What is believed to be the earliest documented baseball autograph collection hits the auction block on Friday, one that includes some names even advanced collectors don’t have.
Originally gathered inside one of two autograph books, the collection features over 44 signatures from 19th and early 20th century baseball greats including 19th century Hall of Famer George S. Davis, legendary manager Frank Selee, Jesse Burkett, William “Dummy” Hoy, and a very early autograph of “Denton T. Young”, better known as Cy.
The autographs have been culled from the book and were recently authenticated by PSA/DNA. They are being sold as individual pages of pedigreed lots inside Goldin Auctions’ October Legends sale, which was set to open Friday.
“Considering the dates of origin and the stars within the album, these are remarkable finds, and the Davis signature is a tremendous rarity. With this recently surfaced example, there are now only three total examples of Davis’ signature,” said PSA/DNA President and Collectors Universe CEO Joe Orlando.
Davis was one of the early stars of the game, and was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame in 1995, fifty-five years after his death. Considering the Hall of Famer had no surviving family members to share examples of his signature, the discovery of even one autograph is important.
According to Goldin Auctions, the books were in the possession of a family whose great-grandfather was a page in the U.S. Senate in the 1890s. One book contained political autographs and will be for sale in another auction later this year. Because of the nature of the two autograph albums, one political and one baseball, it’s possible that the baseball names were obtained from athletes visiting Washington at the time.
Predating the superstar era of the 1920s onward when autograph collecting became more commonplace, the autographs are scarce.
“Forget the rarity of some of the names within this collection for whom few, if any other, examples are known to exist. The fact that these signatures were obtained in 1892 by someone who collected them as autographs makes this the earliest documented baseball autograph collection known. And their uniqueness as part of this ‘first’ collection cannot be overstated,” said PSA/DNA Authenticator Kevin Keating.
The players were members of the Washington Senators, Boston Beaneaters, Cleveland Spiders and Louisville Colonels. The original owner may have gotten the autographs of the visiting teams when they visited Washington.
“To find intact autograph albums from the 19th century, although they do exist, they’re very rare,” Keating told the Great American Collectibles Show this week. “Who was collecting baseball autographs in the 1900s? “When I was at the National this summer, Goldin Auctions asked me to come over and take a look at this and my jaw just hit the floor.”
Autographs of the 1924 World Series champion Washington Senators, including Walter Johnson, were obtained later and are also being sold as part of the “Senate Page Collection.”