Memory Lane Inc’s 2009 Summer Classic Rarities auction proved the adage that while real estate depends on three things: location, location and location, sports cards sell best based on condition, condition, condition. As is always the case with this vintage sports memorabilia specialist, there was no shortage of high-grade memorabilia available to the thousands of collectors who devour the company’s full-color auction catalogs. However, the results of the event proved that iconic basketball card sets often steal the spotlight from their baseball brethren. A 1986-87 Fleer basketball set, accumulated over the course of several years by a determined collector, paced bidding in the sale that came to a close August 8th. The phenomenal 132-card set consisting of all PSA 10-graded beauties, closed at $29,000. With the buyer’s premium, the final realized price for the set was an astonishing $34,075.
As collectors know, the ’86-87 Fleer set includes rookie cards of Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwan, Dominque Wilkins, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler, Isiah Thomas, James Worthy and others. The issue was the first widely distributed basketball set in several years when it hit the market and quickly gained favor with collectors, especially the Jordan card, the unquestioned key to the set and even more popular on the rare occasion that a perfect ’10’ hits the market.
The first lot in the auction was a unique collection of a ticket stub from every New York Yankees World Series appearance and a press pin from each, dating to the 1920s. Enclosed in a case weighing 30 pounds, the historic museum-quality piece found a new home for $23,500.
Vintage baseball cards still rule the overall collecting roost, however. Match an iconic player with an iconic brand and a mint grade and you have a winner. A terrific run of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays cards was presented in this auction. A 1953 Topps Mays, graded an impressive PSA 8.5, sold for $25,517 while a 1951 Bowman Mays rookie card in a PSA 8 holder, went for $12,906. Red Man Tobacco cards are hard to find in top grade, but MLI brought out a PSA 9 1952 Mays that sold for $8,013. A 1952 Berk Ross Mays, graded PSA 8.5 rocketed to $7,134 while a 1971 Topps Greatest Moments (PSA 9) sold for $3,725.
Several high-grade complete sets were sold, topped by a 1963 Topps that included a number of graded cards and high-grade raw examples. The set sold for $17,735.
Among the rare baseball cards sold were a 1933 Goudey #144 Babe Ruth graded PSA 8 ($17,601), two different 1934 Goudey Lou Gehrig cards each graded PSA 8 ($14,081 and $12,906), a T206 Christy Mathewson dark cap PSA 8 ($13,342), and a PSA 6 1909 T206 Ty Cobb Portrait with a green Piedmont back ($13,342).
Collectors flock to PSA 10 graded cards whenever they’re offered-and from any era. Memory Lane again brought strong prices for those vintage beauties it offered including: 1968 Topps Super Stars ($7,714), 1964 Topps Giants Gunners ($6,374), 1959 Topps Murry Dickson ($3,078) and a 1959 Topps Bill Fischer ($3,386). Put Nolan Ryan in a Gem Mint holder and collectors will bid with gusto. MLI sold these Topps Ryan cards in a ’10’ grade: 1977 ($7,260), 1979 ($5,454), 1975 Topps mini Highlights #5 ($3,725) and #7 ($2,238), 1975 Topps Strikeout Leaders ($2,238) and 1978 Topps #206 Strikeout Leaders ($2,035). Even Ryan PSA 10 cards from the early 80s will find a captive audience. Witness: 1980 Topps #580 ($3,151) and 1981 Topps #240 ($2,312).
Basketball collectors loved the impressive selection of high-grade cards offered in this auction. A 1957 Topps Bill Russell rookie card, graded PSA 8, brought $9,221, a 1961 Fleer high grade rarity featuring journeyman Don Ohl sold for $3,151 in PSA 9 condition. Two 1961 Fleer Hall of Famers, both mint 9s brought a combined $15,000+. Wilt Chamberlain sold for $8,384 while Oscar Robertson went for $6,695.
Other lots included a collection of vintage autographed Yankee photos from the Barry Halper collection, all encased in a handsome photo album that sold for $14,942. A Lou Gehrig signed postcard, grading an impressive PSA/DNA 10 sold for $8,115. A rare 1921 World Series Game 2 Unused Ticket from the Yankees/Giants cross-town rivalry series survived headed for a new home at a price of $5,541.
Autographed Hall of Famer pieces are usually part of any MLI catalog auction. A rare double-signed Babe Ruth autographed baseball graded 7.5 by PSA/DNA soared to $11,158. A 1956-63 Artvue Jimmie Foxx autograph sold for $2,704 while a Mickey Mantle signed Upper Deck bat with #7 inscription and LOA, sold for $2,458.
Memory Lane is now accepting consignments for its next catalog auction.
Contact: Memory Lane Incorporated (714) 730-0600