Sport Images before 1945
See also : Sport memorabilia Baseball Babe Ruth Photos 1900-1940
Chronology : 1909 1916
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.
1909 Prices are rising for T206 Wagner
2012 SOLD 1.23 M$ including premium
T206 is a classification code established in 1951 in a reference catalog. It is a series of 523 cards published between 1909 and 1911 by the American Tobacco Company. The back of the cards is printed with an advertisement for one or another of the 16 brands of cigarettes and tobaccoes then offered by this company.
Honus Wagner was one of the best baseball players of all time, whose prestige is almost equal to that of Ty Cobb.
The miracle and mystery of the T206 Wagner occur at that point : it has been edited in a very low quantity, having been withdrawn from circulation shortly after its creation in 1909. The reason why Honus Wagner quarreled with the publisher was the subject of several unverified hypotheses, not really worth to go into further detail.
The media story of the T206 Wagner begins in 1991, when the most perfect known copy sells for $ 451K to two fans including the hockey player Wayne Gretzky. This copy has more recently reached $ 2.8 million in a private transaction.
A T206 Wagner in very good condition is for sale on the web on April 19 by Goodwin, an auction company based in St. Louis MO. It has a Sweet Caporal Cigarettes back.
Same as for the top comics and coins, experts are able to compare the best T206 Wagner cards. Goodwin believes that only five copies are in better condition than the example they have for sale. By extrapolation of prices recorded on examples in similar condition between 2000 and 2009, the auctioneer hopes that the million dollars will be reached.
POST SALE COMMENT
Prices rise, as predicted by the auctioneer. This copy in very good condition was sold $ 1.23 million including premium.
In the same sale, an Eddie Plank of the same T206 series in near mint condition with an unusual back was sold $ 330K including premium.
1909 Shoeless Joe before the Fame
2016 SOLD for $ 670K including premium
Joe is the son of a peasant from South Carolina. The family is poor. Joe appreciates that he is gifted for baseball and begins playing to win some money. He is so strong that he breaks the arm of a fellow by pitching a ball and his playmates will no longer dare to face him. He will become a hitter.
He was nicknamed Shoeless Joe before his debut in the Leagues when someone noticed that he was playing in his socks. He had taken off his shoes just on that day because of a painful blister. Added to the fact that he was illiterate, this idea of a barefoot champion certainly contributed to his immense popularity. He was one of the best two hitters of his time, almost equal to Ty Cobb.
During the 1908-1909 season, Joe played ten games in Major League with the Philadelphia Athletics and spent the rest of his time in the Minor League with a team in Greenville NC. Despite that sporadic activity at the highest level he is one of the hundred players chosen by American Caramel Co. for the baseball card series now codified E90 published in 1909.
Two of these cards are in exceptional condition for their age, graded NM-MT 8 by PSA. By comparison the population of the T206 Wagner printed in the same year includes only one card in the same grade. In both cases no further card graded by PSA exceeds 5.
One of the two E90 Jackson Phila NM-MT 8 is offered by SCP Auctions in an online sale ending on August 20, lot 504. The printing is beautiful and it is perfectly clean with sharp corners and flawless edges.
Joe was prohibited from baseball in 1920 with seven other players in the Black Sox scandal for a fix in Major League. He is the only one among the eight indicted whose guilt was later questioned but his case had served as an example of bad practice and from all his glory he was only left with the shame.
1910 Plank, Magee, and Others
2018 SOLD for $ 690K including premium
The advertising back identifies a brand of tobacco that can be Piedmont, Sweet Caporal or 14 other varieties. The views are not numbered but 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 Major League offers a very good coverage with 390 cards, the greatest champions like Ty Cobb having several varieties. 134 cards are displaying to players from minor leagues.
Collectors search for rarities in the best possible condition. The rarest figure is Wagner, Pittsburgh. The hierarchy of sports skills is respected in his case, because Honus Wagner was one of the best players of all time. His card was withdrawn as a result of a financial or ethical dispute between the player and the tobacco company.
