The only known original example of one of the greatest baseball photographs ever taken sold for $77,098 early Sunday morning through RMY Auctions. It’s believed to be a record price for a 20th century sports photo.
The auction marked the first time the image of Charles Conlon’s ‘Ty Cobb Sliding’ had ever been offered publicly. The iconic photo, taken at Hilltop Park in New York in July of 1910, is one of the most recognized Cobb photos ever taken. The 8×10 silver gelatin photo captures the image most fans have of Cobb, grimacing as he slides hard into third base where Jimmy Austin of the Detroit Tigers was taking the throw.
Bidding began at $25 but quickly jumped to over $1,000 in the opening hours of the auction. A flurry of activity on the final day pushed the price over the $50,000 expectation.
“I was happy the market dictated this,” stated RMY’s Rhys Yeakley. “It is the one and only opportunity for a collector to get a special item. There were a large number of bids and so many people were up watching the results that our website could barely handle it.”
Portions of the photo have chipped away over time, but as the lone example ever put into the marketplace, interest was expected to be strong. PSA/DNA has certified the photo as Type I with RMY adding its Vintage I assessment.
Amazingly, the photo, which has been reprinted thousands of times, was almost never taken.
With dirt flying from Cobb’s slide, Conlon began tumbling backward as he wielded his heavy Graflex camera. He wasn’t certain he’d pressed the shutter but upon returning to his office he realized he had captured the image. Over time, its profile has increased as memorabilia collectors and photography experts realize its superior quality, even among Conlon’s classic works.
Conlon’s own handwriting on the back identifies the players and his studio stamp is stamped and printed in the center.
A small paper caption was glued to the front of the photo for display years ago but RMY officials say a paper conservator could remove it if desired.
RMY offered 479 original Conlon images as part of its 1300-lot auction including rare depictions of Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Jim Thorpe, Chief Bender, Eddie Plank and Grover Cleveland Alexander.
Among the prices attained:
- 1912 Christy Mathewson Conlon portrait $6,714
- 1917 Bobby Jones; news photo of 15-year-old golf icon $3,922
- 1926 Lou Gehrig hands on hips World Wide Photos news image $2,404
- 1917 Jim Thorpe Conlon photo $2,289
Yeakley was pleased with the landmark sale of the Cobb photo and the overall results of the Fall Premier Auction, the company’s last major event of 2015 as interest in vintage photographs continues to rise.
“RMY Auctions is proud to have been able to offer such an important piece and will continue to bring the best vintage photographs to the market,” he told SC Daily. “In fact I am across the country as I write this getting ready to dig into our next big archive.”
For complete results from the auction, visit click here.