Over 1,000 vintage and historic baseball items were on the block in Louisville this weekend with six pieces selling for at least $30,000 each.
A bat created for Mickey Mantle at the Louisville Slugger factory in 1960 came back to Kentucky on Saturday, this time as a precious relic of baseball history. The 1960 World Series gamer grabbed the highest bid in Hunt Auctions’ third annual Museum & Factory baseball memorabilia sale at $49,450 including a 15% buyer’s premium.
The bat was part of a huge auction conducted in the museum. Bidders and spectators witnessed the sale in person but there were hundreds of bids registered by phone and via the internet for a wide range of sports memorabilia and vintage baseball cards. Over 1,000 lots were sold.
The second most popular bat in the auction was a Tris Speaker 1928 model with factory side writing and a return shipping label from the Philadelphia Athletics. It brought $34,500.
Several items from the family of John Quinn highlighted the two-day event including a photograph taken during the 1934 U.S. Major League All Star team tour of Japan that featured Quinn, Babe Ruth Lou Gehrig. Autographed by the three, the photo sold for $46,000. A presentation album from the tour featuring autograph sheets carrying the signatures of Hall of Famers like Ruth, Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and even catcher-spy Moe Berg as well as Japanese player autographs and numerous photographs sold for $31,050.
The Quinn family literally walked into the Hunt offices in Pennsylvania. “A lot of the images in the album have never been published before,” said Hunt Auctions President David Hunt. “It’s worth a lot of money but historically it’s interesting to see them and bring them to the public to see how they react.”
Among the other higher valued pieces of memorabilia that sold: A uniform worn by Steve O’Niell during a 1924 World tour brought $31,050 and a 1873 Boston Red Stockings cabinet photo consigned by the heirs of Deacon White was sold for $35,650. A Lloyd Waner Pirates road uniform (1936) went for $27,600.
Top honors in the baseball card offerings went to a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth (#53) graded SGC 84 (near mint) which brought $28,750. Vintage tobacco and caramel cards were part of the Hunt Auctions sale as well highlighted by a 1910 Standard Caramel (E93) Ty Cobb card which sold for nearly double the pre-sale estimate. Final price was $27,600.
Hunt believes the baseball’s recent resurgence helps the vintage card and memorabilia market. “The market is very strong and healthy. It’s the most successful year ever and that helps. Baseball is baseball and every other sport follows. It’s interesting to see how that flows through to our market as well.”
Three significant pieces did not sell: The Shoeless joe Jackson professional model bat with a pre-sale estimate of $75-125,000, a Ty Cobb bat and the 1951 National League MVP trophy presented to Roy Campanella.
· 1923 Yankees World Championship reunion autographed baseball ($24,150
· 1887 Detroit Wolverines World Championship Dauvray Cup pendant $23,000
· 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle SGC 70 $20,700
· 1933 Goudey Ruth #149 SGC 84 $17,250
· 1914 Crackerjack Ty Cobb EX to EX/NM $16,675
The auction began in 2004 with a combination of consigned pieces and non-essential or duplicate items from Louisville Slugger’s archives. Hunt Auctions turns a portion of the proceeds over to the museum’s fund for the purchase of significant items. “It’s become one of the premier places for historic game-used bats. We have lots of consignments because people want them in this auction which is what our original goal was.” Hunt told Sports Collectors Daily.
The proliferation of auction companies has meant major auctions appearing virtually every couple of weeks in the hobby. Obtaining the best items has become a challenging quest, even for the top companies. The search for customers and consignments prodded Hunt to create appraisal fairs like the one at the Museum on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week.
“It’s extraordinarily competitive," Hunt admitted. "Like any field, the better firms survive. We’ve been fortunate and have worked a very long time to get the reputation of being fair. Our associations with places like H & B and Major League Baseball have really helped. We’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to that. It’s the right way to do it and you can see the outstanding results. At the end of the day, that’s what the auctioneer’s job is.”
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