Watchung, New Jersey. The high-end baseball card and memorabilia market was on fire at Robert Edward's record-setting May 18, 2013, auction. An incredible 172 lots sold for $10,000 or more. The total sales of $10,177,000 made this REA's largest and most successful sale ever. One of only ten known examples of the ultra-rare 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth rookie card sold for an astounding record price of $450,300. This was nearly triple the previous auction record for this card, a 2009 REA sale at $152,750. An example of the famous T206 Honus Wagner in poor condition sold for $402,900, setting a new world record price at auction for the most famous baseball card in the world in this grade. A Sandy Koufax jersey dating from 1963, purchased by the consignor for $30,000 in the 1990s, set a new world record for any Koufax jersey ever sold at auction, realizing $201,450. The highest grade Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig dual-signed baseball (graded a NM-MT+ 8.5 by PSA), which last sold in 2005 for $98,000 (which since 2005 has been the record price for any Ruth-Gehrig autographed ball ever), was hammered down for an extraordinary $343,650, more than tripling the previous auction record for this classic. A Lou Gehrig single-signed ball with exceptional provenance sold for an extraordinary record $142,200, more than doubling the previous world record price at auction for a Lou Gehrig single-signed ball. An extremely high-grade 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle rookie card was hammered down for a record-setting $272,550, rewriting the price guides for one of card collecting's most iconic cards. A 1910 T210 Old Mill Joe Jackson sold for $118,500. The only known Uncut Boston Garter Advertising Panel realized $177,750. The list of extraordinary record-setting prices seems almost endless. REA President Robert Lifson comments, "These results speak for themselves – about the quality of the material offered, about the appreciation of the collecting world for how REA presents items and conducts auctions, about the well-deserved trust collectors have in REA and about the strength of the market."
Collectors, dealers and market watchers look to REA's annual event as the key barometer of the health of the market and the most important auction event of the year. According to REA President Robert Lifson, "The market was extremely strong across the board. The auction results were staggering and exceeded our highest expectations. Most important, they exceeded our consignors' expectations. The great prices are the result of many factors including, of course, being given the very best material in the world to offer, taking great care in cataloguing all material, having the largest circulation, extensive research and authentication, the well-deserved confidence of buyers and an emphasis on the integrity of the auction process. All together, it's a very powerful combination. The bidders appreciate what we do. And this naturally attracts consignments." By any measure, this was one of the most successful auctions in the history of collecting. "It was also the smoothest running auction in all respects, including collecting the money. As always at Robert Edward Auctions, there were no delays in collecting money and getting it into the hands of consignors. That's another extremely strong area for REA." All consignors were paid in full, 100 cents on the dollar with no adjustments due to nonpaying bidders and in record time. "That's the standard we strive for and achieve at REA when it comes to paying consignors. Perfection. Consignors really appreciate getting paid quickly and they really appreciate getting paid 100 cents on the dollar."
REA Statistics: The stunning prices on all nineteenth and early twentieth century baseball cards and memorabilia totaled a staggering $10.177 million – a new record for REA and the highest-grossing single-day sports auction of all-time. The 1826 lots, offered on behalf of 333 different consignors, were won by an incredible 692 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. An incredible 25,426 bids were placed. "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. The average lot realized more than double the high-end estimate. An incredible 99.78% of the lots sold.
