Auctions scores strong debut

A sole surviving set of National Copper Plate Co. portraits produced in 1898-99 depicting the era’s most popular baseball players took top honors June 18 in Auctions’ debut sale. The lot opened with a $25,000 bid and slid into home with a $52,650 closing, a record price for the set. All prices include a 17 percent buyer’s premium.

For more than half of the players on the checklist, this is their first, if not their only, appearance on a collectible. This is the earliest memorabilia depiction of Jimmy Collins, Elmer Flick, Willie Keeler, Bobby Wallace, Vic Willis and, most significantly, Honus Wagner, whose face and name graces the most well know and most expensive baseball card ever sold.

“We saw very strong prices on items priced to sell,” Steve Bloedow, director of Auctions, said of the 872-lot auction. “We were very happy with the amount of consignments we secured for our debut auction.”

Autographed items brought remarkable prices. A U.S. Olympic flag signed by the 1980 hockey team brought $1,170. A Mickey Mantle-signed Mitchell & Ness jersey sold for $2,691. A newspaper clipping of Babe Ruth sporting a better-than-average signature sold for $1,111.50.

Collectible bats defined a category all their own. More than 50 living baseball Hall of Fame members, including Yogi Berra, Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford and Kirby Puckett, lent their signatures to a Rawlings bat, driving the sale price to $994.50. Collectors sought big-name sluggers to add to their caches including bats autographed by Ted Williams, selling for $702, and Joe DiMaggio, which sold for $1,287. Bats signed by Yogi Berra, Carl Yastrzemski and an unusual dual-signed specimen graced by Koufax and Nolan Ryan brought prices of $380, $199 and $468, respectively. 

Lots with attractive starting bids received more attention from collectors, Bloedow said. “Items that started lower ended up selling higher at the end,” he said.

Among the more unusual sports collectibles in the sale, two were standouts. The first, a Teterboro Aircraft fuel receipt, dated May 10, 1979, and signed by beloved Yankee catcher Thurman Munson sold for $2,340. The receipt was signed only a few months before Munson would die in a plane crash.

A rare discovery of a 1919 souvenir booklet titled Sketch Book and Complete Records of Our Sox and Cubs, sold for $877.50. The seldom-offered early yearbook included very detailed statistics relating to the White Sox and Cubs, including Joe Jackson and other members of the infamous “Black” Sox of 1919.

Baseball cards saw strong action for prewar items. A Goudey near complete set (missing a Nap Lajoie card) sold for a stunning $5,850. Collectors consider it to be one of the most important card sets of the 1930s. The colorful classic cards, measuring 2 3/8 by 2 7/8 inches, was Goudey’s first and likely its best, marking it as arguably the greatest gum set of its time. Cards featuring Joe Jackson, Christy Mathewson and Lou Gehrig reached $585, $176 and $995. Two different lots of highly sought after Cracker Jack cards from 1914 and 1915 brought $4,973 and $2,808.

A complete set of Topps Baseball cards from 1956 sold for $3,218 and a set of 1960 Fleer Baseball Greats cards reached $322. Auctions is owned by Krause Publications, an imprint of F+W Media, the world’s largest hobby media company. Krause Publications also publishes Antique Trader magazine.

The June 18 auction is a new foray into the live auction business for Krause. For more than 50 years it has created magazines, books and Web sites designed in many cases to help auction houses all over the world gain new consigners and bidders. Entering the online sports auction market was a step organizers did not take lightly.

The auction was a challenge in that Bloedow and Administrative Director Jill Lodewegen were starting from scratch while simultaneously securing consignments and promoting the sale. The two had to build a proper technological infrastructure and dependable recordkeeping.

“Now all those things are in place and figured out so in the future we can be even more efficient,” Bloedow said. For the last 30 years Krause has published the nation’s most successful and longest-running sports publications in Sports Collectors Digest, Tuff Stuff’s Sports Collectors Monthly and Fantasy Sports. Access to thousands of collectors and dealers and years of archives and experts presented a unique opportunity. Though it looked successful, Bloedow did not want the new endeavor to damage existing relationships with other companies.

“We called most of the auction companies we worked with before we launched in February,” Bloedow said. “We knew autographs and vintage cards would be the meat of it. Most of them viewed us as a partner rather than a competitor.”

Bloedow called on Bob Lemke, a veteran Krause sports expert and editor of the vintage card sections of the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards.

Lemke, as consignment director, and Bloedow sought a wide variety of items with most being affordable to the average collector, he said. He also included a handful of non-sports and political memorabilia, which proved to be a beneficial move.

A rare complete set of 98 autographs from the Rittenhouse Twilight Zone trading card line brought $11,700 on an opening bid of $4,000. The cards featured autographs from the various celebrities who starred in episodes of Rod Sterling’s iconic 1950s science and superstition program. Big names included William Shatner, Ron Howard, Mickey Rooney, Sydney Pollack, Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan, Arte Johnson, Orson Bean, Russell Johnson, Judy Strangis, Mickey Rooney, Anne Francis, Patricia Barry, Burt Reynolds, Jack Klugman, Buddy Ebsen, Beverly Garland, Shelley Berman and many more. 

An autograph book featuring vintage signatures of Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman fetched $351. Topps’ 1956 movie star collectible card sets are rarely discovered so a never-released test issue lot of 56 cards proved irresistible to collectors who drove the final sale price to $1,755. The set was made in England in 1956 by Topps and never made it into the United States. Card backs are blank, which indicates these proofs were a test issue and never released to the general public. Auctions’ next sale ends Aug. 27 with a consignment deadline of July 11. For more information about the sale or to consign your sports or entertainment collectibles with Auctions call 888-463-4063 or visit