This robe, worn by Muhammad Ali when he took on Smokin’ Joe in The Thriller in Manila, sold for $81,812
This robe, worn by Muhammad Ali when he took on Smokin’ Joe in The Thriller in Manila, sold for $81,812

Laguna Niguel, Ca. - SportsCards Plus continues to solidify their status as one of the premier auctioneers of high-grade cards and memorabilia with another blockbuster auction. Collectors eagerly responded to the quality and diversity of the 350-plus lots, which included everything from rare test issues to a collection of important unused tickets. There were many surprising prices across the board, but it's no surprise that the name "Babe Ruth" was associated with many of the top lots in the sale. The Bambino headlined a tremendous selection of pre and post-war cards and memorabilia that brought in an impressive total of $1,038,000.

A phenomenal lineup of cards was led by a 1933 Goudey #53 Babe Ruth PSA 8 ($44,377) -- the top lot in the sale. Other gems that saw vigorous competition were a 1888 Goodwin Champions Mike "King" Kelly PSA 8 ($21,890), 1909 E95 Philadelphia Caramel Ty Cobb PSA 7 ($4,100), 1911 T205 Home Run Baker PSA 8 ($6,325), 1914 Cracker Jack #103 Joe Jackson PSA 7 ($19,654), 1955 Topps #2 Ted Williams PSA 9 ($14,915), and a 1962 Topps #530 Bob Gibson PSA 10 ($4,632). A 1954 Wilson Franks Gil Hodges in PSA 8 incited a bidding war that ended with a final price of $11,132. The price for this condition rarity was more than 18 times the minimum bid ($600) and over 6 times its listed value of $1,800. Complete sets also saw heavy competition with the highest bids going to "cornerstone" issues such as 1952 Topps - Vg/Ex ($19,621) and 1933 Goudey - Vg/Ex ($14,261).

In the memorabilia portion of the auction, Babe Ruth proved to be a heavy hitter again. A phenomenal single signed Ruth ball with its original ball box, mailing box, and excellent provenance brought $24,448, while a superb 1934 Tour of Japan photo signed by Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx realized $29,965. Other notable baseball memorabilia items included an 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings CDV ($5,556), a 1939 American League All-Star Team Signed Ball ($7,133), and a 1999 New York Yankees World Series Trophy ($11,206). The top seller amongst a group of mint condition Hartland Statues with original boxes and tags was a Dick Groat example that brought $6,401. A terrific collection of original tickets was well received, including such rarities as a 1912 New York Giants World Series - Game 1 ($2,530), 1932 New York Yankees World Series - Ruth's Called Shot ($2,959), 1954 New York Giants World Series - Mays' Catch ($2,797), 1956 New York Yankees World Series - Larsen's Perfect Game ($3,542), and a 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates World Series Full Ticket - Mazeroski's HR ($3,062).

Some recently discovered Topps Test Rarities caused quite a stir with collectors. The widely publicized and eagerly anticipated offering included a selection of ultra scarce 1967 Topps Giant Stand-Ups. Highlighting this issue were #8 Mickey Mantle ($13,471), #19 Willie Mays ($6,554), and #21 Carl Yastrzemski ($5,983). An unopened 1968 Topps Plaks Wax Pack brought $5,566 and an unopened 1969 Topps Super Cello Pack reached $4,354. Other significant items from this find included a rare 1968 Topps Test Basketball Complete Set ($24,653) and a mint 1974 Topps Deckle Edge Set ($5,566).

Rounding out the sale was some significant football and basketball memorabilia. A limited edition lithograph signed by the NBA's 50 Greatest Players drew spirited bidding and finished at $38,245, while John Elway's late 1980's Game Worn Broncos Jersey brought $5,566.

"The Greatest" Memorabilia Hits the Block

MastroNet's April 11-12 Chicago auction saw two of the fight game's most recognizable pieces of memorabilia go on the block. The first of the two historic pieces was, perhaps, the most important item of boxing memorabilia ever offered at auction -- the fight trunks that The Greatest, Muhammad Ali wore when he first tangled with Joe Frazier in "The Fight of The Century" at New York's Madison Square Garden. The white trimmed red trunks garnered a whopping $99,445.

