See also : Sport Origins of sports Babe Ruth Sport document Sport uniform T206 Wagner Sport images < 1940 Sport cards 1940-92 Topps Mantle Modern sport cards Garment
Chronology : 1850-1859 1909 1920 1952
Link to PSA baseball cards database.
1857 the Laws of Base Ball
2016 SOLD for $ 3.26M by SCP
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 were sold together for $ 3.26M as lot 1 by SCP Auctions with bidding close out on April 23, 2016. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
We are record setters here at SCP #Auctions. Remember when we sold The Laws of Baseball for over $3,000,000? We’d love to help you with your #sports #memorabilia in our Summer Premier Auction. Send in your #consignments before it’s too late. pic.twitter.com/jVT7YCG3vh— SCP Auctions (@SCPAuctions) July 7, 2019
1909 T206 WAGNER
The advertising back identifies a brand of tobacco that can be Piedmont, Sweet Caporal or 14 other varieties of cigarettes and tobacco then offered by this company. The cards were inserted in the packs.
The views are not numbered but on the back the cumulative number of the announced subjects allows to establish a chronology of the impressions : 150 subjects then 350 and 460, then 'Large Assortment' for the last runs.
The Honus Wagner card was printed in the first year but the player rejected the proposal from a delegate of the ATC. He was probably not hostile to tobacco. The hypothesis that he would have expected for a better retribution is plausible. Wagner was one of the best baseball players of all time, whose prestige almost equaled Ty Cobb.
The T206 Wagner is only known with the advertising back variants for the two most common tobacco brands of the American Tobacco Company, Sweet Caporal and Piedmont, the former being known in two tobacco plant identifications, 25 and 30. All copies indicate the series at 150 subjects which is the original edition from 1909 before it was extended. The withdrawal of the Wagner card at the time the original release is obvious but not documented at that step.
2021 SOLD for $ 6.6M by Robert Edward
It was sold for $ 6.6M on August 15, 2021 by Robert Edward, lot 1. It is illustrated in the pre sale release by Sports Collector Daily. Its SGC holder has been changed some time after the 2012 auction.
It's Wagner Wallpaper Wednesday and our Summer Auction is heating up! Bidding ends this Sunday August 15th! Head over to https://t.co/XI1djwlZVL@REAOnline #wallpaperwednesdays #honuswagnercard #t206cards #baseballcards #thehobby #Auction #tangibleassets #cardcollector pic.twitter.com/ww2qpKIydr— RobertEdwardAuctions (@REAOnline) August 11, 2021
2021 SOLD for $ 3.75M by Goldin
This well centered card with a Sweet Caporal 'Base Ball Series, 150 Subjects' back is graded Good 2 by PSA taking into account large horizontal creases, tiny smudges and round corners.
It had been collected by the consignor's father half a century ago and is fresh on the market.
Why the Honus Wagner T206 is the industry’s Holy Grail... □ pic.twitter.com/B7G8ZpBab4— Ken Goldin (@KenGoldin) February 27, 2021
2022 SOLD for $ 3.7M by Goldin
#WhatsOnYourDesk— Heritage Auctions Sports (@Heritage_Sport) April 16, 2021
T206 Honus Wagner#jobperk pic.twitter.com/0yMFZ7uLsO
1920 Babe Ruth Road Jersey
2012 SOLD for $ 4.4M by SCP
The players used two jerseys, a home jersey for the games on their field and a road jersey for trips. A jersey could be used throughout one season or more, which further increases their rarity.
Compared to the next period, documents allowing photo-matching are scarce. The experts thus pay the greatest attention to the details of making which allow an identification of the year or a range of years, rather than on the shears in the textile or on misalignments in the inscriptions.
On May 19, 2012, SCP Auctions sold for $ 4.4M a game worn jersey of Babe Ruth. A photo of the champion made in March 1920 shows him with a jersey identical as this example.
This road jersey had been exhibited for many years at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore. Its New York Yankees front marking is dated circa 1920. The maker was Spalding.
In very good condition, it retains its original identification with the name of Ruth.
