This Ruth card sold for $115,000, a new record
This Ruth card sold for $115,000, a new record

Collectors had many late weekend nights toward the end of the year as major auction houses registered big sales before the new year began. Yep, it's 2002. The year ended with the market definitely favoring the buyer. Values on sports memorabilia, notably some high-graded cards, softened a bit in the face of a worrisome economy and as the ripples of 9/11 continued to wave through Afghanistan and beyond. Now listen up. The softness of the prices, however, does not mean panic has hit the marketplace. The fast-rising values on certain cards merely seemed to take a breather as people's minds and pocketbooks were understandably elsewhere. Like blue-chip stocks, high-graded cards are retreating a bit. And because collectors pay for quality, they will be pushing prices higher when their attention rebounds. A healthier economy and stock market certainly couldn't hurt the memorabilia market either.

The silver lining here is that the flood of auctions in December brought a high volume of sellers as well as buyers. Like it or not, the market reflects real value. Prices on the dip don't mean the collectibles or auction houses are under-performing… far from it. The prices are a measure of where the market is on these given days. Remember, the market is fluid. And like any market, values fluctuate. Every time an item sells it's not going to reach a new high. That's not the way the market works. The market will trend lower and trend higher. If you are new to the marketplace, you will likely be astounded by these prices. So, take a deep breath, as we dive into this month's Auction Action.

Jackie Robinson's 1952 game-used home jersey, reportedly the last from Widow Rachel Robinson, sold for $132,105 in a Dec. 6-7 auction organized by Leland's. Robinson's Hall of Fame ring sold for $56,636. The colossal two-day auction, which also featured a variety of rock 'n' roll memorabilia and other pop Americana, grossed more than $2.5 million. Among other big ticket items in the sale:

  • A Federal League ball signed by Eddie Plank sold for $44,820.
  • A Bill Russell Celtics warm-up suit from 1957 sold for $29,828.
  • A Cal Ripken Jr. game-worn jersey from his rookie season sold for $18,521.
  • A 1973 Willie Mays game-worn jersey sold for $21,836.
  • Roger Staubach's game-worn jersey in the famed "Hail Mary" game sold for $20,373.
  • A 1981 Super Bowl XVI ring sold for $17,583.
  • A 1969-70 Phil Esposito game-worn Boston Bruins jersey sold for $13,211.
  • A Gordie Howe game-worn Red Wings jersey from the 1960s sold for $24,651.
  • A Jean Beliveau Montreal Canadiens game-worn wool sweater sold for $16,813.
  • Guy LeFleur's 1976 Canadiens Stanley Cup ring sold for $12,327.

In other Hockey items, Marcel Dionne's 1981 L.A. Kings game-worn jersey sold for $7,218; Brian Trottier's Islanders game-used jersey from 1985-'86 sold for $8,510; Steve Yzerman's Red Wings gamer from '88-'89 sold for $8,734; Ray Bourque's Colorado Avalanche jersey from last year sold for $7,131; Gerry Cheevers' 13-inch Stanley Cup trophy with the Bruins sold for $7,395; and Rocket Richard's team-signed Montreal Canadiens game-used stick sold for $6,562.

Among other sports items: An Ebbets Field stadium seat sold for $2,642; Lou Gehrig's High School yearbook from 1920 sold for $2,625; a 1996 Yankees 12-inch World Series Championship Trophy sold for $5,966; a Kirby Puckett game-used glove from 1991 sold for $2,978. Fans of the Robinson/Reese-era Dodgers picked up a number of team balls. A '48 team ball sold for $1,312; a '54 team ball sold for $3,970; a 1955 team ball sold for $1,805; and a 1957 team ball sold for $1,985.

Five tiny pinholes in a Honus Wagner T-206 didn't scare a bidder from hanging around to win the PSA PR-FR1-graded card for $78,144 during the 2,355-lot MastroNet auction on Dec. 14-15. Among non-card items, a home Bob Gibson jersey from the 1968 season, signed, sold for $21,147. Barry Bonds showed his clout at auction as one of his 2001 SAM bats, used during his 73-home-run season sold for $13,753. Interestingly, a SAM bat used the previous year sold for $3,215.

