What do Jackie Robinson’s life insurance, Reggie Jackson’s World Series tickets and Ty Cobb’s heating bill have in common?
The first five members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, two of the game’s greatest home run hitters and its peerless pioneer are represented in a collection of signed checks currently up for bid in Memory Lane Inc’s Hidden Treasures Auction.
Offered individually, they are some of the finest graded baseball autographs in existence, offering collectors the opportunity to bid on checks signed by the likes of Christy Mathewson (PSA 10), Honus Wagner (PSA 10), Walter Johnson (PSA 10), Babe Ryth (PSA 9), Ty Cobb (PSA 10 and PSA 9), Hank Aaron (PSA 10), Stan Musial (PSA 10) and Reggie Jackson (PSA 9). Some of the checks actually connect the players to signature moments in their lives and careers.
The Mathewson check, one of only two ever accorded the PSA 10 (gem mint) label, was signed and dated December 22, 1924, less than a year prior to the great pitcher’s death from complications of tuberculosis. Mathewson’s World War I service put him in contact with poison gas and he died in 1925, less than two decades after he was one of the game’s most respected and feared competitors. The check was obtained by a 1940s-era collector who wrote to Matty’s wife asking for anything signed by her husband. Apparently, it wasn’t the first request. Included with the check is a note from his wife Jane reading “This is the last autograph I will be able to send”. She signed it “Mrs. Mathewson”. Current high bid on the check was approaching $17,000 early in the week.
A player’s signature on a check is a personal link to that player’s day-to-day life. Personal checks are the great equalizer between fan and star athlete. They prove that virtually no one is immune from paying the electric bill, buying insurance or drawing on an account for spending money. To conduct financial business, at some point you have to sign your name. There are no clubhouse attendants to fake it. No rubber stamps or autopens.
The Ruth check (PSA 9 mint) is written for cash to Chemical Bank and Trust in 1941. One of the Cobb checks is made out to Pacific Gas & Electric; the Wagner to a local department store and the Walter Johnson to a bank for five dollars worth of walking around money. We know Stan Musial paid his taxes in 1944, because the “10” graded check offered by Memory Lane is the one Musial wrote to the Internal Revenue Service in 1944—for $169.89. He signed it “Stanley”. Jackie Robinson was just a year removed from his ground-breaking entry into the big leagues when he penned his name on a $575 check written to Penn Mutual Life Insurance—securing his future after proving he belonged in the major leagues.
Still, other checks can open a window to history. The mint check signed by Reggie Jackson is made out to the New York Yankees for $1140. It’s dated October 11 with a note reading “World Series tickets”. This very check, it would appear, is what Reggie handed to the team as payment for tickets he would give to family and friends. That night, the Yankees won game one of the Series. Exactly one week later, Jackson would make history with his three home run game against the Dodgers, cementing his MVP performance and a date with Cooperstown.
More than most autographed sports items, the nature of signed checks offers the collector more peace of mind in matters of authenticity. This group of checks comes from a collector with an eye for the finest quality autographed pieces, symmetrical as a niche in autograph collecting.
Dozens of signed items are among the hundreds of lots available to collectors in the auction. Bidding is underway now and will close December 12. Full color catalogs are available through Memory Lane Inc and you can also browse the listings online through the auction portal or on the virtual catalog. Phone bids are also accepted. To register, visit the website or call (877) 606-LANE.