Lou Gehrig jersey and bat set records in $9.5 million baseball memorabilia sale

WATCHUNG, N.J. – The strength of the high-end baseball card and memorabilia market amazed collectors at Robert Edward’s (REA) record-setting May 7, 2011 auction. An astounding 179 lots sold for $10,000 or more. The stunning prices on all 19th and early 20th century baseball cards and memorabilia precisely totaled a staggering $9.5 million across 1743 lots. The average lot sold for $5,472. “The market was extremely strong,” said REA president Robert Lifson. “If everything went perfect we were expecting the total to be maybe $7 million to $8 million. The results came in at $9.5 million. That about says it all.”

Lou Gehrig items rule the roost

1938 Lou Gehrig New York Yankees Jersey sold for a record $329,000
1938 Lou Gehrig New York Yankees Jersey sold for a record $329,000

A Lou Gehrig jersey and Lou Gehrig bat selling for $329,000 and $176,250 respectively – both set records for these items. The bat was a personal gift from Gehrig to his neighbor. The bat last sold at auction 11 years ago for $50,000. That was a record price in 2000, and $176,250 is a record price in 2011.

“The Lou Gehrig jersey was also particularly exciting,” Lifson said. “It had previously sold so recently – just two years ago – for $240,000, and usually when unique big-ticket items are offered again so soon they sell for a lot less. Add to this the fact that the jersey was reevaluated and graded at a lower level in the current auction than its 2009 sale … the consignor certainly expected to take a big hit. But that’s not what happened!”

T206 Vintage Cards Prices Soar
The T206 Honus Wagner card (reserve $25,000) proved once again that it can always be counted on to sell for well into six figures in any grade. In this case, a restored example sold for $188,000. And not just the T206 Wagner but all things related to the famous T206 set were very strong. The T206 Eddie Plank in Very Good to Excellent condition (reserve $10,000; estimate $25,000+) sold for $94,000, a new record price for the grade. T206 Magie Error cards in VG and VG-EX condition realized $17,625 and $23,500 respectively. Even a second T206 Plank, heavily trimmed and encapsulated as “Authentic”, sold for a remarkable $41,125.

A T210 Old Mill card of Joe Jackson (reserve $25,000; est. $50,000+), which has been gaining in stature for years, crushed all previous sales, setting a new all-time record auction selling price at $200,000. A 1933 Goudey #106 Nap Lajoie (PSA 8 NM-MT), universally recognized as one of card collecting’s most desirable rarities, realized $52,875. This very card had been purchased by the consignor just months earlier (November 2010) at auction elsewhere for $43,880. “He may have just gotten a good buy,” notes Lifson, “but for such a high profile card to sell for over 20 percent more in such a short time, this suggests that the market may just be getting stronger, especially for the most classic marquee cards. Consignors across the board were very happy but it’s naturally a very tall order to surprise them with stronger-than-expected results on big ticket items that have sold so recently elsewhere”

Additional Highlights:

A newly-discovered variation of the 1889 E.R. Williams playing card set (res. $5,000) generated a tremendous amount of bidder interest. Collectors recognized its significance, rarity, and the fact that it is unlikely that another set will ever surface. The set surfaced for the first time at another auction in November 2010 and was purchased by REA’s consignor for $10,000. Consigned to REA, it soared to $70,500.

The Louisiana Find: One of the most exciting vintage card finds in modern times was represented by “The Louisiana Find”. When this collection of 1910 era tobacco cards from a noncollecting Louisiana family “walked in” to the Full Count Vintage Baseball Card Forum, it nearly caused a riot, and with good reason. Even though there were only 94 cards, all were rarities. Most important, the collection was highlighted by eight T207 Brown Background cards with Red Cross tobacco advertising backs, which all alone would qualify the collection for legendary status.

Previous to this find, a total of only five examples were known to exist. Reminiscent of perhaps the greatest “cyberfind” of all time, Net54 Vintage Card message forum’s “Skydash” find of Colgan’s Chips including Joe Jackson and Jim Thorpe in 2007, “The Louisiana Find” was a small but very significant offering that was also an exciting drama for serious hobbyists to watch unfold. The importance of the small collection generated much speculation about its final selling price. Key rarity highlight T207 Lowdermilk with Red Cross back all alone sold for $21,150. The 94 cards sold for a total of $86,715.

The Jack Zugay Collection of Vintage Golf Cards, representing the finest collection of vintage golf trading cards to ever come to auction, included ten Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA)  No. 1 Registry sets and was presented in 25 lots.  All 600+ cards in the Jack Zugay Collection were graded by PSA and included were many of the highest grade sets and singles known to exist. For golf card collectors, this was a very special and highly anticipated event, a fact that is easily seen in the final results: The 25 lots sold for an extraordinary total of $127,781, representing a remarkable average selling price of over $5,000 per lot.   

More Highlights:

  • The No. 1 PSA Registry set of 1971 Topps Football (res. $5,000; est. $10,000+) sold for an extraordinary $22,325.
  • An exceptionally high-grade 1951-52 Parkhurst Hockey complete set minus one card (res. $10,000, est. $20,000+) sold for a remarkable $44,062.
  • The original artwork to card No. 34 “Terror in the Railroad” in the 1963 Topps Mars Attacks set sold for $11,750, and the artworks to cards No. 7 “Destroying A Bridge” and No. 22 “Burning Cattle” were also offered and sold for $11,162 and $10,575 respectively (each with a reserve of $5,000).
  • Even the display box for Mars Attacks cards sold for big money: with a reserve of $1,000, the box is not just a rarity but clearly a favorite with advanced nonsport collectors, selling for a remarkable $11,625.
  • The 1940 Superman Gum, Inc. high numbers (No. 49-72) uncut sheet (res. $5,000) was another significant nonsport highlight. This sheet was purchased by the consignor in 1976, along with a second Superman sheet and a Lone Ranger sheet (sold last year in REA’s spring 2010 sale), for the total then-princely sum of $300, after hearing that they surfaced at an early Philadelphia card convention and tracking down the buyer. Ironically, the person he purchased the sheets was future REA president Robert Lifson, who was literally a kid at the time, reaching him by phone to do a deal (after school, of course). The one high-numbers Superman sheet all alone sold for $22,325.

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 to order from the website.

More from Antique Trader


Special discount prices on great books, digital downloads, price guides & reference books for every hobby

Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles 2011 Price Guide

Antique Trader Facebook PageMeet and share with other antiques collectors, dealers and auctioneers on Antique Trader’s Facebook page

Antique Trader Twitter ProfileGet special discounts and breaking news alerts on Antique Trader’s Twitter feed!

Browse (or place your own) FREE online classified ads

Sign up for your FREE AntiqueTrader.com email newsletters

For more trade news, auction reports, research and expert columnists, get a year of Antique Trader magazine for the special online price of just $1 an issue!

Antiques Auction Houses