Among other vintage bats in the sale, a Willie Mays gamer used circa 1968-70 sold for $9,620; a Babe Ruth gamer used within the decade of 1921-1931 sold for $9,391; a Ted Williams game-used bat sold for $9,031; a signed Hank Aaron game bat used from 1961-67 sold for $3,364; a bat Ken Griffey Jr. used to hit is 19th home run in 1999 (it's signed and so noted) sold for $2,221. One collector invested in Walter Payton futures by buying 53 signed 8x10-color photos taken from the end zone, showing Payton flying head first over the pile. The lot sold for $3,289. In the realm of jewelry, Joe "the Jet" Perry's Football Hall of Fame ring from 1969 sold for $5,241. "Gashouse Gang" member Jim Mooney's 1934 St. Louis Cardinals world championship ring sold for $4,817. And a sterling silver bowl presented to Bill Dickey during Hall of Fame Day at Yankee Stadium in 1954 sold for $920. Among higher-flying cards that sold in the sale:

  • A rare 1948 Leaf Rocky Graziano boxing card (PSA VG-EX 4) sold for $17,903.
  • A group of 1948 Leaf boxing cards, including Joe Louis (PSA 8), sold for $4,766.
  • A 1954 Bowman Ted Williams card (PSA NM-MT 8) sold for $7,399.
  • A 1968 Topps Test Team Set, called by MastroNet experts a difficult-to-find set and "the finest graded set" of its kind in the hobby, sold for $2,958.
  • A 1955 Topps Hank Aaron card (PSA NM-MT 8) sold for $1,321.
  • Dick Groat's rookie card from 1952 (PSA NM-MT 8) sold for $1,360.
  • A 1960 Fleer Jack Kemp football card (PSA MT 9) sold for $506.

The sale was a good one for leather, as a game-used Pedro Martinez glove sold for $4,575. A game-used Alex Rodriguez glove sold for $3,892 and a Mark McGwire game-used glove sold for $4,632. A game-used Jeff Bagwell first baseman's mitt fetched $1,091. Among stadium seating, chairs from Yankee Stadium and Ebbets Field have absorbed the most memories and captured the most value. A Yankee Stadium original seat, with faded grease pencil signatures by Whitey Ford, Monte Irvin, and Cool Papa Bell, sold for $2,195; an original Ebbets Field seat sold for $2,922. Meanwhile, an original seat from Cleveland Stadium sold for $743; a Shibe Park seat sold for $1,006; a Comiskey Park seat sold for $460; a Briggs Stadium seat sold for $766; and a Griffith Stadium seat sold for $604.

A number of interesting vintage items surfaced in the MastroNet sale, this one organized out of Huntingdon Valley, PA. A 1922 check signed by Christy Mathewson sold for $7,463. Also, Hack Wilson's personal autographed picture album from the 1930 Chicago Cubs, including signed photos by Rogers Hornsby and Gabby Hartnett, among others, sold for $5,606. The famous Nat Fein photo showing Babe Ruth at home plate on Babe Ruth Day in Yankee Stadium, with photographers lined along the first base side, sold for $3,537. The photo also was mounted on an album page and signed by Fein.

Grey Flannel Auctions again lived up to its name by producing a mammoth sale dominated by flannel items and other jerseys. Wilt Chamberlain's full home uniform during his rookie season with the Philadelphia Warriors sold for $37,042. Ted Williams' 1953 Red Sox home flannel sold for $51,859; Sandy Koufax's 1965 Dodgers home flannel sold for $37,885; and Roberto Clemente's 1960 road vest sold for $40,746. Game-used items from New York Yankees greats also did very well. A cap worn by Lou Gehrig fetched $39,100; Joe DiMaggio's rookie jacket from 1936 sold for $25,300; a Mickey Mantle bat fetched $22,145; a Yogi Berra jersey and mask sold for $16,626; and Casey Stengel's 1951 jersey sold for $7,321. Darryl Strawberry's 1986 World Series trophy from the Mets sold for $16,136.

Howard Rosenkrantz, Grey Flannel CEO, said, "Given the effect of the Sept. 11th aftermath and the ensuing belt tightening of the American public, we had to be pleased with the results of our auction. In total we fell short of some of our other auctions, but quality items still did very well. There were not very many 'steals,' which we expected to see, given the economic climate. We sold more lots and had more bidders than in any of our previous auctions. This bodes very well for our future auctions." The auction grossed nearly $2 million, and more than 90 percent of the 1,263 lots featured sold, he added. Ron Swoboda's 1969 Mets World Series jersey sold for $22,373; a set of 4 New York Yankees World Series trophies sold for $19,455; a 1996 Yankees World Championship ring sold for $14,266; and the on-deck circle from the 2000 Subway Series sold for $3,827. Wayne Gretzky's 1980 Edmonton Oilers game-used jersey sold for $18,250 and Gale Sayers' 1971 Chicago Bears game-used jersey sold for $15,280.