On September 20 online from Dallas, Heritage is dedicating an entire auction to the dispersion of a highly remarkable collection of T206 in NM7 or better condition. The cards will be sold individually. Wagner is not there. The sale includes no less than 9 of the 13 cards graded Gem Mint 10 by PSA out of a total population of 225,000 T206 certified by this organization.
Lot 50391, estimated $ 400K, is a Plank, Phila. Amer. graded NM7 by PSA, with a back of the second issue at 350 subjects. Eddie Plank was a good Major League player, still recognized today as one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball history. His card is known to PSA in 72 copies, including 1 NM-MT8 and 3 NM7. The reason for this rarity is not known, perhaps the breakage of its printing plate.
Lot 50292, estimated $ 200K, is a Magie, Phila. Nat'l, with a back of the first issue at 150 subjects. It is the best card of this variant, graded NM-MT8 by PSA and the only one in this rank. Its rarity is due to a spelling mistake in the name of Sherry Magee, corrected for subsequent impressions. This Major League player owes his posthumous fame to a typographical error.
RESULTS including premium :
Plank : $ 690K
Magie : $ 660K
Gettysburg Eddie's T206 card shares with the fabled Honus Wagner both a maddening elusiveness and an apocryphal tale accounting for his rarity. This spectacular representation is one of just three reaching PSA NM 7, a rating exceeded just a single timehttps://t.co/zjImIIQKWQ pic.twitter.com/ZixUcR5Dx8— Heritage Auctions Sports (@Heritage_Sport) September 19, 2018
It's the most celebrated "error card" in the hobby, a handful were printed with the surname "Magie" instead of "Magee" elevating a solid player from obscurity to T206 immortality with Wagner & Plank. This NM-MT 8 is the finest known example of this rarityhttps://t.co/8TkzwPI8hM pic.twitter.com/JhKS1uRjmM— Heritage Auctions Sports (@Heritage_Sport) August 27, 2018
1914 Ruth the Pitcher
2013 SOLD 450 K$ including premium
On July 11, 1914, Babe Ruth played his first Major League game. Goldin Auctions marks the centennial of this event through an auction dedicated primarily to the champion, on July 12 in Baltimore.
A baseball card listed in this sale is exactly one hundred years old. It was made in Baltimore in 1914 before July 11. This copy graded PSA1 recognizable by its wear defects has already been discussed in this column in 2013. It was sold for $ 450K including premium by Robert Edward on May 18, 2013.
Here is my article from last year including its link to the announcement made at that time by AuctionPublicity :
Today, would there be any chance for a rookie in a minor baseball league to have his picture published? Possibly no. In 1914, the bulimia for images was so high that an image from the early days of Babe Ruth in baseball has been published.
George Ruth is 19 years old. He has not even reached his majority when the manager of the Baltimore Orioles appreciates his skills and offers him a first contract. His amused fellows nicknamed him Jack Dunn's Baby. From then and forever he will be the Babe.
Dunn was certainly a good businessman, because less than five months later he transferred George to a major club. During this very short period, the local publisher Baltimore News had time to publish a baseball card of "Ruth, pitcher". This is a rudimentary monochrome print available in two variants, red or blue.
A copy of the red version, in poor condition, the lowest in the PSA grading scale, was sold for $ 152K at auction in 2009. This specimen is illustrated in the release shared by AuctionPublicity.
Then everything will go very fast in the career of Babe Ruth and his iconography quickly becomes more common. For example, a baseball card from 1916, when Babe Ruth played for Boston, graded PSA 5, was sold for $ 90K including premium by Memory Lane in December 2012.
1915 The Ball Players
2019 SOLD for $ 500K including premium
Each subject is either a Ball Player or a Manager. The front side indicates the name of the player often without his first name, along with the city of his club and its league, American, National or Federal. The back includes a very short biography and tells how these cards are distributed.
In that first year the cards are inserted free of charge into the brand's popcorn boxes, one per package. They are very rare in excellent condition : many of them have been soiled either by a packaging without care or by contact with the candy.
