Published: June 19, 2007
Collectors were expecting great results, but were stunned by the across-the-board record prices, totaling $8.7 million, on Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century baseball cards and memorabilia at Robert Edward Auctions on April 28.
“It is hard to put into words the success of this auction,” said REA president Robert Lifson. “Everything went perfect. In many ways, this was the single most successful baseball auction in the history of the collecting world.”
The sales total set a new world record for a multi-owner all-consignment baseball card and memorabilia auction. The 1,594 lots offered were won by 629 different bidders, including museums and corporate institutional collections.
The sale was the most successful auction in the company’s 37-year history. Thousands of bidders participated from all over the world, primarily the United States but also including Europe, Japan and Hong Kong. Exactly 24,470 bids were placed and more than 99 percent of the lots sold. The average lot sold for more than double the high estimate.
Highlighted by the Barry Halper estate collection, the auction also included numerous important collections and new discoveries. The recently rediscovered 1838 Olympic Constitution , previously known to exist but which had been lost to the collecting world for decades, sold for $141,000, setting a record price not just for any baseball publication but a record price for any sports-related publication.
A 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth rookie card was consigned by a noncollecting family from Providence, R.I. The grandfather, who passed away in 1985, was a casual collector who had a small vintage card collection he assembled mostly from frequenting flea markets. The card sold for $200,000.
The Barry Halper estate collection, consigned directly from the Halper family and comprising the “small collection” of items that Barry Halper kept for his personal enjoyment during his “retirement from collecting,” was offered in 247 lots and realized $1.4 million. The Halper baseball film library alone sold for $117,500.
Card sales were led by a 1952 Topps set that achieved $164,500. A collection of 403 1886‱889 Old Judge tobacco cards fetched $111,625. A complete set of T206 White Border tobacco cards realized $105,750. The M101-4 1916 Sporting News Babe Ruth card sold for $82,250, a record price for this card in near-mint condition.
Other early card highlights were a Tango Eggs near-set (16 different cards, #1 on the PSA Set Registry) that sold for $58,175; a previously undiscovered Baltimore News team card with Babe Ruth (found with the individual $200,000 Ruth card) at $52,875, bringing the total take for the family to just over a quarter of a million dollars for the two cards.
Tobacco card highlights included two examples of T206 tobacco card rarity Eddie Plank that brought $21,500 and $35,250, respectively, record prices in each of the grades. A mixed-grade T205 Gold Border tobacco card set (208 cards) brought $70,500.
Nineteenth Century cards and memorabilia performed well, setting record after record. The 1887 N690 Kalamazoo Bats cards of Danny Richardson sold for a record $49,937. The 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings Peck & Snyder advertising trade card set a new world record price of $29,375.
A collection of 59 1898 Cameo Pepsin Gum pins, one of the largest groups of these important early baseball celluloid pins ever assembled, was offered in seven lots and sold for $44,236.
Memorabilia offerings included an original 1923 Yankee Stadium terracotta figural piece, that realized $52,875, a Joe Jackson signed document at $44,062, and a never-before-offered autographed photograph of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, taken on July 4, 1939, the day of Lou Gehrig’s famous farewell speech, sold for $58,750.
Additional highlights include the 1912 Fenway Park first pitched ball that took $85,000; a 1915 Yankees jersey at a record $55,812; and the circa 1869 bat attributed to George Wright at $88,125.
The last lot in the auction comprised cards donated by vintage card collectors to raise money for charity, and $7,050 was raised for The Painted Turtle, a camp and family care center for children with life-threatening illnesses.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.RobertEdwardAuctions.com or 908-226-9900.
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