Watchung, New Jersey. The strength of the high-end baseball card and memorabilia market amazed collectors at Robert Edward's record-setting May 1, 2010 auction. An astounding 181 lots sold for $10,000 or more. The most anticipated baseball card and memorabilia auction in the world always generates great excitement and strong prices. Collectors, dealers, and market watchers look to REA's annual event as the key barometer of the hetitleh of the market and the most important auction event of the year. According to REA president Robert Lifson, "The market was extremely strong. While common sense tells us that our market is not immune to problems in the larger economy, you'd never know it from the results. This was our most successful auction ever. More items sold for over $50,000 than ever before (twenty-eight lots), and more items sold for $100,000 or more than ever before (nine lots). It was also the smoothest running auction in all respects, including collecting the money. You'd think that there would be a few delays here and there in collecting money and getting it in the hands of consignors when you're talking about ten million dollars. There weren't. And all consignors were paid in full, 100 cents on the dollar with no adjustments due to nonpaying bidders, and in record time."
The positive numbers and the facts speak for themselves: No auction in history has ever generated the dollar volume of this auction for vintage baseball card sales. By virtually every measure, despite economic pressures of the economy, the historic spring REA auction was the most successful baseball card auction in the history of collecting. The total $10.12 million in sales for the auction set a new world record for a multi-owner all-consignment baseball card and memorabilia auction. This total also represents a new world record for any multi-consignor auction in which the auction house, auction house executives, and employees are prohibited from bidding in the auction. In fact, the $10.12 million dollar auction total is also a new record dollar volume ever to be hammered down in a single day in the history of sports collecting. No other sports card or memorabilia auction in the history of the universe (except REA) has ever sold anywhere near this dollar volume in a single day. Even the number of catalogs shipped was a record!
The stunning prices on all nineteenth and early twentieth century baseball cards and memorabilia totaled a staggering $10.12 million dollars across 1720 lots. The average lot sold for $5,883. The T206 Wagner (reserve $50,000) in the lowest possible grade (PSA 1) sold for $282,000. This card was named "The Connecticut Wagner" because in 1985 it was purchased by the consignor at a card convention in Connecticut for the then-princely sum of $10,000 and its mysterious whereabouts (until unveiled in this auction) have been completely unknown in the organized collecting world for the past twenty-five years.
The big money, however, was not reserved only for the T206 Wagner, which can always be counted on to sell for well into six figures in any grade. The T3 Turkey Red set (reserve $50,000; est. $150,000+) cruised to a final record selling price of $246,750. "It deserved to" said REA president Robert Lifson. "It was the highest grade T3 set ever auctioned. It would be almost impossible to put that set together in that condition for any amount of money. When extraordinary quality is offered, it's interesting to see the great number of big buyers that come out of the woodwork at REA. Millions of dollars in aggressive bids came in for high quality lots like this one. Some other collecting fields are having trouble selling big ticket lots. That is not the case at REA. We work hard all year long to make the auction a special event. Everyone knows the investment in time and energy and effort we put into the auction, and collectors know the job REA does. We only have one auction a year. It really is a special event. Collectors know it and respond."
The 1886-1890 Old Judge Tobacco card of Cornelius Doyle, an obscure California League player who is an extreme rarity in the set, realized an incredible $129,250, setting an all-time record price for an Old Judge card anywhere EVER! For many, the highlight of the auction was the collection of the legendary Sy Berger, universally recognized as the "Father of the Modern Bubble-Gum Card". Sy Berger was the face of Topps for over fifty years, and is one of the most important hobby industry pioneers in the history of collecting. The 1953 Topps original artworks from the Berger Collection, highlighted by the Satchel Paige artwork which realized $58,750; and other various souvenirs sold for a total of over three-hundred thousand dollars. As intended, this offering gave collectors on budgets large and small a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have an item that once belonged to this collecting legend and cultural icon.
