Paced by the sale of the only PSA 8.5 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, Memory Lane Inc’s 2010 Summer Treasures Auction came to a close in the early morning hours of Sunday, August 15. The Mantle card, consigned from a private collection, drew a final bid of $130,000. With the buyer’s premium added, the card realized $154,700. In all, the auction generated $2,045,624. The second lot in the auction was a 1952 Topps unopened pack, graded PSA 8. The rare surviving example from Topps’ first major baseball card set was the highest-graded example in the hobby and the $25,470 final price set a new record for any recorded sale of an unopened sports card pack. Photographer Nat Fein’s personal copy of his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo entitled “The Babe Bows Out” sold for $47,924. The poignant photo of a dying Ruth shows him leaning on Bob Feller’s bat as cheers rained down from a packed Yankee Stadium. Authenticated by PSA as a first generation photo, it set a new record for an unsigned sports photograph.
“We were excited about the opportunity to offer the Nat Fein photo,” said Memory Lane’s J.P. Cohen. “With the history behind it and the provenance of coming directly from the man who took it, it was a magnet for a lot of very advanced collectors who appreciated its significance.”
Collectors of game-worn jerseys had several pieces to choose from including two once worn by pre-World War II superstars. A 1937 Carl Hubbell New York Giants jersey, graded A10 by MEARS, sold for $47,600, while a jersey from Charlie Gehringer’s rookie year with the Detroit Tigers went for $28,061. Of more modern vintage was an autographed 1968 Pete Rose Reds jersey, graded A10, that sold for $28,017 and a 1980 George Brett Royals jersey from his MVP season that brought $15,815.
“There were a lot of one-of-a-kind type pieces in this auction and they attracted some of the top collectors who knew that if they didn’t buy now, they might never have a chance to own a particular item,” said Cohen. “These are very rare and unique pieces that will likely stay in private collections for years. For those collectors, it’s not about the money. It’s simply about a strong desire to own the best of the best.”
High-grade Babe Ruth signed baseballs would fit into that category. Memory Lane offered one that had been in the consignor’s family since it was awarded to a woman as a raffle prize in a Grange Hall drawing decades ago. Still in the original box, it sold for $15,432.
Another autographed Ruth item, also drew attention. A rare photo of The Babe and Yankees owner Col. Jacob Ruppert, sold for $6614.
A rare Christy Mathewson book, ‘Won in the Ninth’, signed by the Hall of Fame pitcher whose life was cut short, sold for an impressive $14,910.
Vintage sports card collectors competed for several top of the line lots including a 1915 Cracker Jack Ty Cobb, graded PSA 8.5. It is headed to a new home at a price of $39,792. Fans of modern era rookie cards went wild over a 1975 Topps Robin Yount, graded PSA 10, one of just two in existence. Opening at $2,000, the first card of the Milwaukee Brewers Hall of Fame sold for $25,791. A 1962 Topps rookie card of NFL icon Mike Ditka, graded PSA 9 despite the condition sensitivity of the set, sold for $10,919.
Other high grade cards and sets sold included: 1915 M101-5 Sporting News Babe Ruth rookie card with blank back ($22,595); 1974 Topps Mike Schmidt PSA 10 ($9788); 1956 Topps Willie Mays gray back PSA 9 ($6013); 1965 Topps Tony Perez RC mint ($6013); 1932 US Caramel Bobby Jones PSA 6 ($5612); 1974 Topps Nolan Ryan PSA 10 ($5524); T206 Barney Pelty PSA 8 horizontal ($5524) and vertical ($4150) and a 1975 Topps Fred Lynn PSA 10 ($4019).
Some unique and seldom-offered complete sets were on the block too. A 1959 Fleer Ted Williams complete set of 80 cards, 79 of which were graded PSA 9, sold for $12,753. The set is #6 on the PSA Set Registry. A 1959 Topps Home Run Derby near set (missing only one card), all graded, sold for $8798 while a 1964 Topps Coin complete set, with an average grade of 8.61, brought $7102. Two vintage basketball card sets drew strong prices. A 1961-62 Fleer set including both graded and raw cards, sold for $7597 while a 1957-58 Topps set with the same makeup, sold for $5698.
Memory Lane had several unopened vintage vending boxes in this auction. Set Registry collectors had to be intrigued by the 1971 Topps fourth series box, which has the potential of surrendering some high grade cards from a very condition-sensitive set. It sold for $7718. A 1968-69 Topps hockey vending box brought $5360 while a single unopened cello pack from the popular 1955 Topps All-American football set sold for $7016 in a PSA 7 grade.
“Even in a difficult economy with cash still somewhat tight, bidders still rise to the occasion for the best items,” said Cohen.
Memory Lane has already started preparing for its next auction, scheduled to take place later this fall. Consignments will be accepted through early October at 877.606.LANE (5263) or via the company’s website (http://www.MemoryLaneInc.com).