Among other notable items that sold:

  • A full run of Super Bowl tickets sold for $36,977.
  • Barry Bonds' pants, cap and wristbands that he wore when he hit his 500th career home run sold for $13,915.
  • Ernie Stautner's 1978 Dallas Cowboy Super Bowl Ring sold for $13,394.
  • An Eddie Mathewis home run bat sold for $13,359.
  • A Babe Ruth single-signed ball sold for $13,891.
  • An autographed photo of Lou Gehrig on Lou Gehrig Day sold for $12,014.
  • A Joe Namath game-used helmet sold for $11,480.
  • A game-used, autographed Pele soccer jersey sold for $3,367.
  • Payne Stewart's cap, knickers and socks worn during a tournament sold for $3,450. The items were accompanied by a letter from Stewart's widow.
  • A single-signed baseball by Mel Ott sold for $6,111.
  • Three University of Pennsylvania trophy footballs from 1912, '13, and '22 sold for $2,735.
  • A Marshall Faulk game-used Rams jersey from 2000 sold for $5,060.
  • A 1990 game-used and signed Joe Montana 49ers helmet sold for $4,930.

Even in a tough market a number of high graded cards showed strength in Andy Madec Sportscards' Dec. 11 auction. A 1964 Topps Ernie Banks card (PSA 9 MINT) sold for what Madec calls a record $3,009 and a 1970 Topps Reggie Jackson card (PSA 9 MINT) sold for $3,451. Other cards that brought strong prices, Madec said, were a 1948 Bowman Stan Musial rookie card (PSA 9 MINT), which sold for $11,454 and a 1950 Bowman Jackie Robinson (PSA 9 MINT), which sold for $10,930. "This is a bit of a tough time for the card market," said Madec, whose sale grossed $304,000. "And while prices are not at all time highs, we performed as well or better than our competition. Cards between $500 and $3,000 did very well."

Several lots of autographed items also drew strong prices. A 2-page letter from Gil Hodges seeking advice on hitting from Ty Cobb fetched $3,113; a signed 8x10 photo of Babe Ruth signing for a couple of autograph seekers sold $9,096; and a Charles Conlon photo signed by Ty Cobb, personalized for his grandson, Christopher, sold for $10,060. Other results in the auction were:

  • A 1914 Cracker Jack Ed Walsh card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $3,221.
  • A 1915 Cracker Jack Edd Roush card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $2,357.
  • A 1932 U.S. Caramel Al Simmons (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $1,948.
  • A 1932 U.S. Caramel Bill Dickey card (PSA 9 MT) sold for $5,638.
  • A 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth card (PSA 7 NM) sold for $9,174.
  • A 1933 Goudey Lefty Grove card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $3,237.
  • A 1933 Goudey George Uhle (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $965.
  • A 1933 Goudey Hack Wilson (PSA NM-MT) sold for $2,200.
  • A 1936 Diamond Stars Frank Crosetti (PSA 9 MINT) sold for $2,143.
  • A 1936 Diamond Stars Pie Traynor (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $1,931.
  • A 1936 Diamond Stars Dick Bartell (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $1,089.
  • A 1951 Bowman Yogi Berra (PSA 8 NM-MT sold for $2,328.
  • A 1957 Topps Hank Aaron (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $927.
  • A 1957 Topps Ernie Banks (PSA 9 MINT) sold for $2,573.
  • A 1958 Topps Ted Williams All-Star card (PSA 9 MT) sold for $4,430.
  • A 1959 Topps Mays Catch (PSA 9 MINT) sold for $888.
  • A 1961 Dodger Southpaws (PSA 9 MINT) sold for$1,099.
  • A 1961 Topps Willie Mays (PSA 9 MINT) sold for $2,636.
  • A 1962 Hank Aaron (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $690.
  • A 1963 Topps Roger Maris card (PSA 10 GEM MINT) sold for $6,051.
  • A 1964 Mickey Mantle (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $891.
  • A 1964 Topps Ernie Banks (PSA 9 MINT) sold for $3,009.
  • A 1967 Topps Ernie Banks (PSA 9 MINT) sold for $1,128.
  • A 1967 Topps NL Homerun Leaders (PSA 9 MINT) sold for $708.
  • A 1970 Topps Reggie Jackson (PSA 9 MINT) sold for $3,451.
  • A 1970 Topps Ernie Banks (PSA 9 MINT) sold for $777.
  • A 1952 Bowman Large Elroy Hirsch (PSA 9 MINT) card sold for $2,357.
  • A 1986 Fleer Basketball Set (all PSA 9 MINT) sold for $10,348.
  • A 1952 Red Man Tobacco Stan Musial (PSA 9 MINT) sold for $6457.