Additional extraordinary highlights and six-figure items: An uncut sheet of 1933 Goudey bubble gum cards with three Babe Ruths and a Lou Gehrig (reserve $25,000) sold for $117,500. The newly discovered 1889 Goodwin Round Album advertising poster, universally recognized as one of the baseball collecting world's greatest display pieces, is one of only four examples known. The poster was consigned by a noncollecting family who saved it because they appreciated the graphics but had no idea of its great value. With a reserve of $25,000, it soared to a stunning final selling price of $105,750. An exceptional 1916 Babe Ruth Sporting News baseball card, the first card ever issued of Ruth as a Major Leaguer, in Near Mint condition, sold for record $82,250. An 1910 Old Mill Tobacco card of Joe Jackson (reserve $25,000), featuring the future Black Sox star when he was in the minor leagues long before being banned from baseball, realized an impressive $111,625. This very card was once owned by legendary collector Barry Halper. It has risen dramatically (over tenfold!) in value over the past ten years. In 1999 it was offered in the famous Halper auction where it sold at that time for $10,925. The 1903 World Series program, of special note both for its great rarity and for being from the very first game of the very first World Series, (reserve $25,000) realized $94,000. The bat Babe Ruth used to hit his 702nd homerun sold for a very hetitlehy $111,625, setting a record for a Babe Ruth bat from the 1935 era due to its exceptional provenance and special historical significance. The famous T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb Tobacco advertisement on the back card (reserve $10,000), which has always been revered as one of the key rarities of vintage card collecting, also far exceeded expectations, shattering the $100,000 mark for the first time ever at REA and selling for $111,625.
An extraordinary high-grade complete set of 1912 T207 Brown Background tobacco cards, all PSA graded, was broken down into 29 separate lots, and sold for a staggering total of $205,625. "The Merkle Ball" was another very special memorabilia auction highlight and a great privilege to offer for REA. This was the ball that cost the Giants the pennant in 1908! If only Fred Merkle had touched second base, everything would have been different...Unfortunately, he didn't. The ball held by Chicago second baseman Johnny Evers when he touched second base, forcing Merkle out and changing the course of the 1908 pennant race for the New York Giants, changed hands in the May 2010 REA auction for record $76,375. In its last public appearance in 1993, "The Merkle Ball" was purchased at auction by actor Charlie Sheen at auction for $30,250.
"We have no control over exactly what comes to the marketplace for auction. Important collections and items usually come to auction due to unique life-changing circumstances," notes REA president Robert Lifson. "Collectors pass away, people retire, they buy houses, children go to college, sometimes medical bills or even divorce are responsible. All things we have no control over. So we judge ourselves by the things that are in our control, just trying to do a great job in every way possible, from the moment we get an item in to the moment when the consignor is paid. That's our goal. That's what we do. Whatever the size of the auction, we know that if we do a great job, everything else will take care of itself. We can't count on having ten million dollar auctions every year, because the material we sell is rare and we have no ability to come up with special material just because we're having an auction. In 2007 it was an eight million dollar auction. This year it was a ten million dollar auction. Maybe next year it will be a five million dollar auction. We have no idea! But we do know that whatever material we have, it will be presented in the best way possible for collectors and for sellers."
The REA results are extremely encouraging for all collectors and sellers, but REA's Robert Lifson also wants collectors to recognize that while the overall market is strong, the market for any individual card or item can fluctuate. "There were many record prices, but it is also the case that the economy may have brought a few prices down to reality here and there. This is normal and hetitlehy for any market; and in some cases may just be related not to the larger economy but to the internal forces of the vintage card and memorabilia market. If a relatively common card that in Excellent condition sells for $50, but has sold in the past for $5,000 just because it is in Mint condition, and now sells for $4,000, it's down 20% from its peak. If you were the one who bought the card for $5,000 and sold it for $4,000, you're not happy. You lost 20%. But if you paid a modest sum for it and sold it for $4,000, or saved it in a childhood collection and it happened to survive in Mint condition, you might not be able to believe your good fortune. $4,000 would seem like hitting the lottery! We see these scenarios all the time, sometimes on the very same cards and items in the same auction. In other words, two sellers of similar or identical items can receive the same price, and one can be disappointed because his card doesn't sell for a record price, while the other seller is thrilled beyond words. Timing can be very important. Everything at REA sells for top dollar, but sometimes top dollar can change a little with time, depending on supply and demand, and what's in fashion with collectors."
The auction results at REA are widely recognized as providing the most important and respected snapshot of the vintage baseball card and memorabilia marketplace of the entire year. "We work really hard to make everything perfect and the real collectors and most serious buyers really appreciate what we do. The disclosure policies of the REA auction process, our focus on there being no conflicts of interest, the unparalleled confidence that bidders have in REA, all of these factors naturally contribute to strong results and the market's confidence in these results," explains Lifson. "Our bid levels are real, and bidders know this. It makes a big difference. The most serious bidders can and do bid at REA with the ultimate confidence in the integrity of the auction process. It shows in the prices."
