Barry Bonds soon will surpass all of his godfather’s records, all except one. Oh sure, Bonds owns the million-dollar salary, the single-season home run record and four MVP awards, but he doesn’t have a six-figure trading card. The godfather does. Willie Mays’ 1951 Bowman (PSA MINT 9) sold for a record $109,639 in the first day of the Nov. 17-18 MastroNet sale. According to the latest PSA Population Report, this is one of only two examples of this card to attain a MINT 9 grade.
The card was just one of many high-dollar sales in the $4.67 million MastroNet sale, strongly suggesting that muscles many had feared atrophied from a weak economy and the tragic events of Sept. 11, are very much flexed. In addition to being attracted by quality, perhaps bidders are ebullient from a fabulous seven-game World Series, Michael Jordan’s return, and Uncle Sam having the Taliban on the run. SportsCards Plus and American Memorabilia joined MastroNet with major auction results. A couple of other large auctions, one by Leland’s, the other by Grey Flannel Auctions, were also a few weeks away.
The SportsCards Plus sale of Nov. 14 offered a number of headline items, namely the Great Western Forum center court, 13 pieces from NBA giant George Mikan, and a set of unused Super Bowl tickets. The old Lakers court, which included a visit from Magic Johnson, was purchased for $119,000, including commission. Among the Mikan items was his copy of the lithograph commemorating the NBA’s 50th anniversary, the one signed by 49 of the 50 all-time greatest players, which sold for $42,806.
Five years ago, the NBA made available these pieces for $25,000. The league heaped other gear and jewelry on the celebrated players. Mikan chose to part with many such gifts. His anniversary ring sold for $12,325, his leather jacket for $5,809. Meanwhile, Mikan’s 1952 All-Star Game ring sold for $9,860. The Super Bowl tickets from all 35 games sold for $48,370, almost 10 times the minimum bid. An item that obviously caught the eye of bidders was a pair of signed goggles worn by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The specs went for $4,353.
Among widely watched trading cards, Mickey Mantle’s 1952 Topps card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $33,898; a 1915 Sporting News card of Babe Ruth (#151, PSA 6 EX-MT) sold for $13,558; Michael Jordan’s rookie card, the Fleer #57 (PSA 10 GEM MINT) sold for $12,628; and Wayne Gretzky’s 1979 O-Pee-Chee card (PSA 9 MINT) sold for $7,396.
Perhaps more impressive were the prices yielded in lots featuring rare vintage cards. A 1911 T201 Double Folder Walter Johnson card, in PSA 8 NM-MT, the highest graded such card, sold for $4,068; a scarce Charlie Comiskey Lone Jack card from 1886 (PSA 3 VG) sold for $4,930. The card is a reminder that Comiskey was quite the accomplished player for the St. Louis Browns before he became the penny-pinching owner of the White Sox; from the same century, an 1894 P.H. Mayo tobacco football card of Frank Hinkey (PSA 7 NM) sold for $2,462; and a 1951 Bowman Whitey Ford card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $7,009.
A trio of 1968 test basketball cards drew very strong prices from collectors. Wilt Chamberlain’s card (PSA 7 NM), the first card in the set and one of only seven such PSA-graded cards, with only one in a higher grade, sold for $4,683, more than nine times the minimum bid; Bill Russell’s card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $7,020; and a Jerry West’s card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $5,802.
Four 1953 Bowman Color Proof Dodgers in Action cards, one of four known proofs produced by the card manufacturer, sold in the sale. The cards were making their debut as a PSA-graded collection. The card that attracted the highest price ($2,908) showed a play at the plate; a shot of Warren Spahn going into his windup sold for $2,405; an action shot of Ferris Fain throwing the ball sold for $2,188; and Enos Slaughter on one knee, leaning on a couple of bats, sold for $926.
Among other items that sold were:
- A 1910 T210 Old Mill card of Casey Stengel (PSA 6 EX-MT) sold for $2,463
- A 1915 Fred Clarke Cracker Jack card (PSA NM-MT) sold for $2,710
- A 1933 Goudey Luke Sewell card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $1,868
- A 1933 Goudey Harold Schumacher card (PSA NM-MT) sold for $1,726
- A 1936 Diamond Stars card of Red Lucas (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $2,708
- From the 1952 Topps set Allie Reynolds (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $1,161, Russ Meyer’s card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $1,190, Dick Rozek’s card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $1,083, Billy Hoeft’s card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $1,083 and Chuck Dressen’s card (PSA NM-MT) sold for $2,642
- A PSA 9 MINT version of the 1959 Topps card, “Aaron Clubs World Series Homer,” sold for $926; from the same set Ted Kluzewski’s (PSA 9 MINT) card sold for $477
- A Topps Rub-Offs Sandy Koufax card (PSA 10 GEM MINT) sold for $1,597; a Willie Mays Rub-Offs card (also PSA 10 GEM MINT) sold for one dollar less
- Yankee Hal Reniff’s 1961 World Series ring sold for $18,975; and Willie Davis’ 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers ring, sold for $9,492
- A Kobe Bryant game-used road jersey from 1998-‘99 for $2,296
- A pair of Kobe’s shoes worn in Game 5 of last year’s championship final for $1,391
- A Shaquille O’Neal home game-used jersey for $3,450
- Andy Pafko’s 1952 Topps card (PSA 7 NM), number one in the set, sold for $6,592
- Roy Campanella’s ‘52 Topps card (PSA 7 NM) sold for $3,018; and The 418-lot sale grossed $826,000
Next to the Mays card, the 833-lot, MastroNet sale featured other historic cards, photos and gear, particularly game-used bats. An ungraded Honus Wagner T206 card (Piedmont backing) that’s rated in “good” condition sold for $86,729; Babe Ruth’s Sporting News card from 1915 (PSA NM-MT 8) sold for a record $60,451.