Two 1934 Goudey Lou Gehrig cards sold for nearly $30,000 in an auction held in December by Brian Drent's Mile High Card Company. Card #37 in the set (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $16,792 and Card #61 (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $12,445. Other cards that sold were:

  • Ty Cobb's T206 card from 1909-11 (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $10,696.
  • A 1914 Cracker Jack card of Tris Speaker (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $4,429.
  • A 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth card (PSA 7 NM) sold for $8,562.
  • A 1933 Goudey Owen Carroll (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $3,606.
  • A Dolph Camilly (PSA 9 MINT) card sold for $2,589.
  • A 1938 Goudey Bob Feller card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $5,315.
  • A 1940 Play Ball Ted Williams card #1 (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $6,303.
  • A 1941 Play Ball Ted Williams card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $8,126.
  • A 1941 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio card (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $15,992.
  • A 1963 Topps Hank Aaron (PSA 9 MINT) sold for $3,382.
  • A 1968 Topps Test #1 Oscar Robertson (PSA 8 NM-MT) sold for $3,040.
  • A 1953 Topps Willie Mays card (PSA 8 NM-MT sold for $5,982.

Drent said the prices for these and other cards were down from earlier levels. "Several factors have contributed to the softness of the market, not the least of which is the recession, the war in Afghanistan, and the events of 9/11," Drent said. "It's a great opportunity for the buyer to get in at a level to realize appreciation in the coming months and years to come."

Maybe Michael Jordan's doctor knows how much it cost to put the basketball great's leg in a cast back in the '85-86 season. Could it have cost $15,692? Because that's what the autographed used cast fetched at a Nov. 29 auction organized by Sportico of Skokie, Illinois. The cast was among a number of Jordan items offered during the sale. Jordan's game-used All-Star jersey from the '95-96 game sold for $7,260; a number of Jordan jerseys failed to sell. Team-signed basketballs from the 1996-97 and 1998-98 seasons sold for $1,064 and $1,108, respectively. Overall, Ryan Friedman of Sportico said the Jordan market is down. In fact, he said the market definitely is favoring the buyer at this time of the year. "If you have money to spend, you should be out there buying," he said. He added that consignments are up significantly. "People need money and they've curtailed their collecting somewhat. They're willing to part with items they purchased 10 years ago for less money, albeit for a profit. Some consignors are taking smaller profits and others are willing to take losses just to get cash."

Among other items that sold:

  • A Negro Leagues commemorative jersey signed by 201 players, including 61 deceased players, sold for $5,136.
  • 1989 50th Anniversary Baseball Hall of Fame bat signed by 50 players, including 12 deceased players, sold for $1,065.
  • Scottie Pippin's game-worn Bulls road jerseys from the 1995'-96 finals sold for $2,000.
  • No. 768 of the series of 1,941 bats signed by Joe DiMaggio, the ones that once sold on "tee-vee" for $3,995, sold for $1,267.
  • A game-used Patrick Roy goalie stick sold for $407.
  • Two Ted Williams-signed baseballs sold for $403.
  • A Mickey Mantle-signed ball, with a 536 HR notation sold for $333.
  • Tiger Woods high school senior yearbook (Pioneer H.S., Class of '93) sold for $750. A Tiger Woods "Tour of Threads" card, with a swatch of a Cardinal red golf shirt, sold for $800.

Among unsold items was Muhammad Ali's diamond-laden "Athlete of the Century" ring. It had a minimum bid of $10,000.

A 1998 game-used New York Giants uniform worn by Michael Strahan, the NFL's sack king this year, sold for $1,955 in an auction organized Dec. 6 by of Las Vegas. Other game-used uniforms sold well. A 1963 Birdie Tebbetts game-used flannel sold for $1957; a Walter Alston game-worn jersey as Dodgers manager sold for $892; and a 1993 Mark McGwire game-used bat (from his days with the Athletics) sold for $1,567.

Sultan of Swat Hits $115,000

Babe Ruth, a.k.a. the Sultan of Swat, was known for hitting big home runs while a member of the Red Sox, Yankees, and Braves. His sportscards are also known for hitting homers as Ruth-related cardboard always seems to be a hot commodity. Recently, J.P. Cohen of Memory Lane, Inc., sold a PSA Mint 9 1933 Goudey Sport Kings Babe Ruth for a record $115,000. The card, an obviously outstanding example, is now part of the all-time prices realized list, reaching the top 10. In fact, this is the highest price recorded for a Ruth card at this point. There are a few Ruth cards (all PSA graded) in existence that would certainly challenge this mark if offered in the market, but this is tops for now.

Set Registry Starting to Take Off

The PSA Set Registry is a home run. In the last 30 days, activity has picked up to the point that 20 to 30 new sets are being registered every week. There are now over 90 set composites available for baseball, basketball, football, hockey, and golf. The request list for new sets is extensive and PSA is working feverishly to get more composites online to meet the demand. Of course major vintage card sets are being added, but also modern sets are making an appearance. In addition, plans are underway to make player sets available for registration as well. Join the fun and compete with others.

Go to the PSA Set Registry or visit the set registry message boards to learn more about the challenge.

This 1948 Leaf Graziano card is a major rarity
This 1948 Leaf Graziano card is a major rarity
This bat was used by Bonds during his record breaking season
This bat was used by Bonds during his record breaking season