They weren’t collectors.
They weren’t even avid sports fans, but members of a southwestern Pennsylvania family knew the little stack of baseball cards was old and so they reached out to see what they had. Luckily, they were friends with a relative of someone who just happened to be in the sports memorabilia business.
Bundled together with a piece of twine and virtually untouched over the last 68 years, the family said the group of 78 cards had been saved by their late father. The cards were stored inside a box in his attic along with some of his other childhood toys.
Did we mention they were 1952 Topps high numbers, including Mickey Mantle?
Al Crisifulli of Love Of The Game Auctions counts the newly-discovered treasures among the hundreds of lots inside his current auction after putting a mask on to see the little collection for himself. With a few exceptions, he wasn’t disappointed in what his cousin’s friends had uncovered.
“The cards were incredible,” Crisafulli recalled. “I sat with the family in their kitchen, going through these cards one by one, and most of them were sharp and vibrant, like they were straight out of the pack. Aside from the typical Topps centering issues, the only thing I noted was that some of the cards appeared a little narrow.”
Upon submission to PSA, the majority of the cards received grades between 6 and 8. There was a copy of the scarce Eddie Mathews rookie that graded EX-MT+ 6.5, and a sharp Jackie Robinson that graded EX-MT 6. The Mantle, unfortunately, received an “Authentic” grade. The card is 1/16″ narrow, a significant enough variation to prevent the card from attaining a numerical grade.
“The idea that these cards could ever have been trimmed seems very unlikely to us,” opined Crisafulli. “The original owner has had them packed away in boxes for decades, and his family is unfamiliar with the hobby. At the same time, there’s no question that some of the cards are narrow.
“Regardless, the Mantle has got to be one of the most beautiful ‘Authentic’ examples in the hobby, and we think it has a good shot at setting a record for the highest price paid for a ’52 Mantle in that grade.”
There was only one duplicate–Ed Wright, one of which the family decided to keep as a momento of the find.
The auction also features a number of seldom-seen cards, including a 1910 T210 Old Mill Casey Stengel rookie card, a 1902-11 W600 Sporting Life Christy Mathewson cabinet, a very rare 1888 N403 Yum Yum Tobacco John Clarkson, and a 1888 N172 Old Judge Cabinet of long ago home run king Roger Connor.
Among the most valuable items in the sale is an original Type 1 photo of Babe Ruth from his days with the Boston Red Sox in the 1915-1919 era. The photo shows a young Ruth, taking a practice cut in front of the grandstand at Fenway Park. It was usued in the 1920 Draper & Maynard Equipment catalog.
The sale also features two game-used pieces from milestone seasons: a game-worn jersey from Jim Palmer’s 1975 Cy Young season, and a game-used bat from Mike Schmidt’s 1980 MVP season. Both pieces come from the legendary collection of former Baltimore Orioles broadcaster Ted Patterson.
Other items from the Patterson collection, which is being sold through several LOTG auctions, include advertising display pieces, game-worn memorabilia, and cards.
Crisafulli explained that his favorite item in the auction was a full uniform worn by infielder Frankie Skaff of the 1944-46 Baltimore Orioles of the International League. “I can’t believe how heavy it is,” he said. “The flannel jersey and pants are thick and bulky. On top of that, the stirrups are heavy, woolen, shaker-knit socks that go all the way to the knee. I can’t imagine wearing these clothes in the middle of August, during the day. They’re truly beautiful, though – an outstanding document of baseball coming out of the War.”
Collectors of the 1917 Collins-McCarthy baseball set have a shot at putting a serious dent in their sets with the LOTG sale which offers a group of 124 including key cards like Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander.
Keeping in line with Love of the Game auctions’ specialties, the sale features a large selection of 19th and early 20th Century cards and memorabilia, a host of seldom-seen or unique items, a grouping of tough prewar type cards, and a number of seldom-seen vintage baseball photos.
The auction also includes a large grouping of postwar cards, some key present-day superstars, important rookie cards and unopened material, including a BBCE-authenticated 1976 Topps football box.
Tickets, Passes and Programs
In addition to a large group of vintage World Series tickets and stubs, the auction includes a large assortment of important baseball and football programs, including World Series games, NFL championships, and milestone games (like the first-ever game played by the Dallas Cowboys).
The final date to bid is Saturday, August 29. LOTG’s next auction takes place this fall, with consignments now being accepted. Registration, bidding and consignment information is available on the company’s website.