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
1928-1929 Babe Ruth Road Jersey
2019 SOLD for $ 5.6M by Hunt
The 'Yankees' mark on the front side enables to date the garment between 1927 and 1930. A label inside the collar is marked 'Ruth'. A number 3 has been erased at some point while leaving some traces.
The photos of Babe Ruth in 1927 show another placement of the buttons. The photo-matching orients rather towards 1928 or 1929. It is in 1929 that the Yankees began to sew a number on the jerseys to facilitate the identification of the players by the public. Ruth had received the number 3.
UPDATE: Babe Ruth NY Yankees Jersey added to Ruth Collection Live Auction at @yankeestadium. Professional model Yankees Road Jersey Worn by the #Bambino dates to the 1928-30 era with Potential to Set World Record Pricing in Excess of $4,000,000! @NewYorkYankees #SultanofSwat @MLB pic.twitter.com/0dx9NChNR4— Hunt Auctions (@HuntAuctions) April 23, 2019
1933 Goudey Ruth
2021 SOLD for $ 4.2M by Memory Lane
The PSA graded population of the 1933 Goudey # 181 featuring Ruth with resting elbow and green background includes a single Gem Mint 10 and a total of six Mint 9. Graded Mint 9 by PSA, the example from the Newman collection was sold for $ 1.27M by Memory Lane on July 10, 2021, lot 2.
A sale dedicated to 1933 Goudey by Heritage on January 24, 2019 highlighted three cards graded Mint 9 by PSA : a Gehrig for $ 580K and two Ruth for $ 530K (# 144) and $ 460K (# 181). Two years before, a VG-EX 4 Goudey-Ruth cards did not exceed $ 15K and signed cards were of interest only to specialist collectors.
The star lot of the collection of the late Thomas Newman was a 1933 Goudey # 53 featuring Ruth with bat on shoulder and yellow background. It was sold for $ 4.2M by Memory Lane on July 10, 2021, lot 1. It is the only card of this position graded Mint 9 by PSA with none higher and none equal or higher by SGC.
Another 1933 Goudey card # 53 was sold for $ 940K by Memory Lane on May 21, 2022, lot 1. It is one of 14 units graded NM-MT 8 by PSA. Its visual brilliance like pack fresh is considered by the auction house as better than the Newman example narrated above.
1951 Bowman Mantle
2022 SOLD for $ 3.2M by Memory Lane
Yet when he is at the top he is the fastest and most powerful new promise in baseball. Early in 1951 the New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel considers that the boy must play the season in Major League. The uniform number 6 is attributed to him for stating that this rookie will be the successor to Ruth (3), Gehrig (4) and the then current star DiMaggio (5).
The 1951-253 Bowman card is prepared after the spring training during which Mickey has confirmed his skills. Like all cards in this series the image was a colored drawing copied from a photograph. The future champion is in profile, his smiling face turned towards the photographer and his bat held over the right shoulder. Aesthetics is not a must in these Bowman series : a useless electric pole has not been cancelled.
Bowman cards are rare in Mint condition, mostly because of some centering defect or original stain. Only one 1951-253 was graded Gem Mint-10 by PSA.
One of the nine PSA Mint-9 copies was sold for $ 3.2M by Memory Lane on December 3, 2022, lot 1.
The season is not successful. Mickey debuts in Major League on April 17 but is not convincing. Downgraded to Minor League in Kansas City he requires once again to stop baseball but is being bullied by his father. He comes back with the Yankees but returns the number 6 to Bobby Brown. He is then wounded in the right knee with a permanent torsion of a ligament during a fall in full action to avoid hurting DiMaggio. 1951 is indeed his rookie year in MLB but 1952 will be the actual trigger of his fame.
What beats everything in this story is the fact that this guy whose exploits will be a major element of the American Dream of the 1950s is confirmed as physically unfit for the army in 1952 during the Korean War.
