significant rarities are included: The auction presents five examples of the famous T206 Sherry Magie error card in varying grades; three T206 Ray Demmitt St. Louis American variations; three T206 Bill O’Hara St. Louis variations including one graded EX 5 by PSA; and three T207 Brown Background Louis Lowdermilks including the highest-graded example in existence (graded NM 7 by PSA).

Post-war baseball cards are also in abundance in this incredible sale, including several examples of the classic 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (graded PSA 6, SGC-50, and PSA 3); two high-grade 1954 Topps Hank Aaron rookie cards (both PSA NM-MT 8); a complete, uncut 1954 Wilson Franks sheet; and extraordinary, high-grade examples of 1950s and 1960s cards of the era’s top stars like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, and more.

PSA-Graded Sets: The highest-grade complete set of 1911 T-3 Turkey Red cards to ever come to auction is entirely graded by PSA (#2 on the PSA Registry; average grade 5.3), carries a reserve of $50,000, and is expected to sell for well in excess $100,000.

The sale includes the #1 ranked T207 Brown Background set on the PSA Set Registry. 146 of the 206 cards in the set are the highest graded examples. Because there are so many high value cards in the set, it has been broken down into twenty-nine lots, presenting the most valuable cards individually and in groups by condition.

Additional graded sets: A 1934-36 R318 Batter-Up set (#3 on the PSA registry, res.$10,000, est. $25,000+); 1938 R323 Goudey “Heads-Up” complete set (#7 on the PSA registry, res. $2,500; est. $5,000+); a 1949 Bowman PCL complete PSA-graded set (res. $2,500, est. $5,000+); a 1954 Bowman PSA-graded master set (#3 on the Registry, res. $5,000, est. $15,000); a 1956 Topps PSA-graded set (#11 on the Registry, res. $10,000, est. $30,000), a 1957 Topps PSA-graded master set (#5 on the Registry, res. $15,000, est. $30,000+); and a 1972 Topps PSA-graded set (#3 on the Registry, grade is 9.2, res. $15,000, estimate: $30,000+).

Complete Sets: a 1909 T204 Ramly complete set (reserve: $10,000, estimate: $20,000/$30,000); a 1910 T211 Red Sun Tobacco complete set minus one (reserve: $5,000, estimate: open); a 1909-11 T206 near-complete SGC-graded set (518 of 524, #9 on the registry – reserve: $15,000, estimate: $30,000+); a 1911 T205 Gold Border Master Set minus on, #1 on the SGC Registry (reserve: $10,000, estimate: $30,000); a 1916 M101-5 Sporting News complete PSA-graded set minus 4 (reserve: $10,000, estimate: $20,000/$30,000); a complete high-grade set of all six 1911 M110 Sporting Life Cabinets including Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Frank Chance, and Nap Lajoie, each offered individually; a 1913 T200 Fatima Team complete set, #1 on the SGC Registry (res. $2,500; est. $5,000+); a 1921 E253 Oxford Confectionery SGC-graded set (#1 on the Registry, res. $5,000, est. $10,000+); a 1933 R300 George C. Miller SGC-graded set (res. $5,000, est. open); an extraordinary high-grade 1957 Topps SGC-graded set (#1 on the SGC Registry, reserve: $25,000, estimate: $50,000 +); a 1968 Topps 3-D complete SGC-graded set (reserve: $2,500, estimate: open), plus complete or near-complete sets of virtually every major postwar issue from 1948 to 1972.

Other Sports: Sports other than baseball are also represented by a significant selection of extremely high quality items, including an extraordinary photo-matched 1969-70 Gordie Howe Detroit Red Wings game-worn jersey, one of the finest hockey jerseys in existence (res. $10,000; estimate: open); the #1 ranked 1949 Leaf Football set on the PSA Registry (reserve: $20,000, estimate: open); a complete 1957-58 Topps Basketball set (#1 on the SGC Registry, res.$5,000, est. $10,000+); a complete, PSA-graded 1968 Topps Test Basketball set (res.$5,000, est. $10,000+); a 1927 Churchman “Famous Golfers” complete set (#1 on the PSA Registry, res. $2,500, est.$5,000/$10,000); a 1964-65 Topps Hockey complete SGC-graded set (res.$2,500, est.$5,000+); and additional football, basketball, hockey, golf, and boxing cards and memorabilia.

Copies of the full-color premium catalog are available for free. To review the catalog online, learn more about Robert Edward Auctions, receive a complimentary copy of the catalog or inquire about consignments, visit