Babe Ruth: The Sultan of Swat once again proved that he's the biggest name in baseball with numerous Babe Ruth items selling for world record prices throughout the auction. In addition to the record-setting prices for the 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth rookie card ($450,300) and the extraordinary Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig dual-signed baseball ($343,650), a 1916 M101-4 Ware's Basement Sporting Goods Babe Ruth rookie card graded PSA VG 3 drew tremendous interest from collectors both because it was a great looking card and because of its rare advertising back. With a reserve of $10,000 and an estimate of $20,000+, it was hammered down at $130,350, far exceeding all expectations and by far establishing a new record for the card in this grade. "The price may seem shockingly high for the grade, and it is, but the fact is this card looked a lot better than suggested by the card's technical grade," notes REA vintage card expert Dean Faragi. "All of the hobby's most advanced collectors were drawn to this Ruth rookie, all thinking on their own that it deserved a big premium. That says something right there. This was a case of the technical grade not telling the whole story, and this fact played a big role in the impressive price." Another early Babe Ruth card, the classic 1915 Boston Red Sox Real-Photo Team Postcard (reserve $5,000, estimate $10,000+), was consigned by a longtime postcard collector who had purchased it decades ago for the then princely sum of five dollars. He was shocked by the $26,662 auction result, a record auction price not just for this postcard, but also for any baseball postcard sold at auction ever! All Babe Ruth items turned in stellar results. An exceptional 1946 single-signed baseball realized $21,330 against a pre-auction estimate of $5,000+. A 1929 R316 Kashin Publications Babe Ruth boldly signed by Ruth (reserve $2,000, estimate $5,000+) pulled in $16,590, doubling the sale price of the last signed R316 Ruth offered as lot 994 in REA's May 2010 auction. A 1917 E135 Collins-McCarthy #147 Babe Ruth PSA VG-EX+ 4.5, purchased at public auction just within the past year at another auction for $50,788, was immediately consigned to REA and sold for a record-setting $65,175. A rarely seen 1921 Frederick Foto Babe Ruth graded VG+, which highlighted a newly-discovered West Coast collection of primarily PCL material, realized an incredible $44,437—more than doubling the previous highest public auction price for this card in any grade.
T206 Honus Wagner: The auction featured one of the most interesting T206 Honus Wagner cards in existence: "The All Star Café Wagner." This card's rich history reads like a script straight out of a Hollywood movie: The card was once owned by actor Charlie Sheen. In the 1990s he loaned it for display to the All Star Café in New York City, where it was stolen by employees who replaced it in the display with a color photocopy. When the ruse was finally discovered, the FBI was called in, solved the case and recovered the stolen card. "While the condition was technically very modest, most T206 Wagners are in the same low grade, this card stacks up very well against most or all of the other examples graded similarly." Bidders responded very favorably to this famous card as it set a new auction record for any T206 Honus Wagner in this condition. It was hammered down at $402,900 with 18 different serious bidders competing beyond the $100,000 opening minimum bid. "This is a particularly great Wagner. The card not only looks great, it has a special and unique story," noted REA President Robert Lifson.
1933 Goudey PSA-Graded Complete Set: REA offered the number six ranked 1933 Goudey set in over 100 different lots during the spring auction. Almost every card in the set was graded PSA NM-MT 8 or PSA MINT 9. The set had a total SMR value of nearly $400,000. REA's Dean Faragi notes, "Feedback suggested that the SMR was high on these and expectations were for the set to sell at a slight discount." That's not what happened. When the dust settled, the set sold for an astounding $529,932. The #1 Benny Bengough PSA 8 sold for $26,662 (reserve $2,500, SMR value $19,500). The #29 Jimmy Foxx PSA 8 sold for $16,590 (reserve $2,500, SMR value $10,000). Star players and Hall of Famers weren't the only ones to realize tremendous prices. A number of rare commons sold for many multiples of SMR, led by #4 Heinie Schuble PSA 8 which sold for $8,870 (reserve $400, SMR value $1,175). Across the board, the results demonstrated high-grade PSA cards are extremely hot and that competition among high-grade PSA set-builders is as fierce as ever.
1916 Babe Ruth Rookie: The 1916 M101-4/5 Babe Ruth rookie card proved that recent sales are not an aberration and that it can now be counted on to sell for big money in any grade. "This card has a tremendous demand. It has taken its place as one of the great icons of baseball card collecting. Anyone who has followed the value of this card can't help but see that it has exploded in value over the past few years," notes REA vintage card expert Dean Faragi. "It's always been a great card. It's just being appreciated more now." In this auction, an SGC POOR 10 Famous & Barr version (reserve $5,000, estimate $10,000+) sold for $35,550 while a PSA VG-EX 4 blank back (reserve $10,000, estimate $20,000+) sold for $53,325. Both sales are in addition to the record $130,350 sale price of the PSA 3 Ware's Basement Sporting Goods version also featured in this sale.