The T206 Eddie Plank, one of card collecting's most legendary rarities, in Very Good condition (reserve $10,000) sold for $58,750. A lower grade T206 Plank example, in Good condition, but extremely attractive for the grade, sold for an almost as strong $49,937. The W600 Sporting News cabinet cards of Christy Mathewson (reserve $5,000) and Ty Cobb (reserve $1,500), each set records for these important rarities, selling for $35,250 and $38,188 respectively. The highest graded T206 Wtitleer Johnson (reserve $10,000), graded Mint 9 by PSA, was hammered down for an extraordinary $55,813, also by far a record price in any grade for this classic 1910 era card. Nineteenth century cards were very strong, as always at REA. Two sizable collections of 1886-1890 Old Judges (each comprised of over 300 cards) sold for $82,250 and $94,000 respectively, while high-grade Hall of Famers such as Ed Delahanty ($16,450) and Kid Nichols ($15,275) sold for record prices individually.
A 1911 D304 Brunners Bread card of Ty Cobb, graded Near Mint to Mint by PSA sold for an exceptionally strong $94,000. An example of the famous 1933 Goudey #106 Lajoie, perhaps the most popular card of the 1930s, was also included in the sale. Always extremely valuable in any grade, this very attractive Ex-Mt example was from the Charlie Conlon Collection, and sold for $26,438. The T206 Wtitleer Johnson with the Drum Cigarettes advertising back proved once again that all significant rarities associated with the famous T206 White Border set are always of great interest to collectors, especially important back rarities. This was the first Wtitleer Johnson Drum back example that REA has ever offered. The reserve was $1,000. It did not go unnoticed. The final selling price was $38,187.
Additional significant auction highlights: One of the most interesting cards in the auction was the 1893 Just So Tobacco card of Buck Ewing, a particularly exciting recent discovery. Ewing was previously unknown to exist, though because the rare Just So Tobacco card set features only members of the 1893 Cleveland Spiders, and Ewing was on this team, collectors have long speculated that a card of him may have been issued. This card survived behind the walls of a house in Pennsylvania. Since approximately its year of issue in 1893, it had been nailed to a wood stud behind a plaster wall, where it had remained for decades until its accidental discovery. REA's consignor discovered the card while doing some work remodeling the bathroom of his mother's home, which had been built in the late nineteenth century and had been in the family since the 1920s. He began by tearing apart a plaster wall, creating holes in the process. When he looked inside the first hole in the wall with his flashlight to assess the situation, he was startled to see what appeared to be a small photo staring back at him, stuck to a crossbeam with an old square head nail. It was the Just So Tobacco card of Ewing! One important fact about baseball cards that is proven time and time again: Important rarities sell for big money in any condition. Despite the holes and being in Poor condition, the Ewing card sold for $17,625, more than paying for the home renovations, and adding a new player to the checklist of the extremely rare 1893 Just So Tobacco card set in the process.
More Highlights: The 1903 E107 Breisch-Williams Candy card of the legendary "Wee Willie" Keeler in Good condition realized $21,150; 1914 Cracker Jack #103 Joe Jackson in Vg-Ex condition (reserve $3,000) sold for $19,975; 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle, graded EX-MT by PSA, sold for $19,975; Joe Jackson's rookie card, issued in 1909 by the American Caramel Company and another one of card collecting's great classics, was offered in PSA 5 EX condition and sold for a very impressive $44,063. A 1911 T205 Gold Border set (reserve $10,000) ranging in grade from Poor to Ex-Mt condition sold for $29,375; while an example of key T205 Gold Border rarity Hoblitzell "with no stats on reverse" variation card in EX-MT condition sold for $26,437 all alone! An uncut sheet of 1933 Goudey Gum Company cards including card #1 Benny Bengough (reserve $10,000) was another highlight, selling for $32,312. A complete set of 1921 E253 Oxford Confectionery: (reserve $5,000, estimate $10,000+) sold for $26,437. A complete set of 1934-1936 Batter-Up Complete Set realized $29,375. The auction results of an impressive original "childhood" collection of 1930s bubble-gum cards, which has remained literally untouched since the 1930s and was saved by the family of the original owner, overwhelmed the consignors. Presented in twelve lots (one of which was just the wrappers that once held the cards!), the childhood collection sold for an incredible $118,381.
Modern rarities and complete sets were on fire: An extremely high grade 1957 Topps set sold for an astounding $76,375, an all-time record price for this set. The 1956 Topps Complete PSA-Graded NM-MT 8 Set: #11 PSA Set Registry (reserve $10,000, estimate $25,000+) sold for $41,125. The two cases of 1975 Topps "minis" (each of which originate from the legendary Charlie Conlon Collection) sold for $11,750 and $12,925 respectively. A 1972 Topps set in extraordinary high grade (including 173 GEM MINT cards) sold for $38,187, by far a record price for a 1972 Topps set at REA (and for any post-1970 Topps set).
