The auction catalog has yet to be mailed, but bidding in Robert Edward Auctions’ annual blockbuster event surpassed $3 million in the first 24 hours of online activity beginning Friday. It was the company’s largest opening day ever. Over 6,300 bids were placed during the first day.
The jaw-dropping numbers strongly indicate there is growing interest from a wide variety of buyers interested in some of the sports collecting world’s rarest, most iconic baseball cards and memorabilia. The annual REA sale is also a favorite of advanced collectors, baseball history buffs and others in the industry for its star power and depth.
By mid-day Saturday, four pieces already had bids of over $100,000, including one of just ten known copies of the 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth rookie card. Graded PSA 1 (Poor), it had skyrocketed to $270,000— already over $117,000 more than the final selling price when it was last offered publicly at auction by REA in 2009. The company sold a PSA 2 example in a private transaction last September for $575,000.
Also attracting attention on opening weekend were the hobby’s ‘holy grail’, a PSA 1 T206 Honus Wagner which soared to $290,000, a NM/MT+ graded example of the ultra-popular 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle ($110,0000) and a one-of-a-kind uncut panel of four 1912 Boston Garter advertising cards featuring Hall of Famers Frank Chance and Fred Clarke ($120,000).
The Wagner card was once owned by actor Charlie Sheen who allowed it to be put on display at the All-Star Café in New York in the 1990’s. It was stolen from its display case and subsequently recovered in a headline-making case that earned the card the “All-Star Café Wagner” moniker. Graded PSA 1 (Poor), it has generated 20 bids and could be the latest Wagner card to set another price record if bidding continues apace. It last sold for $399,500 in 2009.
The Baltimore News Ruth was a promotional vehicle for the daily newspaper in Ruth’s hometown and shows him as a minor league pitcher. It is approximately five times rarer than the Wagner, with only ten examples known. The current $270,000 bid has beaten the pre-auction estimate by $70,000 with several weeks of open bidding ahead.
Fewer than 25 single cards from the 1912 Boston Garter issue are known to exist. The panel of four being offered by REA is the only example of its type known. One of the collecting world’s greatest finds, it was uncovered by Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen in the 1980s and has been in a private collection ever since.
In 2010, the only other PSA 8.5 1952 Topps Mantle sold at auction for $154,700. The well-centered copy in REA’s catalog appears to be on its way to matching or passing that number. Only ten ’52 Mantles have ever been graded higher and no cards higher than the REA 8.5 have been sold since 2006. All of those remain in private collections, making the 8.5 a particularly desirable prize for high end set collectors and investors alike.
Like the Ruth card, Joe Jackson appears on a minor league issue that has become one of the most sought after cards in history. The 1910 Old Mill Tobacco Jackson offered by REA grades SGC 30 (Good) and carried a bid of $60,000 into the first full week of the auction. The Old Mill issue shows Jackson with the New Orleans club and is Jackson’s only appearance on a card issued with tobacco. It’s also one of the very few cards of “Shoeless Joe” ever issued.
The next item to pass the six-figure mark could be a high quality 1963 Sandy Koufax game-worn road jersey. The Hall of Fame lefty’s gray flannel shirt already carries a bid of $80,000 into the first full week of the auction.
Another highlight is a Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig dual signed baseball, graded PSA/DNA 8.5, making it the best known example of the highly desirable pairing of Yankee legends. The ball has a current bid of $60,000.
Not every lot is aimed at the collector with a wealth of disposable income, though. The auction includes over 1,800 lots, many with starting bids of just $100 and hundreds of lots not yet even opened. That will likely change in the days ahead. Historically, 99% of items offered in the REA catalog are sold in the auction.
The REA catalogs are expected to ship at the end of this week. The final date of bidding in this year’s auction will be Saturday, May 18. Updated bidding can be tracked on the company’s website (http://www.