After a delay of a few months, Jackie Robinson’s original professional baseball contracts with the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Montreal Royals are headed to the auction block.
Robinson broke the modern-era color line in major-league baseball when he signed with the Dodgers on April 11, 1947. Nearly two years earlier, Robinson signed a deal with the Dodgers’ top minor-league club in Montreal, on Oct. 23, 1945. Both documents will be sold by Goldin Auctions on Feb. 27 during a live sale celebrating Black History Month, according to Ken Goldin, the auction house’s founder and chairman.
Goldin also said that 10 percent of the purchase price will be donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
The auction was originally going to take place last fall but was delayed until now.
According to rare document expert Seth Kaller, the two contracts have been appraised by $36 million. Kaller has also appraised other notable autographed documents, including Abraham Lincoln-signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and copies of the U.S. Constitution signed by Benjamin Franklin.
“There are many documents on display in museums that represent seminal moments in history, which forever changed America,” Goldin said in a statement. “But most historians believe that the integration of baseball with the signing of Jackie Robinson had as great an impact on America as any other moment in history.”
The two contracts will be sold together as a single lot. They have been authenticated by PSA/DNA, James Spence Authentication (JSA), Beckett Authentication Services and John Reznikoff of University Archives. The documents are currently insured by Chubb for $36 million.
“There is no question that these documents will appeal to buyers far beyond our hobby, generating the kind of interest that few sports-related collectibles can muster,” PSA President Joe Orlando stated in September.
The contracts, believed to be the only ones in existence, rested in a Brooklyn historian’s safe-deposit box for more than 60 years. Eventually, they were sold to a New York collector, then to Collectors Café CEO Mykalai Kontilai, who bought them in 2014. They are being offered at a public auction for the first time. Here is a link to a YouTube interview Kontilai did with a Montreal radio station.
“We are delighted with our partnership with Goldin Auctions that promotes Jackie Robinson’s legacy in baseball and in the Civil Rights Movement” said Della Britton Baeza, President and CEO of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. “We hope that the winning bidder will share these historic documents with the world. Of course, they will always have a home at the site of the future Jackie Robinson Museum both live in New York City and online.”
During the past two years, the contracts have been on public display at several museums and major league stadiums including the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, City Hall in Montreal, Times Square in New York City, Busch Stadium, Wrigley Field and elsewhere.
“We encourage philanthropists, museum curators, MLB team owners, corporations and anyone else with the means who loves baseball or supports the civil rights movement or wants to help preserve Jackie’s legacy, to step forward and take ownership of these historic documents,” Goldin said. “We look forward to an electric night of bidding on Feb. 27, but if the right buyer comes forward before the auction and can ensure these documents will continue to be shared with the public, we’ll certainly consider a private sale.”
Collectors interested in bidding on the Robinson contracts must register in advance to be approved for bidding. Registration is available on the Goldin Auctions website or by calling 856-767-8550.