Record prices were set on countless items, both in cards and memorabilia, and spanning all eras. The 1720 lots, offered on behalf of 276 different consignors, were won by an incredible 678 different bidders, illustrating the power of the marketing and auction process, and the breadth of bidder interest. Successful bidders included some of the nation's most prestigious museums, universities, and corporate institutional collections, as well as representatives from numerous Major League teams. "All areas of the auction received a tremendous response and very strong prices. Nineteenth-century baseball items were unbelievable, as always, as were all early baseball cards, advertising and display pieces, graded cards, Babe Ruth items, autographs, memorabilia, non-sport cards and artwork."
Thousands of bidders from all over the world participated. Exactly 24,716 bids were placed and more than 99% of the lots sold (all but four). The average lot sold for $5,883 and on average realized more than double the high-end estimate.
Notes REA president Robert Lifson, "Part of the great success of the auction, of course, is due to having great material, but part of this is also because all of the most serious collectors in the world are comfortable bidding at Robert Edward Auctions. Our Honest-Auto Bid system allows bidders to place limit bids and know that they are the only ones in the world that know their limit. The fact that we are truly an all-consignment auction, maybe the only one in the field, and the fact that we don't allow auction house executives, employees, or the auction house itself to bid, is also very confidence-inspiring to serious bidders. Compared to some companies, Robert Edward Auctions is a small firm. But that's actually part of our strength. We pay attention to details. We do everything better. No matter what criteria you have, we believe that we do the best job in the world for buyers and consignors. Our philosophy has always been very simple: If we do a great job, great things will happen. We don't take any shortcuts in processing collections. Bidders have confidence in our expertise and opinions. We don't own the material so we naturally have more credibility than auction houses that are also dealers. Our commitment to research and authentication is universally recognized as unparalleled. Our expertise in general is highly valued by bidders in a way that is very rare for an auction house. There are many collectors that only bid with us. It's not an accident. We go out of our way to do a better job. It shows in the prices realized."
The 1911 T211 Red Sun Tobacco Card Collection of 74 (out of 75 in the set) was another extraordinary auction highlight. The near-set carried a reserve of $5,000. The total Standard Catalog guide value on the set in the offered condition was less than $15,000. "We knew this was a special set. The T211 set is one of the rarest of all 1910 era card issues, and this was the largest collection to ever come to auction" notes REA president Robert Lifson. "This was the kind of set that collectors throw the guide books out the window when assessing. With special cards like these, only an auction can really give insight into true market value." But there's more to the story of the sale of this set. "The way the REA auction is run and closes ensures that lots go for what they're really worth, and sell to the person who is really willing to pay the most. That's what all auctions are supposed to do, but the way some auctions close lots, they often don't accomplish this. REA always does. This isn't just market theory. Our results prove it. This can be seen time and time again in REA's auctions. The T211 Red Sun set is a prime example. A reasonable person would have thought that the bidding for this set was done at $25,000, which was the high bid on the morning of the day of the auction. No bids had come in for more than four days on this lot prior to the $25,000 bid, and that impressive level was almost double even the highest guide prices. But the unique REA auction process makes sure that the auction isn't over until the high bidder on every lot is actually the bidder who is willing to pay the most for that lot, and that every bidder has the opportunity to move their money around from lots they have been out-bid on to other lots they might still have an interest in, without being shut out of the auction. This is great for bidders. This is great for consignors. The auction officially ended at exactly 3:53 AM the morning of May 2rd. In the final hours of the auction, just before the auction close, the T211 set was bid up from its already impressive hammer price of $25,000 to an even more incredible, simply unbelievable final selling price of $88,125. That's a big difference. On top of that, in the remaining minutes of the auction that followed, the unsuccessful underbidder went on to move his funds to other lots that he might not have otherwise bid on, moving other expensive lots much higher. The winning T211 set bidder was able to add this set as a key addition to one of the most important and advanced collections in private hands. The consignor of this lot naturally made out much better, and the consignors of other lots also benefit. No other auction process could have delivered this result. And these same auction dynamics occur repeatedly at REA with other lots, large and small."
Nineteenth-century cards and memorabilia were extremely strong, setting record after record, as is always the case at REA. The newly-discovered 1875 Hartford Blues CDV team card with Candy Cummings (purchased by the consignor on eBay for $200 just months before being consigned to the REA auction) sold for an incredible $17,625. The 1887 Red Stocking Cigar advertising trade card of Charles Radbourn (res. $5,000) was another exciting noncollector family find. Fortunately saved for decades in a drawer, this gem was highly prized by advanced collectors, as expected, and sold for $19,975. The 1887 Kalamazoo Bats tobacco card of Mays realized $15,275.
