Sports Collectors Daily

Ruth Rookie, Record Price for Rare McKinley Card Push REA Auction Over $4 Million

For years, the hobby wondered whether Robert Edward Auctions would add another event to its annual spring catalog full of of rare sports cards and memorabilia.  The answer became ‘yes’ in October of 2013 and after a successful debut, the company’s second Fall Auction brought even more extraordinary material to the table.  When the dust settled early Sunday morning, collectors had made it clear:  two REA auctions per year are better than one.

Paced by the sale of an exceedingly-rare 1932 U.S. Caramel William McKinley card ($96,000) and a 1916 M101-5 Babe Ruth rookie ($84,000), the auction ended with total proceeds of $4,072,980. Of the 1,410 lots offered in the 426-page catalog, 98.5% of them sold.

“The auction was amazingly successful,” said REA President Rob Lifson. “The interest from collectors was incredible and the amount realized was considerably more than we anticipated.”

While vintage baseball items are the company’s bread and butter and hundreds of such lots were sold, it was the McKinley card that brought the largest bid.  The rarest card in a scarce set of U.S. Presidents (U.S. Caramel also produced a popular baseball set that year), fewer than ten McKinley cards are known to exist.  Remarkably, it had been offered on a $9.99 Buy it Now last spring by an eBay seller who didn’t know its true value.  The seller quickly realized his mistake after the card was purchased, and the buyer wanted to be fair. After discussing, the buyer and seller agreed to cooperate so both could profit.  Together, they consigned the card to REA where it achieved a world record price–not just for the McKinley== but for any non-sport card, according to company officials.

“It’s a great story,” Lifson said.  “Each wanted to be fair to other other and both knew they would benefit in the long run so they turned this terrific find into a win-win situation.  To see the price reach almost six figures and set a world record for a non-sport card is a result they both deserved. Of course we were excited to be chosen to sell the card. But to see it do so extraordinarily well, selling for far more than twice what they expected, just makes it a great auction story. Sometimes everything works out.”

The classic Ruth rookie card continued a trend of strong interest in one of his earliest mainstream cards but another piece showcasing a young Bambino created a splash too.  A newly-discovered 1915 Red Sox team photo postcard sold for $21,000.

Those weren’t the only Ruth-related pieces, however. He appeared on a 1933 Goudey uncut sheet of 24 cards that also drew strong interest before closing with a realized price of $36,000, while an autographed Ruth baseball, in possession of the same family for three generations and offered at auction for the first time, rocketed to $39,000.  Sitting in dresser drawers for most of its life, the ball remained in the original box and had been consigned after family members had it appraised during a recent event at the Yogi Berra Learning Center and Museum in New Jersey.  A one-of-a-kind 1917 Ruth photo brought $16,800.

REA offered one of the 12 best T206 Eddie Plank cards in PSA’s Set Registry in the Fall Auction and the 4.5 rated example soared to $66,000.  One of the ‘big four’ rarities in the set, the Plank card, many believe, is still undervalued considering its scarcity.

Collectors who appreciate vintage baseball card history gravitated toward a remarkable lot of eight 1933 World Wide Gum (Candian Goudey) uncut proof sheets representing the color processes for 24 low-number series cards, including card #1 Benny Bengough and seven Hall of Famers.  The group sold for $30,000.

Other highlights in the vintage card category included:

Ephemera from early New York baseball included several other unique pieces that garnered strong interest including Ross Youngs’ 1907 rookie contract with the Giants, which was hotly contested before ending at $39,000.  A 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers World Series ring originally presented to the club’s public relations director, Red Patterson, sold for $30,000 while a 1999 New York Yankees World Series ring with presentation box awarded to a former team vice president and friend of George Steinbrenner, Dick Smith, also hit the $30,000 mark.

A high quality 1922 canceled check signed by Christy Mathewson and including a letter of admonishment from his widow to Florida collectors who had been writing her for them in 1953, sold for $20,400.  A rare, dated ticket stub from the first game at Yankee Stadium in 1923 hit $19,200.

Robert Edward Auctions is now accepting high quality consignments for its Spring 2015 auction.  Information is available via the company’s website or by calling 908-226-9900.