Dozens of Babe Ruth cards, some among the rarest cards of the legendary slugger, were chased down by eager bidders early Sunday (9/10/23) as Memory Lane closed out its Summer Rarities catalog auction. The top selling item was one of only four known copies of Ruths 1917 Standard Biscuit card and the highest graded example. The SGC 6 drew 32 bids and sold for $462,000.
Another top-grade Ruth scarcity, a PSA 5 1921 National Caramel E220, netted $195,483. The card stands as the best graded copy on any population report. The E220 cards were created by a Lancaster, PA candy maker and only a small number of cards still exist today.
One of only four PSA graded copies of the 1921 Koester Bread (D383) Ruth—and the best of the four—sold for $87,757 while one of only two copies of the 1921 Asahina Sporting Goods Ruth postcard from Japan (PSA 1.5) soared to $72,198.
PSA 8 copies of Ruth’s 1932 U.S. Caramel and 1933 Goudey Sport Kings cards were among ten lots in the auction to cross the six-figure mark, closing at $157,294 and $121,295 respectively.
Collectors love the stories behind some of the hobby’s best cards and few are more intriguing than the T206 Eddie Plank. The reason why his card became scarce is still the subject of some conjecture but it’s clear his image was pulled from production by the American Tobacco Company and that the few that carry a Piedmont Cigarettes advertising back are true unicorns, with only five known examples. At least four of those were from pre-production sheets and are missing certain inks that would have been used to complete the process. One of those precious five found a new home in the MLI sale for $232,736.
Other pre-War card highlights included:
- 1911 M116 Sporting Life Hans Wagner Blue Background PSA 3 VG $52,952
- 1934 Goudey #1 Signed Jimmie Foxx Goudey PSA 4 VG-EX Card Grade PSA 8 AUTO $53,378
- 1933 Goudey #207 Mel Ott “Batting” PSA 8 NM-MT $41,824
- 1916 H801-9 The Globe Stores #38 Ty Cobb PSA 6.5 EX-MT+ $26,316
- 1909-11 T206 Multi-Strike w/a “Ghost” Cy Young Portrait (Auth) – $68,125
As usual with Memory Lane, post-War rookie and star cards were plentiful in the auction. Among the top sellers were a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 5 ($133,906), a 1954 Topps Al Kaline rookie graded PSA 9 ($43,915), a 1976 Topps #500 Reggie Jackson PSA 10 ($41,824), a PSA 8.5 1948-49 Leaf #76 Ted Williams ($40,823) and a PSA 8 1954 Topps #94 Ernie Banks rookie ($25,063).
PSA Set Registry builders flocked to high-grade 1953 Topps cards that were offered. Among the notable sales were a Clem Labine PSA 9 ($31,555), a Monte Irvin PSA 9 ($30,768) and a PSA 8.5 Johnny Wyrostek ($25,960).
Basketball cards, specifically lots centered on the history making 1986-87 Fleer Basketball issue, were well represented in the auction. A PSA 10 Michael Jordan sold for $217,295 as auction prices for the iconic MJ rookie continue to tick slightly back up the ladder with three of the last five public sales pushing past $200,000. An unopened pack with Jordan on the front sold for $26,690 in a PSA 8 holder while an unopened box of 36 packs went for $144,692.
PSA Set Registry participants chased the only Gem Mint 10 copy of the 1969-70 Elgin Baylor which rocketed to $193,368. Another notable basketball card sale was a 1972 Icee Bear Pete Maravich PSA 10 that reached $14,656.
With the first Sunday of the 2023 NFL season kicking off just hours after the auction concluded, it was appropriate that several high-grade vintage football sets were in the spotlight. The number one ranked 1969 Topps set hammered at $43,564. The set included 187 of the 263 cards garnering PSA Mint 9 grades.
The eighth best 1952 Bowman Large football set was also among the auction’s top sellers at $48,416. Among the single card football highlights was the sale of a 1962 Topps Mike Ditka rookie card graded PSA 8 that climbed to $14,298.
It isn’t often that a game-used item from one of baseball’s most time-honored milestones becomes available. It’s even rarer when that auction ends on the very anniversary of the moment but Memory Lane offered the bat used by Robin Yount for his 3,000th hit on Sept. 9, 1992. The Louisville Slugger used by the Milwaukee Brewers Hall of Famer, signed and inscribed with that notation, sold for $291,770.
In all, the auction generated $9,146,837 in sales.
Complete auction results can be found on Memory Lane’s website. Consignments are now being accepted for the Winter Rarities Auction in December.