Cards from one of the hobby’s legendary collections, an impossibly rare 61-year-old unopened box of baseball cards and game-used items from long ago Baseball Hall of Famers are among more than 2,800 lots in Heritage Auctions’ Spring Sports Catalog Auction.
Se to close over three nights next month, the catalog includes a group of 73 high-grade 1952 Topps baseball cards pedigreed from The Lionel Carter Collection, so named for the man who famously accumulated only the very best of the very best.
To avid collectors of vintage cards, Carter’s name may be better known than most of the players on these cards – Ken Raffensberger, say, or Dick Kryhoski. One of the hobby’s true pioneers, Carter was a connoisseur, among the first to concentrate solely on well-centered, high quality. A good portion of his collection went straight from wax packs into his albums, where they remained until their auction debut 16 years ago.
Carter’s 1952 Topps collection alone consisted of what was likely the most extensive single assortment of Mint and Gem Mint cards from that historic set. Most of the 73 cards offered in the auction are the highest-graded examples.
“I expect the 1952 Topps cards from The Carter Collection are going to rewrite the record books for commons cards from the 1952 Topps set,” predicted Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage.
Another vintage card highlight is a 1st Series wax box of 1962 Topps Baseball. The 24-pack box is the first ever offered by Heritage. Saved by a collector since it was issued, the box was recently authenticated and is expected to sell for a six-figure price.
Some of baseball’s rarest cards are making their first appearances at auction: a select group of autographed baseball Exhibits cards from the 1920s. Purchased by a father and son in the 1970s, the group includes cards autographed by Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson and a 1925 rookie card signed by Lou Gehrig that’s one of just a handful known to exist.
The remainder of the extensive signed Exhibits collection will be offered in the coming months.
Among the memorabilia in the auction are the second pair of shoes LeBron James wore in an NBA game. Photo-matching reveals James laced up the size-15 Nike Air Zoom Generations on Oct. 30, 2003, when the 19-year-old Cleveland Cavalier dropped 21 points against the Phoenix Suns, beginning his two-decade-long march toward the NBA’s all-time career points record once held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Heritage calls them “unquestionably one of the most important artifacts of 21st-century sports ever to be placed upon the hobby’s auction block.”
There is a group of items from the late soccer legend, Pelé and includes some of his rarest trading cards and other memorabilia – photos, jerseys, pennants and programs – all owned by the man born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in poverty-stricken Brazil in 1940. Pelé signed each piece with accompanying video footage; to further ensure their authenticity, PSA witnessed and slabbed each piece.
Among the items autographed by Pelé: a copy of Diego Maradona’s limited-edition book The Maradona Opus, making this the only known edition signed by both men; a 1966 “Best Footballer In The World” original photo; a 2022 Neymar Barcelona Football Club jersey; a 1977 New York Cosmos pennant and numerous other one-of-a-kind items.
Among the baseball memorabilia in the sale is the Babe Ruth Sultan of Swat Award Crown awarded to Ted Williams in 1957.
The crown, befitting the last MLB player to bat over .400 in a season, came from Williams’ estate and hasn’t been seen since it was auctioned in 2012.
The Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ring presented to Williams on July 25, 1966 is also part of the sale.The ring, which comes with the original Balfour box and the cardboard packaging upon which Williams wrote, “Hall of fame ring.” There’s also a 35-ounce Hillerich & Bradsby bat Williams used in 1946 during his American League MVP and championship season.
Also up for grabs is a Stan Musial game-worn and signed jersey, recently photo-matched to June 12, 1957 – the same game during which Musial set the National League consecutive-games-played record at 823.
The road-gray flannel was worn during the last of his seven seasons as the National League’s batting champion, his .351 average besting runner-up Willie Mays by 18 points.
The final nights of bidding in the three session auction are May 11-13.