He lived in the same northern New Jersey house his entire life, an avid baseball fan and collector who quietly kept an always-growing collection of baseball cards, autographs and photos. He passed away in March at age 97 but the process of selling some of the sets and other items from his lifelong pursuit had been underway for a couple of years. It wasn’t until recently, though, that the extent of what “Uncle Jimmy” was leaving behind to family members truly became known.
Now, the rest of the never before seen collection is entering the market for the first time through Wheatland Auction Services. The quantity—and quality—is stunning.
The first items to be graded and authenticated by PSA/DNA included six Babe Ruth autographed 1933 Goudey baseball cards that were found in a binder in the attic of his home, along with hundreds of other signed 1933 and 1934 Goudey cards, including Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and dozens of other Hall of Famers, most in superb condition.
They were joined by hundreds of other autographed cards and virtually pack-fresh vintage baseball card singles and sets from later years, photos, signed newspaper clippings and thousands of other items, all collected from the 1930s to the present day.
“The Babe Ruth autographed cards alone are like nothing I have seen over four decades of collecting and advising sellers,” stated Chuck Whisman of Wheatland and VSM Sports Card Outlet. “They look like they were printed yesterday. The bold colors on the artistic style of the 1933 and 1934 Goudeys pop out. Usually, if you are lucky enough to find an autographed Goudey card, the card is well-worn, but this collection contains hundreds of pack-fresh cards with vividly bold autographs.”
As it turned out, those treasures were only the beginning.
Wheatland has put some of the collection in its current auction, but the rest will be spread throughout future sales to be held over the next several months. The size was overwhelming. Each binder and box revealed something fantastic.
A signed 1934 Butterfinger premium card of Ruth has been authenticated and received a “10” autograph grade. It’s now up for bids, along with numerous signed 1940 Play Ball cards from the collection, including one of Mel Ott. There are hundreds of unsigned cards from the Play Ball-Double Play era just prior to World War II, as well as some tobacco cards.
Over 1,000 baseball cards are still being authenticated and graded but much of the collection is still being sorted and organized in preparation for sale. Among those that have been graded and are ready for sale include a 1969 Reggie Jackson Topps Super rookie card (PSA 10), a 1949 Bowman Jackie Robinson (PSA 8), multiple 1951 Bowman cards graded PSA 9, 1965 Topps Pete Rose and Hank Aaron cards (both PSA 9), and a 1967 Topps Willie Mays, also graded 9.
There are many rare cards of Jimmy’s favorite team, the New York Yankees, including rarities of Ruth, Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle. The collection even included a 1963 Topps redemption plastic wall plaque of Mantle, one of only a small number known to exist.
Stacey Whisman, owner of Wheatland Auction Services, and her team in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, have spent countless hours over the past two months sorting through the collection and consulting with the family, which is asking for their names to remain private. It’s an amazing accumulation considering that Jimmy was simply an average guy. He spent much of his life doing factory work before becoming a school custodian.
“It was like taking a journey through Uncle Jimmy’s life, as the collection included letters to and from baseball players, teams, card manufacturers, and photographers. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to guide the family and help them bring thousands of rare items to market. Sorting and organizing this collection was like taking a walk through a baseball card museum. It was apparent that Uncle Jimmy loved baseball and collecting rare and high-quality cards was something he really cherished.”
Uncle Jimmy never married but his lifelong love affair with sports was monogamous. His home included only baseball memorabilia. There was not one football, basketball, or hockey card or collectible to be found among the boxes and piles scattered about.
True collectors are known to save nearly everything and Jimmy did, even the hundreds of envelopes returned to him from the players and teams he wrote to over the course of eight decades, many carefully chronicled in three ring binders.
Also included were envelopes from the studios of legendary baseball photographers with whom he’d corresponded, including George Burke and George Brace. One of the photos is a rare and famous Babe Ruth pose with a George Burke stamp on the back.
There was even a letter from the Yankees in response to Uncle Jimmy not being happy with the view from box seats he purchased for a game in the 1950s.
“I have been dealing in sports cards since I was a kid in the late 1970s and quality-wise, this collection is up there as one of the best I’ve ever seen,” remarked Glyn Parson, a lifelong collector and longtime hobby dealer. “You never see pack-fresh and vending box quality cards from the 1930s and up. Not just an amazing variety of mainstream sets, but also odd and regional sets that are in fantastic condition.”
Jimmy put sets together the old-fashioned way each year, opening packs, collating them and putting them away. Among the sets that will be on the market are his high-grade 1948 Bowman and Topps sets from 1956, 1965, 1967, 1970 and 1971. He also had numerous obscure vintage sets.
He also put cards together by player and indicated the year they made the Hall of Fame – so a 1933 signed Dizzy Dean Goudey card could be found in a box of 1990s common cards.
There are also a ton of PM10 stadium pins from the Yankees and Dodgers that were apparently obtained during his frequent trips to the ballpark. There are World Series programs and yearbooks in pristine condition. Some pennants and even a few bobbleheads.
About three quarters of what is in Wheatland’s current auction originated with this collection but there are other items on consignment as well. Among the highlights:
*Numerous unopened boxes including 2000 UD Pros & Prospects Football (Tom Brady rookie year), 1997-1998 Topps Chrome Basketball box, 1982 Topps Baseball hobby box, 1981 Topps Football Cello box and others.
*1951 Topps Blue Back & Red Back complete sets, 1936-37 Goudey Wide Pen Joe DiMaggio RC BVG 4, 1969-70 Topps Lew Alcinder RC BVG 6.5, 1970-71 Topps Pete Maravich Rookie Card PSA 7, 1961 Mickey Mantle PSA 7, 1971 Kellogg’s Roberto Clemente PSA 9.
*2011 Bowman Chrome Draft Mike Trout BGS 9.5, 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout PSA 9, 1993 UD SP Derek Jeter BVG 8, 1985 Nike Michael Jordan RC BGS 8.5, 2012-13 Panini Marquee Kobe Bryant Auto BGS 9 (Auto 10), multiple Luka Doncic Prizm rookies (including a BGS 9.5 Gem Mint), multiple Zion Williamson rookies.
*Vintage complete baseball card sets (many in high quality, high-grade condition), including 1959 Topps Baseball, 1960 Topps baseball, 1960 Fleer baseball, 1959 Fleer Ted Williams near set, 1966 Topps baseball and 1988-89 Fleer basketball.
*Vintage advertising pieces, including a 1947 Louisville Slugger Stan Musial original countertop display.
*Rare baseball pennants and stadium pins from the 1940s-1960s.
*1975 Laughlin Super Stand Ups hand-colored and signed by artist Bob Laughlin. Includes players Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Willie Mays.
Bidding will continue through May 17 on Wheatland’s website.
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