Chronology : 1850-1859 1909 1920 1927
Link to PSA baseball cards database.
1857 The Laws of the Knickerbockers
2016 SOLD for $ 3.26M including premium
The spirit of competition requires fixed rules that will identify champions who will defend their title in the following season. In England, football has a similar story at the same period.
The activist of the standardization of base ball, which will later become the baseball, is the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club established in 1845 and named after the uniforms of the firefighters who lent to them their playing field.
The Knickerbockers were not the best in sport but they had the merit of endeavoring to impose their rules. They were also one of the two teams that played the first official match in 1846 and the first base ball club to use a distinctive uniform in 1849.
In 1857 in New York, the first congress of the National Association of Base Ball Players establishes the first regulatory body and freezes the rules that will remain virtually unchanged for ever, ending the initiatives of the Knickerbockers.
A set of three manuscripts that were almost unnoticed in an auction in 1999 gives a new vision on the fundamental and even unique role of the Knickerbockers in defining the final baseball laws.
In 1857 the President of the Knickerbockers is Doc Adams who had been a player in the 1846 pioneering game. The three documents are the first autograph draft written by Adams in 1856 (the last page is missing), an iteration annotated by him before the congress and the final laws submitted to Congress and approved.
These documents are grouped as the lot 1 in the online auction organized by SCP Auctions with bidding close out on April 23. I invite you to watch the video shared by the auction house.
1904-1942 The Photographic Archive of Baseball
2016 SOLD for $ 1.8M including premium
Until 1942 Conlon is the anonymous author of the most important photographs of baseball, published and re-published in magazines, guides and sports cards. All the top players in Major League are displayed in his work.
Conlon shoots all his views on the field. He observes the differentiation of actions depending of the player, their method to hold the ball or the bat. His early negatives are made on glass plates 5 x 7 ". The improvement of the techniques then allows the photographer to use the format 4 x 5" on glass and later on acetate.
The increase of sensitivity now makes possible the view of a speedy movement in close up. His image freezing a spectacular action by Ty Cobb on July 23, 1910 is a masterpiece of instant photography.
The 7,462 original negatives taken by Conlon during the 38 years of his photographic career are housed in 85 boxes, each one around shoebox size. They are sold together at lot 80082 by Heritage in Dallas on August 27 with a guide value of $ 1M.
This complete archive is unique, sensational and irreplaceable in the history of baseball throughout its period. The sale includes only the photographs and in no way the intellectual property rights. Please watch the video shared by Heritage.
1909 Jumbo Wagner
2016 SOLD for $ 3.2M including premium
Jumbo is a wording introduced around 1970 to designate stamps with larger margins than average while maintaining an excellent centering. Its unwanted origin is due to the uncertainty in positioning the perforating wheels. Philatelists love these pieces where the margins provided an additional protection of the image against accident and contamination while also increasing the visual appeal by a nicer framing.
Probably we will never know why a T206 Wagner got a Jumbo feature. The original printed sheet included adjacent images of other players. The perfectly parallel and sharp edges make implausible the hypothesis of a cutting hazard. I guess that a fan of Honus Wagner cut it with the focus to get a better framed image of his champion at the expense of the rest of the sheet. Wagner, unquestionably one of the greatest baseball players of the early twentieth century, will later be one of the first five elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
This card has surfaced in the early 1970s in a collection where it was kept with other T206s by its first owner, reinforcing the hypothesis that its Jumbo cut was contemporary to its printing.
The one and unique Jumbo Wagner is graded EX5 (MC) by PSA. The general condition is excellent (EX) despite some rounding in the corners and a very slight oozing from the image below it at its bottom edge. The image of Honus Wagner remains in mint condition with perfect color (MC).
Prices are now significantly rising for the best American sports cards. The Jumbo Wagner was sold for $ 1.68M including premium by Mastro Auctions on August 1, 2008 and for $ 2.1M including premium by Goldin on 29 March 2013. It is now estimated $ 5M by Goldin in an online sale ending on October 1, lot 1.
In my discussion introducing the Jumbo Wagner in this column before its 2013 sale, I reported that the highest price recorded on a Wagner T206 in a private sale, $ 2.8 million, had been paid in 2007 on a card graded PSA 8 that was later believed to have been rebuilt.
1909 The Oceanside Wagner
2015 SOLD for $ 1.32M including premium
T206 is a code name created in a 1951 catalog for the cards edited from 1909 to 1911 by the American Tobacco Company. The Honus Wagner card was printed in the first year and almost immediately withdrawn. Wagner remains today one of the most outstanding players in the history of baseball and this withdrawal can not have any other explanation than a disagreement between the champion and the publisher.