Nineteenth-Century Baseball Card Rarities: One of the most fascinating new discoveries ever offered by REA was an 1863 Grand Match At Hoboken Benefit Card of Harry and Sam Wright, consigned by a longtime advanced early American photography collector who is not a baseball card collector, but who just happened to have this gem. When informed of its substantial value, he could not justify keeping it. This was a particularly exciting find for baseball card collectors and historians alike because the image of Harry and Sam Wight on this card had never before been seen or documented in the modern collecting world. The card was offered with a starting bid of $10,000 and realized a final selling price of $32,587. An exceptional 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings Carte-de-Visite picturing players in cameo photos was hammered down at $38,512. A trio of 1888 N173 Goodwin Old Judge Cabinets featuring Mickey Welch, which were recently discovered by REA's consignor in one of his old family photo albums (he thinks he may be related, which would explain why his family saved these three cards of the nineteenth-century baseball star with the family photo archives), sold for an extraordinary total of $43,845, including $23,700 for the highest graded example in Near Mint condition. An exceedingly rare 1887 Four Base Hits Mike Dorgan realized $29,625. Three 1887 N693 Kalamazoo Bats Team Cards, depicting the Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia teams, sold for $43,845 collectively, including a particularly impressive $21,330 for the rare Baltimore example. A stunning high-grade 1888 E223 G & B Chewing Gum Timothy Keefe Portrait PSA 8 (reserve $5,000) sold for $23,700. An 1887 N690 Kalamazoo Bats Harry Wright (reserve $5,000) sold for $22,515. A pair of 1887 N690 Kalamazoo Bat New York Mets players (reserve $5,000 each) sold for $46,215. It pays to check the attics: An 1894 Baltimore Orioles Team Cabinet Card (reserve $1,000), recently discovered by a family in the attic of their Baltimore home, sold for an extraordinary $11,850. A collection of 283, 1887-1889 N172 Old Judge Cards in various conditions and broken down into several smaller lots realized an amazing $80,994.
Vintage Card Prices STRONG at REA: REA is first and foremost a baseball card auction, so it is not surprising that the big money, as usual, was in the cards: One of the finest examples of the 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle rookie card ever offered was particularly well-received by bidders. The card, graded PSA 8.5, ended the night with a final bid of $272,550, leaving the SMR value of $185,000 in the dust and setting a new bar for future sales of this "blue chip" card in the highest grades. A 1910 T210 Old Mill Joe Jackson sold for $118,500 (reserve $25,000). The only known Uncut Boston Garter Advertising Panel sold for $177,750. One of card collecting's legendary rarities, the 1933 Goudey #106 Napoleon Lajoie PSA 8 (SMR value $55,000), sold for an extremely impressive $77,025, a new world record price for the grade. Extremely strong results such as this were seen across the board among 1930s gum cards at REA. A 1933 Goudey #53 Babe Ruth PSA 8 (SMR value $43,650) soared to $59,250, also a new auction record price. Also included in the auction were the other three 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth cards, each graded PSA 8, which sold for a total of $82,950 (combined SMR value of $65,750). The auction featured five impossibly rare 1912 T215 Pirate Cigarettes cards, including Hall of Famer Frank Chance. Until this time, REA had only ever offered one sample card from this elusive series. Bidders jumped at the opportunity to purchase one of these extreme rarities, driving the final selling price to a collective $59,842 (combined reserve $5,000, estimate open). A 1949 Bowman #84 Roy Campanella rookie card PSA 9 (SMR value $5,000) sold for $9,480. A 1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle rookie PSA EX-MT+ 6.5 (reserve $2,000, estimate $4,000+) was saved from the consignor's childhood collection. His cost: one penny. Price realized in the REA auction: $11,257!