Memorabilia was also extremely strong: Babe Ruth's 1917-1920 era bat (once owned by Barry Halper) sold for $64,625; Ty Cobb's bat dating from 1922-1924 realized $55,813; Lou Gehrig's signed New York Yankees contract from 1938, his last full season (res. $5,000), set a record for the highest price ever realized for a player's contract at REA, selling for $70,500. Al Kaline's 1954 Tigers jersey was consigned by a former ballplayer who had a "cup of coffee" in the Tigers farm system in the 1950s. He was given then-recycled jersey to wear in spring training in 1956, and saved it as a souvenir of his playing days for over 50 years. The jersey sold for $21,115.
The Fred Tenney Collection, consigned directly by the Tenney family, was highlighted by a 1908 New York Giants uniform (reserve $5,000) which sold for $29,375. An extraordinary panoramic photograph of the American Negro Giants including the legendary Rube Foster was offered with a reserve of $5,000 and was hammered down for $35,250. A rarely seen 1905 World Series program, another recently discovered gem, sold for $16,450. The 1922 Giants World Series ring of Hall of Famer Ross Youngs, of all the more special note being the first year players were issued World Series rings, sold for $58,750. Autographs were particularly strong. This auction featured one of the most impressive personally collected single-owner signature collections ever offered by REA. Assembled by one of the pioneers of baseball autograph collecting and almost all obtained in person or through the mails in the 1950s and 1960s, the collection was broken down into 32 lots, and sold for a total of $110,625. Prices on rare single-signed baseballs (such as Harry Hooper; reserve $1,000; sold for $8,812) and signed photos (1928 Ruth-Gehrig photo; reserve $5,000; sold for $17,625) were also extremely strong. The 1943 autograph book assembled as a youngster by famous baseball author Donald Honig featuring the signatures of many Negro League stars including Josh Gibson, one of the rarest and most important of all Hall of Famer signatures, was recognized as extraordinary by many advanced collectors. But no one could have predicted the incredible battle for this HOF signature treasure. Opening with a reserve of just $1,000, the dust did not settle until the final price reached $32,312.
The auction also included an impressive selection of select items from other sports, Americana, nonsport cards, and original card artwork, all of which sold extremely strong, including: A 1969-70 Gordie Howe Detroit Red Wings photo-matched jersey (reserve $10,000) realized $58,750. The 1968 Topps Test Basketball Complete PSA-Graded Set of 22 cards (reserve $5,000) sold for an extraordinary $29,375. An exceptionally high-grade 1949 Leaf Football complete set of 49 cards was hammered down at $23,500. The 1940 R145 Gum, Inc. Superman Complete Set (#2 PSA Registry) realized $32,312. The 1955 Topps "Rails and Sails" unopened wax box sold for a record $6,462. The original artwork to card #51 "Crushing The Martians" in the 1963 Topps Mars Attacks set, a popular card with strong graphics including Martians (reserve of $5,000) sold for $26,437. President Barack Obama's car was by far the most unusual of the few Americana lots offered. The 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee was consigned by an Illinois woman who bought the car used in 2004. When she bought it, the sales person told her to save all the documentation. "You never know, he could be President some day." She's been driving it ever since, but with over 130,000 miles on it, the jeep was approaching the end of its life as a reliable vehicle. It was time for a new car. Rather than trade it in, she contacted Robert Edward Auctions. REA decided to offer the car as a unique historical collectible, and to use the car as an opportunity to raise money for charity, donating all REA commissions to CARE. CARE, a leading humanitarian organization devoted to fighting global poverty, was chosen because of the great importance of its work and because President Barack Obama has personally expressed support for this charity. The minimum bid was The Kelly Blue Book value of $3,500. When the dust settled, the car sold for $26,437! The auctioning of the car (which was purchased by University Archives) has provided the consignor with $20,250, far exceeding expectations and more than enough to make a significant contribution toward the purchase of her next vehicle, while at the same time raising $6,137 for CARE.
Many other auction records were shattered for pre-1948 baseball cards, nineteenth-century baseball cards and memorabilia, non-sport cards, and Americana. Further information and complete auction results are available online at www.RobertEdwardAuctions.com.
Copies of the 750-page full-color premium catalog are also still available free. Go to www.RobertEdwardAuctions.com, click "Free Catalog," and fill in your name and address. Robert Edward Auctions is currently assembling its next sale. For further information contact: Robert Edward Auctions, PO Box 7256, Watchung, NJ or call (908)-226-9900.Robert Edward Auctions, LLC is a one of the world's leading specititley auction houses, devoted exclusively to the sale of rare baseball cards, memorabilia, and Americana.