Published: February 20, 2007
Heritage Auction Galleries realized a new auction world record with the personal collection of Dr James Naismith sale that closed on December 15. Setting the mark for the highest total ever realized for a single, nonbaseball, sporting figure, the final tally reached $724,313.
“We couldn’t be more pleased,” said Chris Ivy, director of sports memorabilia auctions for Heritage, “from the kindness and cooperation of Dr Naismith’s family, to the intrigue of the material itself, to the enthusiasm of the bidders that participated, the entire process of hosting this auction was a pleasure.”
Ivy continued, “It was also very gratifying to see the tremendous participation from overseas. Two lots relating to early Chinese basketball exceeded preauction estimates by multiples, and proved to be among the most hotly contested bidding in the auction. We also found a great deal of participation from those outside the sports’ collecting ranks.”
“The biggest story of the event was the price of $71,700 realized for Naismith’s personal handwritten account of the first game played in 1891,” said Ivy. “Clearly the bidding public understood that this was the most significant basketball document ever to reach the auction block.”
A document archive including Naismith’s personal typed copy of the original rules also caused a major stir among collectors, who elevated the final bid price to $53,775. “These seminal documents, created by the hand of the game’s inventor, represent some of the most important athletic texts ever to be presented for sale,” noted Ivy.
Other interesting top lots included Naismith’s 1930s, full unabridged draft, typed manuscript with handwritten notes, for the his book Basketball: Its Origin and Development, which brought $38,838.
One of the most aesthetically appealing lots offered was a photograph of the Springfield basketball court, the only known period image of the site of basketball’s first game, that went to a collector for $19,120.
Naismith was the University of Kansas’ first basketball coach and, while there, he used the “Acme Thunderer” whistle. This circa 1900 whistle blew to $13,145.
Naismith’s 1936 passport, used when he went to Germany for the Berlin Olympics (the first time that basketball was a medal sport), appealed to many bidders for its provenance as well as the many pristine autographs contained within; it went to $20,315.
“Here’s living proof that collectors appreciate just how scarce and valuable Naismith autographs are,” said Ivy of the 1939 Naismith signed basketball card that sold for $17,925. “This represents the highest price ever paid for what is essentially just a Naismith autograph, as opposed to an official document or manuscript.”
All prices quoted include the buyer’s premium. Heritage Auction Galleries is at 3500 Maple Avenue. For more information, 800-872-6467 or www.ha.com.www.HA.com.
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