1909-1911 T206 Card Highlights: Proving that T206s are never going out of style, collectors snapped up thousands of T206s in this auction, including many at record prices. A 1909-1911 T206 White Border Near-Complete PSA-Graded Set (518 of 524) realized $118,500. A total of 45 common cards in exceptionally high-grade (all PSA 8) were offered individually and realized a staggering $115,900 in total. A 1909-1911 T206 Eddie Plank PSA 4 realized $88,875. This very card had been purchased by the consignor more than a decade ago for what was then a very princely sum of $24,611. "This is another case of the strong market bringing out great cards that have been hidden away for years. It doesn't happen often enough, but when it does, the market definitely responds with enthusiasm," notes REA. Another T206 Plank in even higher grade was hotly contested. With a reserve of $25,000, this gem was hammered down at $106,650. "This was one of the best Planks in existence," notes REA President Robert Lifson. "It may have sold for a record price, but I'd be surprised if someday we don't look back and think this card was a bargain." Collectors battled it out for several "errors" in which the card had blank backs or misprinted fronts. Five cards, offered between two lots, sold for $20,145, thrilling the consignor and drawing new attention to the tremendous demand for these cards. An impressive 1909-1911 T206 White Border Partial Set (426 of 524) including 339 Sovereign backs, consigned by the family of the original owner, realized $35,550. A 1909-1911 T206 Near-Complete Set (520/524) sold for $71,110. A rare Uzit Back Ty Cobb in PSA GOOD 2 condition sold for $17,775. A 1909-1911 T206 Christy Mathewson Portrait PSA 8 (with a reserve of $5,000 and an SMR value $20,000) soared to $32,587. The rare combination of strong condition, unusual advertising back and popular Hall of Fame player can create tremendous premium values among T206 collectors. Case in point: A 1909-1911 T206 Old Mill Joe Tinker Portrait PSA EX-MT 6 (reserve $300, SMR value $750) sold for an astounding $13,035. Three T206 Ty Cobb cards, each graded PSA NM 7 or 8, generated tremendous interest among bidders with each far exceeding the pre-auction estimates and SMR values. The 1909-1911 T206 Old Mill Ty Cobb Bat Off Shoulder PSA 8 (SMR value $17,500) sold for $29,625, the 1909-1911 T206 Ty Cobb Red Background PSA 8 (SMR value $17,000) sold for $26,662 and the 1909-1911 T206 Ty Cobb Green Background PSA 7 (SMR value $17,500) sold for $32,587.
Additional Vintage Card Highlights: A 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle once owned by Mantle in EX-MT condition was worth a significant premium due to its special provenance, selling for $35,550 (SMR value $20,000). An extremely impressive 1950-1951 Toleteros Complete Set (192) including Joshua Gibson (reserve $10,000) sold for $38,512. A 1952 Topps #191 Yogi Berra PSA NM-MT+ 8.5 (SMR value $9,000) sold for $17,775. A 1903 E107 Breisch-Williams Ed Delahanty (reserve $2,500; estimate $5,000+) sold for $23,700. An extremely rare 1910 T209 Contentnea Cigarettes "Photo Series" Souvenir Album, recently discovered among family heirlooms and consigned to REA, sold for an impressive $29,625. A newly discovered group of Pacific Coast League Zeenut cards afforded bidders the opportunity to compete for two of the most iconic cards issued by the company: a 1922 Zeenut PCL Jim Thorpe (reserve $1,000) which sold for $6,517 and a 1935 Zeenut PCL Joe DiMaggio with Coupon (reserve $2,500) which sold for $14,220. A 1922 E120 American Caramel PSA-Graded Complete Set, minus one, (reserve $10,000) realized $26,662. A 1933 R319 Goudey #106 Napoleon Lajoie PSA 4 sold for $20,145. A 1948-1949 Leaf #79 Jackie Robinson rookie card sold for $13,035. A 1949 Bowman Complete Set saved by the consignor since childhood realized $14,220. A 1952 Bowman #101 Mickey Mantle sold for $7,110, a particularly extraordinary price for this modern classic that has so many recorded auction sales at lower levels (SMR value $2,600). An original-owner 1956 Topps Complete Set sold for $14,220.
