Like a heavyweight prize fight, online bidders were trading blow for blow in hot pursuit of the historical 1857 “Laws of Base Ball” documents in SCP Auctions’ 2016 Spring Premier auction, which concluded early Sunday morning. Once the dust had settled, an eye-popping high bid of $3,263,246, including a 20% buyer’s premium, secured the documents.
On Friday morning, the high bid was over $400,000 but in the final hours Saturday, activity picked up with bidders fighting until the wee hours.
The new owner’s name isn’t being revealed and it isn’t yet known whether that bidder will consider putting them on public display. They were originally purchased at a 1999 Sotheby’s book and manuscript auction for $12,650.
The author of the documents was only recently identified as Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams, who was then serving as President of the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club. Adams drafted the manuscript for presentation at the historic Base Ball Convention of 1857 in New York City. That connection to the origins of the game created intense interest among baseball history lovers and collectors.
Adams’ “Laws of Base Ball” were the focal point of the convention and among dozens of newly proposed rules and guidelines established for the first time including setting the base paths at 90 feet, the number of men to a side at nine, and the duration of the game at nine innings.
“The ‘Laws of Base Ball’ is a document of unparalleled importance in the history of America’s National Pastime. Its gravitas was recognized by a diverse collection of astute bidders who pushed the bidding to a record level,” said SCP Auctions’ Vice President Dan Imler. “This figure represents not only the highest price ever paid for a baseball document, but the third highest price ever for any piece of sports memorabilia.”
By comparison, two other foundational sports documents that have sold at public auction include James Naismith’s 1891 Original Rules of Basketball, which sold for $4.3 million in 2010, and The 1859 Original Rules of Soccer, which sold for $1.4 million in 2011.
The overall auction, which featured 1,310 lots including 166 from the prestigious Don Drysdale Estate Collection, brought in a total of $7.2 million. Other top bids included a 1952 Topps Baseball complete set, $125,331; an extremely rare collection of unused, graded tickets representing all 50 Super Bowls, $100,026; and the historic August 23rd, 1989 signed agreement between Major League Baseball and Pete Rose that banned Rose from baseball for life, $85,602.
The Drysdale collection, the largest personal assortment of Dodgers memorabilia ever offered publicly, was led by the sale of the late Hall of Famer’s 1963 L.A. Dodgers World Series championship ring, which went for $110,111, and his 1962 Cy Young Award, which sold for $100,100. In addition, his 1965 Dodgers World Series championship ring fetched $90,999, while his 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers game-worn rookie season uniform captured $82,727.
Other highlights from the auction included:
- 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Card #164 (NM-MT PSA 8) – $73,408
- 1961-62 Fleer Basketball Unopened 24-Count Wax Box, All GAI Graded – $68,367
- 1936 R327 Diamond Stars Baseball One-of-a-Kind Uncut Sheet – $62,256
- Dallas Baker’s 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl Championship Ring – $62,152
- 1949 Hollywood Gold Cup Won by Solidarity, 63 Ounces of Solid 14K Gold – $51,363
A 1956 game-worn Sandy Koufax Brooklyn Dodgers jersey soared past $300,000 late in the week, but did not meet the consignor’s reserve price.
All prices of sold items include the buyer’s premium. Full auction results are available at www.scpauctions.com.
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