Treasures still exist in our time. In 2008, an inventory is made in Oceanside NY on a collection that had never left the family of its original owner. It includes a nice copy of the T206 Wagner, clean and well centered with unfaded bright colors and an acceptable low wear at the corners.
Its only significant anomaly is a crease on the front side at the top right in the orange background, far from the image. The card was graded VG3 both by SGC and by PSA. It was sold for $ 790K including premium by Philip Weiss in November 2008.
It is for sale on April 25 by Robert Edward in an online auction operated from New Jersey, lot 1. The text in the catalog considers a total population of about 46 authentic T206 Wagner including 4 copies in better condition and 3 others in similar condition. Here is the link to the website of the auction house.
1919 George H Ruth available for Sale
2017 SOLD for $ 2.3M including premium
Until 1918 the Boston Red Sox team dominated the prestigious World Series of Major League Baseball. The 1919 season is bad for the Red Sox and the club owner Harry Frazee decides to change his strategy, preferring to build a consistent team rather than relying on a star player. The larger than life behavior of Babe Ruth and his growing demands of salary do not please Frazee : the player George H. Ruth is now available for sale !
Frazee who is also a theater director is in a urgent need of money. He accepts the proposal of the New York Yankees of a $ 300K mortgage loan hiring his Boston ballpark and sells Ruth to the Yankees for $ 100K.
The contract selling the player is signed with a notary in New York City on December 26, 1919. Cautiously some clauses are added on how both parties shall handle a probable new demand of salary increase by Ruth or a possible deficiency of the player to work for the Yankees.
Three copies of this contract have been established. Frazee's document was sold for $ 1M including premium by Sotheby's on June 10, 2005. The document attributed to Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert is offered as lot 2 in the online sale opened by Lelandswith a closing date on June 30. Here is the link to Lelands.com. The third copy did not resurface.
Babe Ruth signed with the New York Yankees in the following month. The most brilliant part of his exceptional sporting career was beginning.
From a sporting point of view, Frazee's decision is a disaster for the Boston club which disappears until 2004 from the list of the World Series winners. This long period is assimilated with a curse in the legend of baseball under the name of Curse of the Bambino.
1920 The Jersey of the Babe
2012 SOLD 4.4 M$ including premium
The sale by SCP Auctions on May 19, online from California, of a wool jersey of the Babe is indeed a considerable event. Two weeks before the auction ends, this lot has already surpassed Lou Gehrig's jersey sold for $ 717K including premium by Heritage on November 5, 2010.
Moreover this jersey dates from an exceptional period in Ruth's career and is in very good condition. It is marked NEW YORK, which makes sense for this sportsman. However, Ruth had made the success of the Boston Red Sox before being transferred in 1920 to the New York Yankees.
The jersey has retained its original identification with the name of Ruth. A photo of the champion made in March 1920 shows him with a jersey identical as the example to be sold, confirming, if not the year, at least the period when the garment was made by Spalding and worn by Ruth.
Here is the link to the press release shared by AuctionReport.
POST SALE COMMENT
The prices of the rarest pieces have no predictable limit. Babe Ruth's jersey was sold $ 3.7 million before fees, 4.4 million including premium.
The memorabilia from Babe Ruth provided two other notable results: $ 590K including premium for a bat and $ 540K including premium for a cap.
This sale was also very successful for baseball cards from the 1950s in mint condition (PSA10): $ 430K including premium for Roberto Clemente, and $ 360K including premium for Hank Aaron.
For post WWII baseball, let us also mention a jersey worn by Mickey Mantle in 1968, sold $ 370K including premium.
BABE RUTH BIRTHDAY: Today on January 6 1895 the greatest player to play the game of Baseball was born. Here is the best piece of Ruthian memorabilia sold by @SCPAuctions for $4,415,658 World record for a piece of sports memorabilia #Baberuth @baseballhall @Yankees @MLB #MLB pic.twitter.com/Z5BL5bA2DF— SCP Auctions (@SCPAuctions) February 6, 2018
1927 The Ring of the Champion
2017 SOLD for $ 2.1M including premium
This tradition gradually took hold in the 1920s in Major League Baseball for the benefit of the winning team of the World Series. The first rings linked to the MLB were awarded in 1922 to the New York Giants.
In 1923 when the New York Yankees won the World Series the memory offered to them was not a ring but a pocket watch. The watch of Babe Ruth was sold for $ 720K including premium by Heritage on February 22, 2014.
The next victory of the Yankees in the World Series was in 1927. It was also a sporting feat : they had won all four games against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That year as a whole was exceptional for Babe Ruth who scored 60 home runs in this single season, a record in the MLB competitions.
