The New York Yankees home jersey worn by Hall of Fame first baseman Lou Gehrig during his first MVP season sold for $717,000 on Friday, Nov. 5, as part of Heritage Auctions Signature Sports Collectibles Auction, Nov. 4-5, in Dallas, establishing the highest price ever paid at auction for New York Yankees pinstripes. The auction totaled just more than $5.2 million. All prices include 19.5% Buyer’s Premium. “We were very pleased, but not surprised, by the impressive result,” said Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage. “It’s unquestionably one of the most important jerseys in private hands, and the Heritage track record for posting record prices for elite material is well established.”
Though the Iron Horse provided the highest single lot tally for the two-day event, the second and third most valuable pieces in the auction were the ones which had made international news prior to, as well as after, the auction.
The first Gold Medal from the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” victory of the US Olympic Hockey team ever to surface at public auction more than tripled its original auction estimate with a price of $310,700.
“The buyer had never collected sports memorabilia before,” said Ivy. “He had purchased high-end pieces from other Heritage divisions in the past, but this was his first foray into the sports world. These ‘crossover’ bidders are often behind our record prices, which this sale establishes for Olympic memorabilia in any form.”
The most pre-auction press was dedicated to the touching story of a Baltimore-area convent that inherited a genuine T206 Honus Wagner card and consigned it to Heritage to fund charitable endeavors. After the enormous press resulted in more than 40,000 page views of the rare card’s auction listing, it realized a final price of $262,900, unquestionably tens of thousands of dollars more than its actual value considering the card’s poor condition.
“The winning bidder is a card shop owner,” said Ivy, “He was touched by the nun’s story and had been seeking a copy of this card for a long time, so he was happy to bring a bit of philanthropy to his hobby.”
Heritage donated its standard 15% seller’s commission for consignments to the cause as well.
Other six-figure results from the largest Heritage Sports Collectibles auction to date included a $119,500 price tag for LeRoy Neiman’s noted 1962 portrait of Mickey Mantle, and $107,550 for the earliest known bat used by the great Babe Ruth.
Heritage further strengthened its reputation for unearthing rare seminal sports artifacts with the presentation of a pair of the earliest known printed pieces for the sports of boxing and basketball respectively. One of only three known copies of the 1743 Broughton’s Rules of Boxing broadside, the first attempt to codify the terms of pugilistic competition, realized a price of $28,680, while one of two known examples of the 1892 YMCA magazine announcing the invention of the sport of basketball, just a month after the first game was played, commanded $7,768.
Further highlights include, but certainly are not limited to:
1953 Jackie Robinson Game Used Bat: Though the luckless Bums would once again fall to the New York Yankees in the World Series of 1953, that edition of the Brooklyn Dodgers is often identified as Ebbets’ finest, and with good reason. To this day, even inclusive of the modern expansion to 162 regular season games, the 1953 Dodgers’ mark of 105 victories stands as the greatest in franchise history, and their 955 runs scored the best since the start of the twentieth century. This extraordinarily rare signature model Hillerich & Bradsby O16 was used by Robinson during that dominant season in Flatbush. It’s never been entirely clear why Jackie’s bats are so much more scarce than his contemporary Hall of Famers’, but it’s worthy of note that they surface on the major auction block at an average of less than once a year. This is one of the finest of that tiny supply. Realized: $56,763.
1874 Philadelphia Athletics Original Team Portraits Lot of 12 with, notably, Cap Anson and Al Reach: One of the most important photographic finds in the history of the hobby, these dozen individual portrait photographs transports us to the very infancy of the professional game with a study of the National Association’s Philadelphia Athletics, winners of professional baseball’s first Championship in 1871. Heritage’s ability to properly identify the players was greatly aided by the discovery of a page from the July 25, 1874 issue of Harper’s Weekly, which provides woodcut images “From Photographs by Suddards & Fennemore, Philadelphia.” Realized: $53,775.
Circa 1935 Jesse Owens Race Worn Ohio State Track Jersey: Before there was Jackie Robinson, there was Jesse Owens. One wonders if the second would have been possible without the first. Owens’ four Gold Medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics assures his immortality in sports history, and unquestionably establishes him as one of the most historically significant athletic figures from a sociological standpoint. Realized: $53,775.
1957 Eddie Mathews Game Worn Milwaukee Braves Jersey: With its Hall of Fame heritage and its World Championship season vintage, this is arguably the most beautiful flannel uniform style of its generation. This Mathews’ home white flannel survives in 100% original condition, unchanged in appearance from the year the 25-year-old third baseman posted 32 homers and 94 RBIs during the regular season. Odd are 50-50 that this was the shirt Mathews was wearing when he crushed his Game Four tenth inning walk-off shot to even the Series, considering that each player was issued just two home and two road jerseys during this period. Realized: $40,331.
1908 World Series Program (Chicago): Just the second example of this monumentally scarce program Heritage has ever handled, the first having realized a final price of $41,825 in the company’s April 2009 Signature Auction. This is the last Chicago Cubs World Series victory, and the franchise has picked up quite a few fans over the past century of Championship drought. One would estimate that no more than a dozen surviving examples are available to tempt those legions of fans. Appreciating considerably from its original ten cent price tag, this sixteen-page relic is a masterpiece of Dead Ball Era design, with marvelous photographic portraits of legends like Tinker, Evers and Three Finger Brown nestled within. Realized: $38,838.