Unopened Material: Demand for unopened packs and boxes is a specialty at REA and, as always, delivered strong prices across the board. A 1951 Topps Red Back Wax Box with 107 Unopened Packs just recently discovered (we were told they were found in a barn!) sold for $11,850. A 1960 Topps Baseball Unopened Wax Box – 22 Second Series Packs (reserve $500, estimate $1,000+) sold for an eye-popping $8,295. A 1970 Topps Baseball Sixth and Seventh Series Unopened Wax Box (reserve $1,000, estimate $4,000+) was hammered down at $10,072. A 1972 Topps Unopened Fifth/Sixth Series Wax Box (reserve $2,000) sold for $5,332. A 1973 Topps Unopened Fifth Series Wax Box (reserve $1,500, estimate $3,000+) sold for an extremely strong $9,480. A 1951 Topps Magic Football File Binder including newly discovered Unopened Five-Cent Wax Pack (reserve $500) sold for $7,110. A 1970 Topps Football Unopened First Series Wax Box (reserve $1,000, estimate $2,000+) sold at $10,665. A 1976 Topps Football Unopened Wax Box (reserve $500, estimate $1,000+) sold for $2,962. A 1973 Topps Football Unopened Wax Box (reserve $500, estimate $1,000/$1,500) sold for $3,851. An extremely rare 1971-1972 Topps Basketball Unopened Wax Box (reserve $2,500, estimate $5,000/$10,000) sold for astounding $23,700. A 1973-1974 Topps Basketball Unopened Wax Box (reserve $1,000, estimate $2,000/$3,000) realized $10,072.
Additional Auction Highlights
Autographs: REA's spring auction featured one of the finest selections of signed baseballs in recent memory with many significant rarities available for sale for the first time in many years, in some cases decades. A Walter Johnson Single-Signed Baseball used in the final game of the 1924 World Series (reserve $2,000) was originally purchased by the consignor fifteen years ago for $5,966 at public auction and realized an amazing $32,587 at REA. An extraordinarily rare 1919 Dan Brouthers Single-Signed Ball (reserve $10,000) sold for $47,400, an auction record for this ball. A rare George Wright Single-Signed 1926 Golden Jubilee Presentation Ball (reserve $2,500) sold for an extraordinary $22,515. A John Montgomery Ward Single-Signed Mini Ball (reserve $2,500) was hammered down at $20,145. An impressive 1933 American League All-Star Team-Signed Ball complete with all 18 players, including Ruth and Gehrig, (reserve $5,000) was entirely new to the hobby and sold for a remarkable $32,587. A 1948 Babe Ruth Single-Signed Ball (reserve $2,500), with the unusual inscription "To My Little Pal Mickey," fascinated bidders (many of which, we should note, were indeed named "Mike" or "Mickey"). A non-Mike or Mickey bidder, however, wound up outbidding all the "Mickeys" and "Mikes," taking this gem home for $9,480. A circa 1948 Honus Wagner Single-Signed Ball (reserve $1,000, estimate $3,000+) sold for $26,662. A 1939 Ty Cobb Single-Signed Baseball (reserve $500, estimate $2,000+) realized $7,110. A circa 1937 Tris Speaker Single-Signed Ball with Original Family Provenance (reserve $500, estimate $2,000+) sold for $5,628. A Cy Young Single-Signed Ball with Rare Sweet-Spot Signature (reserve $2,000) sold for $13,035. A high-grade 1956 New York Yankees World Champions Team-Signed Ball (reserve $300, estimate $1,000+) realized $7,702. A 1960-1969 Topps Autographed Baseball-Card Collection of 3,314 cards hammered down at $11,850. A pair of Mickey Mantle Signed Replica Jerseys (reserve $500, estimate $1,000+) sold for $3,555.
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