Record-setting vintage baseball card auction brings $9.5 million

This article was originally published in Sports Collectors Digest
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WATCHUNG, N.J. – The strength of the high-end baseball card and memorabilia market was impossible to miss at Robert Edward‘s record-setting May 12, 2012 auction. An astounding 177 lots sold for $10,000 or more.

Among the highlights:

Babe Ruth rookie card 1916

This 1916 Sporting News Babe Ruth Rookie Card PSA EX-MT 6 (reserve $10,000; estimate $50,000+) sold for an astounding $142,200, a new record for the grade.

1916 Babe Ruth Rookie
A 1916 M101-4 Babe Ruth rookie card proved that recent sales are not an aberration and that it can now be counted on to sell for well into six figures in high 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. It should be!” In this auction, a PSA EX-MT 6 example sold for $142,200, setting a new record for the grade. A second example, in VG-EX, realized $77,025.

 

19th Century Baseball Card Rarities
An amazing newly-discovered find of 1868-1871 baseball CDV team cards was an auction highlight for many serious collectors. It was definitely the highlight for the consignors, a family of general hobbyists (who do not collect baseball cards) who happened to buy these cards on a lark at an antique shop over twenty years ago.

They’ve had them lying around the house in a wooden cigar box ever since! The entire collection consisted of 130 CDV photographs, including boxers, politicians, and various other subjects. All were offered in the auction, but the eight baseball team cards were what made this an incredible and significant find.

The eight team cards alone sold for a staggering total of $182,490!!! The prize of the collection, a Peck & Snyder trade card of the 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics (res. $5,000, est. open), realized a record-setting $82,950. The 1870 Forest City Baseball Club CDV (res. $1,000; est. open), featuring Al Spalding from his playing days, also set a record, selling for $32,587.

“These were special cards and one of the highlight finds of nineteenth-century team cards ever,” said Rob Lifson, REA’s president. “The family was shocked when we told them how valuable the cards were. And when they contacted us, we were pretty conservative about the value.

We told them: ‘Think in the neighborhood of $100,000.’ We don’t like to set expectations too high. That can lead to disappointment. We knew they would sell for top dollar. The $100,000 figure stunned them.  It’s not every day that a box of old photos you paid $20 for years ago, that’s literally been on a shelf in the kitchen, turns out to be worth six figures! It was fun to share the excitement with them, and it was great to see the cards exceed their highest expectations by so much.

The $182,490 was just for the eight baseball team cards. That doesn’t even include the balance of the collection which sold for thousands more! This is the type of find that makes the auction especially exciting for us here at REA.”

 

Ty Cobb tobacco tin

Ty Cobb Tobacco Tin in MINT condition sold for a record $88,875.

The Ty Cobb Tin
The 1912 Ty Cobb Tobacco Tin, in extraordinary MINT condition, set a new world record for this extremely desirable tobacco item. Long revered both for its great rarity, display value, and its connection to the famous T206 Ty Cobb with advertising for Ty Cobb Tobacco on the reverse, there have been a few examples that have surfaced at auction over the past couple of years. This has been in part because of the high-profile discovery of a low-grade example on the TV show “Auction Kings.”

This helped pull a few hidden examples out of attics. But the condition of the REA Ty Cobb Tin made this example sell for far more than any other. “This was a rare case when we knew an item would set a record,” according to the REA staff.  The condition of this tin was clearly better than any other, by a wide margin, and this was not lost on bidders: When the dust settled, REA’s Ty Cobb tin more than doubled the previous auction record, selling for $88,875.

Vintage Card Prices Rise
REA is first and foremost a baseball card auction, so it is not surprising that the big money, as usual, was in the cards: A 1933 Goudey #106 Nap Lajoie (PSA 9 MINT), universally recognized as one of card collecting’s most desirable rarities, realized $118,500. This very card had been purchased by the consignor many years ago for what was then a very princely sum of $50,000.

Eddie Plank baseball card

909-1911 T206 Eddie Plank PSA EX-MT 6 MC (res. $25,000; est. $50,000+) realized $94,800.

“This is another case of the strong market bringing out great cards that have been hidden away for years,” Lifson said. “It doesn’t happen often enough, but when it does, the market definitely responds with enthusiasm.” And not just the T206 Wagner but all things related to the famous T206 set were very strong. The T206 Eddie Plank in EX-MT 6 (MC) condition (reserve $25,000; estimate $50,000+) sold for $94,800.

The sale also included two additional T206 Planks, though in lesser grades: A Plank example in Good condition (Res. $5,000; est. $10,000/$20,000+) sold for $29,625. The famous “Mr. X Collection” Plank realized $56,287. The “Mr. X Collection” designation on this card was the amusing pedigree that was famously assigned to the label by PSA for the mysterious “Mr. X” in 2005.  All that was ever revealed about “Mr. X” was that he was very famous and that he was in show business. To this day, we have no idea who “Mr. X” is or was, but we do know that he did a great job of assembling an extremely high quality T206 set.

Additional Vintage Card highlights
An extraordinary near-set of 1916 M101-5 cards with Herpolsheimer Clothing Store advertising backs, saved and consigned directly by the family of the original owner, John Dawley, were broken up into six lots. The 194 cards had been saved by the family since 1916. The consignor, the grandson, had great reservations about the collection being separated.

For sentimental reasons, he really wanted them to remain together. Sometimes things work out! One buyer bought all six lots, keeping – at least for the time being – the best collection of M101-5 Herpolsheimers in existence intact.  The set, with a cumulative reserve of $19,000, sold for a grand total of $129,575.

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

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