The Yankees have now joined the new tradition. The World Series ring in 14K yellow gold presented to Babe Ruth in 1927 is listed as lot 1 in the online sale organized by Lelands closing on June 30. A slight chip to the diamond is announced. Here is the link to Lelands.com.
The price of a ring at auction depends on the prestige of the sporting achievement that has been rewarded. When the basketball player 'Dr J' Erving sold his collection in November 2011 by SCP Auctions, his 1974 ABA championship ring was sold for $ 460K while the best of his other rings did not reach $ 250K.
1947 The Rookie of the Dodgers
2017 SOLD for $ 2.05M including premium
At the closing ceremony of the championship on September 23, 1947, a photo shows Jackie in a baseball uniform alongside his wife and a friend.
That game worn jersey was treasured for half a century at first by Jackie and then by his widow. A great symbol of the movement that will lead to racial equality in the United States, it is sold without reserve price as lot 50001 by Heritage in Dallas on November 19 in an online auction with extended bidding. The bidding starts at $ 900K with a $ 3M guide value.
The 1947 season ends from September 30 to October 6 with the World Series where the Dodgers are defeated by the Yankees in the seventh match. Rickey's choice had been relevant : Jackie Robinson was able to resist all insults up to and including the MLB's most prestigious event and his sporting qualities made him named Rookie of the Year.
Please watch the video shared by Heritage.
1952 Fame for Topps and Mantle
2018 SOLD for $ 2.9M including premium
The New York Yankees' great prospect, highlighted in early 1951 as Joe DiMaggio's designated successor, had finally made a dull season. After being downgraded to the Minor League, he returned to the Major League but suffered a severe injury to his right knee in an action with DiMaggio.
His father who was also his mentor dies on May 7, 1952 at the age of 40 of a blood disease. It was not known at the time that his illness was lead poisoning developed when mining. The young Mickey who is psychologically fragile believes in a hereditary curse. On July 8 Mickey is selected for the All-Star Game as an outfielder but left in reserve.
At the instigation of Sy Berger the bubble gum brand Topps makes a sensational entry into the edition of baseball cards. After a first trial in 1951, Topps launches in 1952 an extensive series with sharp pictures, pretty colors and a pleasantly didactic inscription on the back.
The printing of the 1952 series is made in several batches including the gradual selection of additional players. Mantle's omission in the first 310 players is probably due to his poor start of the season. When he becomes the first of the final 311-407, it is too late. The 1952 season is already well underway and Topps is slowing down the distribution to prepare for 1953 with suitably updated information.
An excellent participation at the beginning of October in the World Series launches the career of Mickey Mantle in a sustainable way. Although 1952 is not his rookie year, the rare Topps 1952-311 will become the most desirable of the modern baseball cards.
At the top of the scale PSA ranked three cards as Gem Mint 10 and six as Mint 9. None has been auctioned for more than a decade. One of the Mint 9 is estimated $ 3.5M by Heritage online from Dallas on April 19 plus extended bidding, lot 80477. With its bright colors and excellent centering this card excites the experts. The reason why it did not obtain the Gem Mint 10 grade is not revealed in the catalog.
Please watch the video shared by Heritage.
1964 Home Runs in World Series
2018 SOLD for $ 1.32M including premium
The home run scored by Babe Ruth in the Third Game of 1932 is unforgettable, first by Ruth's defiance or victory gesture even before holding his bat, and then because this fifteenth and last homer scored by Ruth in World Series was a record.
To equal and then exceed a record set by Ruth is an enviable feat. Mickey Mantle ran his 15th World Series homer in 1963.
In 1964 the World Series was won in 7 games by the St. Louis Cardinals against the New York Yankees. The three homers scored by Mantle were not enough to defeat the Cardinals but they set his record at 18 homers. This was Mantle's last World Series performance because the Yankees failed to qualify until his retirement as a player in 1968.
Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 were played in St. Louis and games 3 to 5 in New York. Mantle's homers were split between both sites, in games 3, 6 and 7. On August 18 online including an extended bidding phase, Heritage sells a jersey worn by Mickey Mantle, photo-matched with games 6 and 7, lot 80055 estimated $ 750K. It is graded A9 by MEARS.
It was a common practice for the Yankees to wear new uniforms for the World Series. This jersey is therefore not photo-matched with previous games. A laundry mark indicates that it has also been prepared for the following season.
In an interview with Sports Collectors Daily during the National Sports Collectors Convention, the Heritage Auctions specialist underlines the extreme rarity of this type of piece. Please watch this video. Keep also in mind the jersey worn by the same player when he scored his 535th MLB homer in 1968, sold for $ 486K including premium by Heritage on February 25, 2017.