Seven-Day Auction More than Doubles High Estimate and Sets World Auction Record for a Single-Owner Sale of Sports Memorabilia
- Lou Gehrig's Last Glove Sells for $387,500 -- Sets Record Price for a Baseball Glove at Auction --
- Ty Cobb's 1928 Signed Philadelphia Athletics Jersey Sells for $332,500
- Mickey Mantle's Glove, Purchased by Billy Crystal for $239,000--
September 29, 1999--New York--Sotheby's auction of the finest and largest private collection of baseball memorabilia in the world concluded today, achieving a grand total of $21,812,577 - double the pre-sale high estimate of $10 million. The seven-day, 16-session sale attracted some of America's biggest sports memorabilia fans with more than 1,500 bidders competing for the 2,481 lots. This was the inaugural sale in Sotheby's new saleroom and was the scene for some of the most aggressive bidding in Sotheby's 255-year-history. Every item included in the seven-day series of sales sold, with 85% selling above the high estimate.
At the conclusion of the auction, Barry Halper said: "It makes me feel so proud that my collection will be carried on by everyone who participated in the past weeks sale. I am also glad that the Hall of Fame has part of my collection where it will reside in perpetuity."
Plays of the Week Perhaps the most memorable moment of the week-long auction was the war which erupted between two bidders when Mickey Mantle's c. 1960 Game-Used Glove (lot 1559; est. $10/20,000) came to the auction block. Within seconds the price passed the $50,000 mark, and then slowed, progressing in $10,000 increments as two determined bidders - bidding over the phone -- fought to win one of the finest Mantle gloves in existence. The crowded saleroom began clapping as the price broke $200,000 and there was uproarious applause when the gavel fell at a final price of $239,000. As auctioneer Jamie Niven waited for the paddle number of the winning bidder, actor Billy Crystal triumphantly emerged from the window of a sky-box above the saleroom floor brandishing his bidding paddle, and asked: "Can I jump from here?"
Not to be outdone, another telephone bidder claimed Lou Gehrig's Last Glove from his final game on April 30, 1939 (lot 2421) for the astonishing price of $389,500-setting the world record for the highest price ever paid for a baseball glove. Offered on the final evening of the auction, this was the highest price achieved over the seven days of sales.
Mickey Mantle's 1956 Yankees World Series Ring (lot 1549) was purchased for $123,500, by Michael Fuchs, Former Head of HBO and Warner Music, who has thought of Mantle as "baseball's greatest hero" since he was a child. Mr. Fuchs said, "[This is] more than a glove or a shirt, some people compete their whole lives to get to the World Series." Mantle's 1956 Triple Crown (lot 1552; est. $25/50,000) sold to Joseph M. Walsh for $211,500 to be displayed in his restaurant, The Stadium, in Garrison, NY.
The highest price paid for a uniform was the $332,500 paid for an autographed Ty Cobb Philadelphia Athletics jersey from 1928 (lot 767; est. $50/100,000) --the only one known to exist. The uniform was purchased by dealer Dave Bushing on behalf of Upper Deck Trading Card Company of Carlsbad, California. Bushing, whose game-used bat price guide will appear on Collectors Universe - Sports site in the next few weeks, also paid $305,000 for Lou Gehrig's 1927 signed Road Jersey (lot 604; est. $100/150,000). Both will be used in an upcoming promotion by the company. They also purchased the bat used by Babe Ruth during his touching farewell at Yankee Stadium's 25th Anniversary on June 13th, 1948 (lot 88).
Babe Ruth, his health failing, was determined to attend the farewell with the rest of the surviving members of the 1923 team. When the announcer called his name, he emerged from the visitors' dugout using fellow Hall of Famer Bob Feller's bat as a cane for support. Included with the lot was Nat Fein's Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of Ruth standing at home plate. The Babe died just two months later on August 16th, 1948. This very special bat was estimated at $50-100,000, and sold for $107,000.
Other Babe Ruth Highlights included the 1920 Signed Sale Agreement (lot 561), which marked Ruth's sale by the Boston Red Sox to the Yankees and is perhaps the single most important Babe Ruth document in existence, which overturned the pre-sale estimate of $75/125,000 to sell to a private collector for $189,500.
Perhaps the most extraordinary collecting feats among the offerings was bought by Marty Bandier of EMI Music Publishing -- the 500 Home Run Autograph Display (lot 133; est. $10/20,000). This unique sheet of signatures was gathered personally by Barry Halper over many years and is signed by all of the ball players in the "500 Home Run" club with the notable exception of its newest member, Mark McGwire who entered the "club" only weeks ago. The lot sold for $57,500.
A Maryland collector gained admission to the very first World Series when he bought a 1903 Ticket to the event for $23,000 (lot 20; est. $5/10,000). The successful bidder, who has collected baseball memorabilia for 15 years, wanted to acquire a very rare piece from the Halper Collection. He said "in all my years in the hobby the most fun that I have ever had was the journey I took through the Barry Halper catalogue." This complete ticket is an extraordinary piece of baseball history. On the reverse, printed in ink, is a charming description of the event by the attendee. It read: "I went to this game Thursday P.M. Charlie - it was great - 17,000 people there. You have probably read about the Pittsburg-Boston series - it is for the World's Championship. Pittsburg being the winner of the National League and Boston of the American."
Other Highlights include:
- Lot 149 - The Alexander Cartwright Family Baseball and Related Letter (est. $25/35,000)realized $129,000.
- Possibly the very first baseball, sold to Greg Manning Auctions, Inc. for $129,000.
- Lot 390 - Cy Young's Baseball Glove (est. $3/5,000) sold to a dealer on behalf of a client for $71,250.
- Lot 639 - Lou Gehrig's 1930's Yankees Cap (est. $15/20,000) Sold to a private collector for $151,000.
- Lot 822 -- Honus Wagner T206 Uncut Printer's Proof Strip (est. 85,000) sold to Steve Verkman of Clean Sweep Auctions for $85,000.
- Lot 1230-- Ty Cobb's Dentures (est. $3/500) won by Karen Shemonsky of Pennsylvania for $7,475. Shemonsky, the daughter of a retired dentist of 54 years and a self described "sports nut," was teased by local New York media for buying the set of dentures, shot back, "My sister goes on cruises, I'd rather have this in my hand."