1914 Cracker Jack Collection Smashes Several Records in Heritage Auctions’ Winter Sports Card Event

There was quite the prize inside Heritage Auctions’ two-day Winter Sports Card Catalog Auction: a 1914 Cracker Jack Ty Cobb card that sold for $516,000. That’s the highest price ever paid for a Georgia Peach found inside a box filled with caramel-coated peanuts and popcorn.

That was but one card out of a single collector’s 144-piece Cracker Jack collection that sold for a combined record-setting $1.38 million and anchored Heritage’s near-sellout Winter Sports Card Catalog Auction, which closed early Saturday morning and realized a total of $12,591,161. Thousands of bidders worldwide competed for vintage and modern offerings, among them one of the highest-graded complete Cracker Jack sets on PSA’s registry.

Here, too, was collector Stephen Parthum’s No. 1 Card assemblage, so called because he bought the very first and very last card from each set in which he was interested – sports, initially, then from old TV shows and movies given their own card releases. And his collection brought one of the weekend’s biggest delights.

The 1969 Topps Wilt Chamberlain No. 1 is a fantastic card for myriad reasons, chief among them it marked Topps’ return to basketball cards after a 12-year break; Parthum’s card, a PSA Mint 9, is one of the four highest-graded examples in the world. Appropriately, it entered the auction with a $40,000 estimate. But by the time it entered extended bidding it was already a record-setter, and when it finally closed, Chamberlain scored a breathtaking $276,000.

Only six years ago, a Chamberlain ’69 with the same grade sold for $9,560.

Chamberlain’s rookie card, a 1961 Fleer graded PSA Mint 9, also smashed its estimate in this auction, as the stunning example sold for $348,000 – proof again that Goliath’s best cards, like the man himself, possess an extraordinary vertical jump at the moment. Only last summer, a Wilt rookie in the same grade sold at Heritage for $288,000.

Another rookie hit one out of the park last weekend: Mickey Mantle, whose 1951 Bowman debut graded PSA NM-MT 8 sold for $504,000. Not far behind was a 1933 Goudey Napoleon Lajoie graded PSA Mint 9, which realized $384,000.

In all, 14 cards sold for six figures in the Winter Sports Card Catalog Auction – including two of the finest cards from the 1914 Cracker Jack collection.

The Christy Mathewson, graded PSA EX 5, is one of only two to achieve such a high number, and PSA has seen but one higher. The New York Giants hurler saw his card cross the plate for a record-setting $312,000. And the 1914 Cracker Jack card featuring “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, graded PSA EX 5, sold for $240,000, another new record for the set. The PSA EX 5 Walter Johnson from the same set sold for $84,000. That’s a big number for the Big Train and another new Cracker Jack record, which does not surprise Heritage Sports’ co-founder and president Chris Ivy.

“Not only are these cards beautiful – and significant – in their own right, but they were far rarer than their 1915 counterparts,” Ivy says. “And it’s just mind-blowing that these cards survived in this condition for a day, much less more than a century, considering they were pulled from boxes by kids with sticky caramel-coated fingers.”

And it wasn’t just century-old offerings that fared exceptionally well in the auction.

One of the hobby’s most popular modern cards sold for $84,000: a 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket Autograph graded BGS NM-MT+ 8.5, with the signature graded Auto 10. Maybe he retired this weekend; maybe not. But this card will always be a player.

And a one-of-one 1971 Topps Bert Blyleven rookie in a GEM MT PSA 10 sold for $138,000, which is newsworthy enough as this is one of those impossible-to-find gem-mints Topps from ’71 considering those black borders. What makes it even more exceptional is the fact this very example of the curve-baller’s card sold less than a year ago for $55,200.

For a complete list of results from the Jan. 27-28 Winter Sports Card Catalog Auction, click here.

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