Sport Images before 1950
In addition to T206 Wagner
See also : Babe Ruth Lou Gehrig Photos 1900-1940
Chronology : 1916
1904-1942 The Conlon Archive
2016 SOLD for $ 1.8M by Heritage
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 were sold together for $ 1.8M at lot 80082 by Heritage on August 27, 2016.
This complete archive is unique, extraordinary 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 American Caramel JACKSON
2016 SOLD for $ 670K by SCP
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 was sold for $ 670K by SCP Auctions on August 20, 2016, 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.
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.
See dedicated page :
1909 T206 "Magie"
2018 SOLD for $ 660K by Heritage
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. It was sold for $ 660K.
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
1910 T206 PLANK
2018 SOLD for $ 690K by Heritage
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
(1909-1911) Ty Cobb Tobacco Back
2020 SOLD for $ 900K by Mile High Card
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 by Heritage on February 24, 2018. The best, graded VG/EX+ 4.5 by PSA with a glossy surface, was sold for $ 900K at lot 3 by Mile High Card Company on September 3, 2020.
On September 19, 2019, Heritage sold for $ 144K 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 Sporting News RUTH
for sale by Memory Lane on July 10
to be narrated
2021 SOLD for $ 940K by Memory Lane
The MLB rookie card of the future super-champion, published in 1916, is much more satisfactory. He was caught in action, watching where is the ball which he just threw. He has not yet retrieved his balance and the slightly angled view makes him appear slimmer than life. The monochrome sepia print is very neat. He is already identified by his famous nickname 'Babe Ruth'.
Who produced this legendary image ? Original inscriptions are absent, which is often the case when the publisher's main clients are companies that use the back side for their advertising. The Sporting News is not the editor but one of such advertisers, like the Standard Biscuit Company. The real author appears to be a Chicago photographer named Felix Mendelsohn, almost a namesake of the musician.
The American Card Catalog, which defined the denominations of all series in 1939, did a commendable job but without resolving such ambiguities. So Babe Ruth's rookie card is in the M101-4 and M101-5 series with a Sporting News or blank back and D350 with a Biscuit back. The three series have about 200 positions each. The Ruth card has the number 151 in all three. M101-5 may be earlier than M101-4.
Still worse : the denomination M101, from -1 to -7, gathers alongside -4 and -5 Sporting News supplements and postcards plus photos later published under an FM copyright, although no other joint operation between the magazine and Mendelsohn is known.
A M101-5-151 with blank back rated NM 7 by PSA was sold for $ 720K by Heritage on August 27, 2016. A M101-4-151 with The Sporting News back graded VG+ 3.5 by SGC was sold for $ 440K by Heritage on February 28, 2021.
An M101-4-151 also with The Sporting News back, graded EX-MT 6 by PSA, was sold for $ 940K by Memory Lane on March 20, 2021., lot 1.
2016 SOLD for $ 720K by Heritage
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.
On August 27, 2016, Heritage sold 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. It was sold for $ 720K. It passed in the same auction house on May 6, 2021, lot 80236.
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 was sold for $ 130K.
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.
1925 Gehrig by ESCO
2021 SOLD for $ 800K by Goldin
The images were issued in black and white by halftone prints in postcard size, 3-3/8" x 5-3/8" (8.5 x 13.5 cm). They were often reused from year to year. The publisher is not identified and the back is blank, which is consistent with the fact that the sale to the public was not planned. The views are not numbered.
In 1925, Exhibit publish the portraits in action of 128 baseball players, most often in a vertical format. The player's name and position, along with his city and league, are grouped in a box at the bottom left.
This series includes a rookie card which is outstanding in the history of baseball images : Henry L. Gehrig, Infield, New York, A.L. (American League). Lou Gehrig, 22, holds up his bat for hitting. He already has that look of a quiet colossus which will please the public so much.
A print graded EX-MT 6 (MK) by PSA was sold for $ 102K by Heritage on February 26, 2017, lot 80029, and for $ 800K by Goldin on January 30, 2021, lot 16. The mark (MK) observed by PSA is on the back, almost completely erased, and does not affect the image.
This view is indeed not the earliest image of Gehrig's career. A press photo taken in 1923 featuring him with the Yankees uniform was sold for $ 22.7K by Heritage on August 14, 2015, lot 81004.
1933 Goudey Ruth (2 lots)
for sale on July 10 by Memory Lane
It includes two 1933 Goudey-Ruth cards graded Mint 9 by PSA.
Lot 1 is a Goudey # 53 with bat on shoulder and yellow background. It is the only card of this position certified at that level by PSA with none higher and none equal or higher by SGC.
Lot 2 is a Goudey # 181 with resting elbow and green background. The PSA graded population includes a single Gem Mint 10 and a total of six Mint 9. One of these Mint 9 was sold for $ 460K by Heritage on January 24, 2019, lot 50181.
1933 Autographed Goudey RUTH
2021 SOLD for $ 760K by Wheatland
He died on March 8, 2020, too early to witness the great euphoria in the sports card market. He was 97 years old and was still maintaining his collection. His heirs were amazed to discover the extent of this accumulation. Wheatland dedicated five sessions to this heirloom. The cards were graded by PSA. Please watch the video shared on YouTube by CBS.
The Goudey card series, published in 1933 and 1934, brings a quality glow within the decadence of the 1930s trading cards, in competition with postcards. It is not surprising that it appealed the teenager.
1933 Goudey includes 240 positions, of which four Babe Ruth and two Lou Gehrig. Uncle Jimmy's collection had six signed by Ruth and two signed by Gehrig. In October 2020, Wheatland sold for $ 440K a VG-EX 4 Goudey-Ruth with an 8 autograph grade.
In August 2020, Wheatland sold for $ 325K a Goudey-Ruth # 149 graded VG-EX+ 4.5 with autograph grade 6. In the last session, which ends on February 21, 2021, the other copy of the same position, graded VG-EX 4 with an autograph graded 8, was sold for $ 760K, lot 56.
A sale dedicated to 1933 Goudey by Heritage on January 24, 2019 highlighted three unsigned cards graded Mint 9 by PSA : a Gehrig for $ 580K and two Ruth for $ 530K (Goudey # 144) and $ 460K (Goudey # 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.
1941 Play Ball DiMAGGIO
2020 SOLD for $ 750K by Heritage
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 was sold for $ 750K by Heritage on February 22, 2020, lot 50014.