Sport Images before 1945
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 - T206 Wagner
2020 SOLD for $ 1.43M including premium by Goldin
1909 Honus Wagner in Grade 2
2019 SOLD for $ 1.35M including premium
It 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 just after the original release is obvious but not documented in period.
Its population verified as authentic is about 60 units. Because of its scarcity on the market, collectors rush on these cards even in the lowest condition grades. A Sweet Caporal card referencing the rare Factory 30, described as Authentic/Altered without grade by PSA because its margins had been trimmed, was sold for $ 550K including premium by Heritage on September 19, 2019.
A Sweet Caporal with Factory 25, graded Good 2 by PSA on their scale from 1 to 10 and perfectly identifiable through the PSA label on its carrier, has changed hands several times in a few years. It perfectly testifies to the growing appetite for the T206 Wagner in the hobby.
It did not exceed $ 236K at auction in April 2005. It was then auctioned for $ 660K by Lelands in 2014 and for $ 780K including premium by Heritage in November 2016. Its private sale for $ 1.2M was announced on May 30, 2019 by Forbes informed by SCP. It is now the lot 1 in the online auction organized by Mile High Card Company which will close on October 10.
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 - T206 Wagner
2020 SOLD for $ 1.17M including premium by Mile High Card Company
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
(1909-1911) The Self Proclaimed King of Tobacco
2020 SOLD for $ 900K including premium
The very rare Cobb variant with Cobb back has the only back bearing the name of a player, in an obvious promotional intention. The complete advertising text is "Ty Cobb" King of the Smoking Tobacco World. It appears exclusively on the back of the image of Ty Cobb's portrait on a red background. No other T206 card is known with this back, not even the other three Ty Cobb subjects from the same series.
The treasure trove of 7 identical cards in the southern United States increased the total population of Cobb backs to 22 units in 2016. Interestingly 5 previously known units had also surfaced as a single group, in 1997 in Georgia. The cardboard of this model is tougher than a common T206 and tobacco stains are very rare.
Ty Cobb, nicknamed The Georgia Peach, had tried to market a brand of pipe and rolling tobacco under his own name. The cards could be coated to be protected from tobacco stains, an improvement over the usual T206. The assumption that the Cobb-Cobb card is a later plagiarism for a commercial operation that was ephemeral or failed would explain all the peculiarities of the material and of the editing as well as its rarity.
The two best cards of this type come from the 2016 hoard now known in the hobby as the Lucky 7 Find. The card graded VG+ 3.5 by PSA was sold for $ 410K including premium by Heritage on February 24, 2018. The best, graded VG/EX+ 4.5 by PSA with a glossy surface, is lot 3 in the online sale by Mile High Card Company to close on September 3, 2020.
On September 19, 2019, Heritage sold for $ 144K including premium a tobacco tin box inscribed on front side as Ty Cobb Granulated Cut Plug along with a stylized image of Cobb with bat on shoulder inspired from another T206 variant of this player.
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
1941 The Art of Fly Chasing
2020 SOLD for $ 750K including premium
In 1941 he achieves his greatest sporting feat, unequaled to date : 56 successive games with at least one safe hitting, from May 15 to June 17. This record is accompanied by a song by Les Brown and His Band of Renown, recreating the passion of the stadium and of the girls : "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, We want you on our side".
Of course Joe is the star of the baseball cards of that time. In 1940 he is awarded the # 1 in the series of 240 Play Ball cards published by Gum Inc, with a photo on which he is ready to hit. He is the best hitter in MLB with an average of .381 in the previous season. The back considers him as the best fly-chaser, deserving his new nickname of Yankee Clipper and implicitly making him the successor of the Sultan of Swat.
In 1941 his Play Ball card is numbered 71 in a series limited to 72 which also includes his two brothers, Vince and Dom. The image is the same as in the previous year except that it has been colored. To explain this apparent decline in the list, we may assume that the Play Ball 1940-1 was not sold out when the prints 1941-1 to 1941-48 were prepared. The text on the back is updated.
About 800 1941-71 cards have been graded by PSA but only one is certified at the highest level of their scale, Gem Mint 10. It is estimated $ 500K in the online sale by Heritage which ends on February 22, lot 50014.