1952 Topps Mantle
2022 SOLD for $ 12.6M by Heritage
At the instigation of Sy Berger, Topps makes a sensational entry into the edition of baseball cards. After a first trial in 1951, they launch in 1952 an extensive series with sharp pictures, pretty colors and a pleasantly didactic inscription on the back.
The project is ambitious and innovative. The image of the player printed in beautiful colors is accompanied by a fac simile of his autograph signature. The back side lists the statistics and feats of the player as well as his personal attributes and some laudatory comments.
The printing of the 1952 series is made in several batches including the selection of additional players. Topps wanted to keep going but their extension of the 1952 series, numbers 311 to 407, was not released on suitable time.
The unsold stock was of no further use to them and they drowned in 1960 in the Atlantic Ocean a barge loaded with the huge remains of the second part of the 1952 edition.
Mickey Mantle is that young handsome player who was iconic of the postwar American dream.
1952 had begun quite bad for him. 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 was psychologically fragile believed in a hereditary curse. On July 8 Mickey is selected for the All-Star Game as an outfielder but left in reserve.
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 attributes.
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.
Owning a high grade 1952-311 card is currently recommended as a strong investment. The date of this edition is not so old and our grandfathers are feverishly searching into the shoeboxes of their youth. The population of PSA graded cards is growing significantly : 1,225 in December 2015, 1,392 in October 2016, and approaching 1,600 in 2019.
The top of the scale at PSA is occupied by 3 cards graded Gem Mint 10 and 6 graded Mint 9.
The dealer Alan Rosen was using the self attributed moniker Mr Mint for his business. Renowned for his offerings of high condition baseball cards, he sold a T206 Wagner for $ 76,000 in 1990. He edited with Doug Garr in 1991 an "Insider's Guide to Investing in Baseball Cards and Collectibles".
Mr Mint acquired in 1985 a collection of high number 1952 Topps cards in mint condition. He will say that his best # 311 Mantle from that set was in his opinion"the finest known example in the world".
Investment went fast. Mr Mint soon sold his # 311 for a reported $ 3,500. He reacquired it in 1991 for $ 40,000 and sold it to a demanding collector for $ 50,000 during the 1991 New York Post Card show.
The grading systems were in infancy. PSA was created in 1991 as the very first grading and authentication company. The happy collector treasured his # 311 for 31 years without grading it.
Now aged 76 and considering that all his friends have seen it, he consigned it to Heritage after reportedly refusing an offer for a $ 10M private deal. After a transfer in armored truck, it is now the one off # 311 Mantle graded MT+ 9.5 by SGC. This high grading rewards a perfect centering, sharp corners and beautiful colors. The SGC label designates it as the "finest known example".
It was sold for $ 12.6M by Heritage on August 27, 2022, lot 53014. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
Three other # 311 have been graded Gem Mint 10 by PSA. Heritage comments that "graded standards have changed over the decades" and that the Rosen find would arguably win against them.
2009 Mike Trout Topps Superfractor
2020 SOLD for $ 3.94M by Goldin
The cards were randomly distributed by the publisher in the original packaging. Their discovery is a game akin to the lottery. In events announced in advance by specialist companies, a client opens an old box that is still sealed. When one of them gets his hands on a holy grail, the video of the event is a good marketing incentive for the operator.
The most popular cards are those of the rookies. The most promising have the whole range of variants, including the Red Refractor in five copies. At the top of this hierarchy is the 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospect of Mike Trout, who will be the best baseball player of his generation.
On May 22, 2020, Goldin sold for $ 920K the 2009 Red Refractor 5/5 of Mike Trout, graded Gem Mint 9.5 by BGS with an autograph signature graded 10 by Beckett.
Can do better !
The Red Refractor, despite its limited edition, is not the top of the range. Here is the Superfractor. The player's photo is layered with a reflective pattern that provides a glitter. Several Superfractor variants of the same card can coexist but each piece is unique in its variant, and serialized 1/1.
On August 22, 2020, Goldin sold as lot 1 for $ 3.94M a Superfractor 1/1 of the rookie card of Mike Trout. It is graded Mint 9 by BGS with an autograph signature graded 10 by Beckett.