The Cracker Jack series of 1915 brings several improvements including a greater thickness. The number of subjects is increased to 176, with very few changes in the original 144 numbers. A notable exception is number 88 for which a commonplace image of pitcher Christy Mathewson is replaced by his nice portrait.
The free availability in popcorn boxes is unchanged, but collectors can now acquire the entire series or an album by sending coupons. The new head to tail position of front and back makes it very easy to identify the 1915 cards.
The top champions are Joe Jackson and (Ty) Cobb, each one brandishing his bat. Cobb's severe gaze remarkably reflects his reputation as an unfriendly and even brawling character.
PSA has certified Mint 9 two 1915 Jackson cards and three 1915 Cobb cards, with no auction history for these Jackson. A Cobb was sold for $ 430K including premium by Heritage on June 29, 2017. Another Cobb also rated Mint 9 by PSA is estimated $ 400K for sale by Heritage online from Dallas on April 18, lot 51270. No Cobb or Jackson from the previous year is graded Mint.
Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1916 The Rookie Cards of Babe Ruth
2016 SOLD for $ 720K including premium
The card 151 of the later coded M101 series edited in 1916 is the first to show Babe Ruth since his debut in Major League and is appreciated in the hobby as his Rookie card. The nickname Babe replaces for ever the first name. The attitude of the player is in full swing to fire the ball. The picture is sharp and pleasing.
The M101 series, comprising 200 views partly modified in a second edition during the year, was mainly intended for distribution. The back identifies the sponsor. One of them is the weekly paper The Sporting News 'the paper baseball of the world' owned by C. C. Spink and Son in St. Louis MO. I guess that he was also the publisher of the cards.
On August 27 in Dallas, Heritage sells two rookie cards of Babe Ruth.
Lot 80001 has an unprinted back. It was graded NM 7 by PSA and its centering, while not perfect, is better than usual for this series. The population certified by PSA is six in that grade and four in the next higher grade. Its guide value is $ 600K.
Lot 80002's back is advertising the Standard Biscuit Company. The text indicates that a photograph is offered in each package of their products. This card graded Good 2 by PSA is announced with a guide value of $ 40K which is already far exceeded 24 days before the sale.
The rookie card of Babe Ruth was preceded in 1914 by another card from his time in the Minor League. Aesthetically unappealing, this rare first card of "Ruth, pitcher" is almost always in poor condition.
Results including premium :
NM 7 : $ 720K
Good 2 : $ 130K
1932 The Kings of Caramel
2019 SOLD for $ 430K including premium
This series announces 32 pictures which are for 27 baseball players, 3 boxers and 2 golfers. It has been distributed locally and is rare. The last of the series, Babe Ruth, is the most common, probably because the fame of the super-champion encouraged the young candy eaters to keep his image.
The back of the cards has an offer to send a ball or a glove to any fan who will send back to the office one or three complete sets, which will be returned with the gift.
We may question how the US Caramel was doing to prevent a set to be sent again to them. It is very simple and absolutely dishonest : the number 16 recorded by PSA as an elusive Charles Lindstrom is doubtful and has certainly never been available in a box of caramel.
In the following year Goudey will do the same with his chewing gum by secretly omitting the number 106. The discovery of the trickery will lead Goudey to fill this gap by the late edition of their Nap Lajoie card.
In an online sale from Dallas that ends on April 18, Heritage is separating a complete set of the 31 real US Caramel cards. 27 of them have the highest grade recorded by PSA for their card number. Here is the filtered link to this group.
The Babe Ruth card listed as lot 51351 is graded Mint 9 by PSA with only one other copy at this level and none above. Estimated $ 200K, it already exceeded this value 14 days before closing.
This craze for 1930s cards is new to the hobby. On January 24, 2019 Heritage's special sale of the top PSA-graded set of the 1933 Goudey baseball cards fetched $ 3.65M for 240 cards, led by $ 580K including premium for Gehrig and $ 530K including premium for Ruth, both in Mint 9 condition.
RESULTS of top lots including premium:
Babe Ruth card SOLD for $ 430K
Bobby Jones card SOLD for $ 78K
Ty Cobb card SOLD for $ 72K