A number of complete or near-complete sets also fetched many multiples of the minimum bid. A collection of 55 cards from the 1912 Plow’s Candy set, with a third of the cards graded NM or better by PSA, sold for $90,199. A complete 1951 Bowman baseball set that PSA graded 71 percent as NM or better sold for $85,903. A 1953 Bowman complete baseball set, with two-thirds of the set graded EX or better, sold for $67,305. A collection of 377 Old Judge cards from 1886-1890, of which 75 percent were graded from VG to EX, sold for $70,670. A complete set of 1952 Topps baseball cards sold for $43,679.
The MastroNet sale also offered an extensive group of game-used bats. Ty Cobb led the way during the first day of the two-day sale with a gamer that fetched $77,142. A Mel Ott game-used bat (1934-37) sold for $54,004; a Mantle game-used bat from 1961 sold for $20,171; a Joe DiMaggio gamer sold for $18,337; an Eddie Collins Reach gamer circa 1910 sold for $15,284; Stan Musial’s All-Star game bat from 1960 - signed - sold for $11,641; Pee Wee Reese’s game-used bat from the ‘52 World Series sold for $17,603. The bat came from Reese’s niece. Roberto Clemente’s game-used bat from 1966 sold for $12,806; and a game-used Willie Mays bat circa ‘61-‘64 sold for $10,928.
Al Gionfriddo’s famous glove from his well-remembered ‘47 Series caught a winning bid of $12,329. A game-used Willie Mays glove circa 1965, and loaded with countless basket catches, sold for $18,307. Fast-forwarding to the present, a game-used Derek Jeter glove from 1999 sold for $4,817.
A couple of items commemorating Addie Joss Day in 1911 were also sold. One was a panoramic shot of the players who stepped up to help Joss’s widow. It sold for $18,522; a ball signed by many of the game’s participants, including Joe Jackson, sold for $22,412. A ball signed by Christy Mathewson and noted “1923 World Series” sold for $16,002. A six-page handwritten Mathewson letter sold for $20,343.
A number of historic Ruth items sold well. His 1935 Boston Braves contract -- for $75,000 over three years—sold for $18,493; a broadside touting an exhibition game with Ruth and Lou Gehrig sold for $32,816; a couple of Ruth-signed balls eclipsed the $20,000 figure.
Among other items in the MastroNet sale:
- The 1909 American Caramel Joe Jackson (PSA VG3), the true rookie card of the shoeless one, sold for $5,419
- A 1953 Bowman card of Roy Campanella, one of only three PSA MINT 9 in existence with none graded higher, sold for $7,216
- A 1948 Leaf card of Warren Spahn sold for 2,132
- A 1948 Leaf card of Satchel Paige (PSA NM 7) sold for 12,640
- A 1960 Topps card of Eddie Mathews (PSA MINT 9) sold for 1,599
- A 1960 Topps All-Star card of Mathews (PSA MINT 9) sold for $1,079
- A 1963 Topps Mathews card (PSA 9) sold for $1,321
- A 1966 Topps Pete Rose card (PSA MINT 9) sold for $7,463
- A rookie era Roger Maris game-used bat sold for $7,948
- A game-used Hank Aaron bat from ‘73-‘75 sold for $5,969. Aaron signed and noted “755” on the bat
- A Roberto Clemente game-used bat from ‘69-‘72 sold for $6,412
- A game-used Ernie Banks, signed, sold for $5,299
- Mike Schmidt’s 1976 All-Star Game bat, bearing logo commemorating the nation’s bicentennial, sold for $4,817
- A 1980 World Series bat used by Schmidt sold for $5,829
- Frank Robinson’s rookie-era game-used bat, boldly signed, sold for $5,299
- A complete 1954 Topps set, with 89 percent of the cards grading NM or better, sold for $21,300
- A complete 1955 Topps set, with 60 percent graded NR-MT to MT, sold for $10,582
- A complete 1958 Topps baseball set, with 65 percent of the 494 cards, graded from EX to EX-MT, sold for $5,910
- A complete production sheet of 110 cards graded EX-MT, including Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Al Kaline, Walt Alston, Ernie Banks, Warren Spahn, sold for $15,496
- A complete set of 96 cards from the 1934 Goudey set sold for $11,625
- A complete 1962 Topps baseball set, with 40 percent grading NM, sold for $15,128
- Al Kaline’s game-worn jersey from 1971 sold for $16,002
- Eddie Mathews’ 1964 game-worn flannel jersey sold for $10,850
Some collectors were not fazed by the fact that Mark McGwire is now the No. 2 single-season home run king. During the past couple of years, however, many people spent top dollar for McGwire items—bats, jerseys, balls, and lineup cards. They figured his record of 70 home runs in a single season, which smashed the 38-year-old record held by Roger Maris, would last more than three years. Of course, no one forked over more dollars than Todd McFarlane, the Marvel comic strip king, who paid $3 million for the 70th home run ball.
Sellers of legit McGwire items have seen prices cut in half in the wake of Bonds’ 73-home run performance, a weak economy, and the events of Sept. 11. A recent lot showcasing two single-signed balls by the members of the 70 Home Run Club didn’t even crack $700. A small auction with a legit McGwire signature could not even attract a minimum bid of $300. Maybe someone missed something. Their minds were understandably elsewhere.
Yet, with McGwire announcing his retirement, a couple of collectors ignored the marketplace and paid top dollar. In the recent MastroNet sale, a single-signed McGwire ball with a “70” notation sold for $1,938; in the SportsCard Plus sale a 1985 Topps PSA GEM MINT rookie card sold for $1,818.