The second item, fetching a staggering $81,812 dollars, was the powder blue and white satin robe that Ali wore when he entered the ring of the Araheta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines for his third and final duke out with Frazier. To be forever remembered as "The Thriller in Manila," the two aging warriors beat each other unmercifully on that October day in 1975. When it was over, The Greatest, who KO'd Smokin' Joe in the 15th round, said it was the closest he had ever come to death.

The robe had been beautifully signed by Ali on the front right side with a black Sharpie. On the left pocket, using a ballpoint pen, Ali wrote "Frazier was the gorilla in Manilla - Muhammad Ali - 8/9/93".

Two incredible collections of vintage baseball cards also attributed to the success of MastroNet's April auction.

A collection of 120-year old N172 Old Judge cards, featuring 310 different player, closed bidding at $92,407. The cards, which all ranged from VG to NM, are part of an issue that is considered by some to be the ultimate baseball card set. There are over 2,000 cards, featuring more than 500 players, in the set. There is no known complete set in existence, and, no collector in the hobby has yet been able to amass one card of each player.

The second superb card offering was a complete T204 1909 Ramly PSA graded set that sold for $61,046. Considered to be among the most elegantly designed cards ever produced, the 121 cards of the Ramly T204 set include photographic portraits surrounded by gold-embossed oval frames. This offering included a VG 3 Johnny Evers, an EX 5 Frank Chance, an EX-MT 6 Joe Tinker and 15 cards, including the set's centerpiece card, a Walter Johnson, and a Harry Stienfeldt and Bobby Wallace in NR-MT 7.

A Cooperstown-quality item that came on the block was a Babe Ruth "notched" home run bat from the mid-to-late 1920s. The Bambino was known to "notch" his bats when it was used to send a ball over the fence. Very few of these "notched" Babe Ruth bats have surfaced. One is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame and another resides in the H&B Louisville Slugger Archives. Small wonder MastroNet garnered $ 82,598 dollars for what was described as one of the finest Ruth bats to ever become available.

Another item that received strong action during the auction was an original paining of Mickey Mantle done by famed sports artist, Leroy Neiman. Painted in 1965, this Neiman painting is one of only two that the artist ever did of the Yankee great to be offered at auction. The first to be sold, by Robert Edward Auctions in 1977, saw a winning bid of $108,000. This smaller painting, measuring 10½ inches x 21 inches, brought the gavel down at $56,670.

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Bidding was relatively light on Sportico's March 4-21 auction with a few unique items unable to garner an opening bid. Among those one-of-a-kind offerings that did not sell was a signed Los Angeles Dodgers uniform that Duke Snider wore in the 1976 Old Timers Day game which had an opening bid of $2,500, and a life-size plaster statue of Michael Jordan. The 7 foot 4 inch, 200-pound statue of Jordan had been used at Chicago's Nike Town to display Air Jordan shoes. The opening bid on the statue was $3,500.

One Jordan item that did sell was the 1984 Collegiate Basketball Player of the Year Wooden Award that was presented to His Airness by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The same award, which was presented to Larry Johnson, sold for $10,000 which appears to make the $6,000 final bid on the MJ trophy a steal.

Perhaps the most unusual item Sportico made available during their March auction was a flannel Peaches jersey that was signed by 134 players from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

The all-woman league, that inspired the film A League of Their Own, was established by chewing gum mogul and Chicago Cubs owner Phillip K. Wrigley during World War II. Among the 134 signatories to the jersey was Dotie Schroeder, the only woman to have played from the league's inception in 1943 to its demise in 1954. The jersey sold for over $3,100.

This rare ''notched'' home run bat of the Babe's sold for $82,598
This rare ''notched'' home run bat of the Babe's sold for $82,598
This elegantly designed complete T204 1909 Ramly set brought the gavel down at over $61K!
This elegantly designed complete T204 1909 Ramly set brought the gavel down at over $61K!