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Heritage Auctions Spring Sports Card Catalog Auction Bats Over $10.1 million

The star of Heritage’s March 22-23 Spring Sports Card Catalog Auction was a real Georgia Peach: the 1909-11 Ty Cobb T206 graded Good+ 2.5 by SGC that made its auction debut over the weekend and realized $432,000. That bested pre-auction expectations for the extraordinary rarity nicknamed The Cobb/Cobb, which is even harder to score than the Honus Wagner T206 considered among The Hobby’s holiest grails.

Its scarcity stems from the fact it was a small-run card made for a little-distributed, short-lived product: Cobb’s “granulated cut plug smoking tobacco.” Historians believe this card — featuring Ty Cobb against a blood-red background, its reverse advertising “‘Ty Cobb’ King of the Smoking Tobacco World” — was considered a “premium” offering. That was certainly the case over the weekend as collectors tussled over this stunning piece.

As always, the Spring Sports Card Catalog Auction was a near-sell-out event, realizing $10,169,406 thanks to the more than 2,450 bidders worldwide who participated. There were home runs and slam dunks throughout the two-day event, which saw estimates toppled and records set up and down the roster — including a 1933 Goudey Napoleon Lajoie graded PSA Good 2, which was actually issued in 1934 and sold for $41,654.40, a record for the grade.

Chief among the auction’s stacked lineup was the man who slugged his way into the pantheon of baseball’s heaviest hitters: George Hermann “Babe” Ruth, still a scrawny hurler for the Boston Red Sox when this M101-5 Sporting News Blank Back landed in some lucky kid’s mitt in 1916. This lone VG/EX 4 example in PSA’s population guide realized $348,000.

This event had no shortage of famous, familiar and coveted cardboard. Look no further than two of the auction’s top performers: the 1952 Mickey Mantle Topps card, which heralded the birth of an industry and a hobby, and the 1986 Michael Jordan Fleer offering, whose red-white-and-blue bordered slam dunk has become basketball collectors’ most defining (and chased-after) image in recent years. This auction featured a Mantle PSA EX-MT 6 that sold for $204,000 and a Jordan PSA Gem Mint 10 that realized $210,000 — both exceedingly strong prices.

“That Cobb came to us having never been graded or having been to auction, and it was bound to steal the headline in this auction given its significance and specialness,” says Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions. “But in many ways, the story of this auction is the strong prices across the board — the four-figure cards that hit five figures this weekend, the climbers up the ranks of the record-holders. Every auction has a narrative, like the sealed case of hockey cards selling for millions. For me, this weekend served as a wonderful reminder that the state of this hobby is strong.”

At 77, Nolan Ryan is still throwing gas, as evidenced by his 1969 Topps solo in a PSA Gem Mint 10 — one of only three known — which realized $180,000 during the auction’s first night.

It should come as no surprise that Willie Mays, the greatest living ballplayer, joined the elite company in this event, which featured one of the best examples of his signed 1951 Bowman rookie card. What makes this PSA VG-EX 4, PSA/DNA Auto 8 so exceedingly exceptional is its backstory: There are a scant 31 signed Mays Bowmans in PSA’s registry, but he wrote on this one while still a young player and not yet a revered legend. Heritage had never offered such a significant slice of Mays’ baseball card history, which realized $126,000.

On the other end of the spectrum, sealed cards remain in demand among collectors, such as the 1967 Topps Football Cello Box and 1970 Topps Baseball (Mixed Series) Cello Box that each realized $81,000. And tickets made history with this piece of history: the long best-known example of the ticket stub from Jackie Robinson’s 1939 UCLA football debut. This stub, graded PSA EX-MT 6, shattered expectations to realize $22,800.

Click here for a complete list of results from the March 22-23 Spring Sports Card Catalog Auction.

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