Heritage Auction Galleries’ Sports Collectibles division further solidifies its reputation for “fresh” hobby finds with an extraordinary selection of high-end vintage sports memorabilia and trading cards in its upcoming Aug. 5 Signature® Auction to be held in conjunction with the National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore, Maryland. “The enormous marketing reach of Heritage is a key factor in achieving world record prices,” said Chris Ivy, Director of Heritage Auction Galleries’ Sports Collectibles division (HSC), “but it also is essential in locating the hobby’s hidden treasures and bringing them to market for the first time.” Heritage continues to do just that with its 86 lot “Platinum Night” Signature Auction, an event featuring only the most significant and valuable collectibles in the hobby.
Leading off the auction are three lots from the estate of Christy Walsh, recognized as the first sports agent, who represented legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Knute Rockne during his long career.
“It’s an extraordinary archive of material,” said Ivy of the Walsh Collection. “We wanted to give the Heritage clientele a taste of contents in this auction, but we’ll have dozens more lots in auctions to follow.”
Most significant is the simple signed document that serves as the first joint venture between Walsh and Ruth, beginning an historic partnership which would survive until the Babe’s death in 1948. Also offered is a phenomenal signed photograph of Ruth and Gehrig at the 1932 World Series. Gehrig pokes fun at his iconic teammate, who whispers something to him in the oversized image. “In one ear and out the other,” he writes.
After almost a century and a half of seclusion within a dark New Jersey attic, an exceptional artifact from the earliest days of organized baseball makes its auction debut on Platinum Night: A selection of 62 team ribbons was fashioned into a colorful display by the early ballplayer who had collected them from his competition.
“Only a handful of these ribbons have ever surfaced in the collecting market,” Ivy said. “For collectors of 19th century baseball, this is unquestionably the most exciting find in recent memory.”
The first great star of professional baseball provides the auction with one of its highlights: the bat used by Adrian “Cap” Anson to record the final hits of his Hall of Fame career.
“This bat has it all,” said Ivy. “Tremendous use, rock-solid family provenance, a perfect GU 10 rating from PSA/DNA. It’s arguably the most important 19th century bat ever offered at auction.”
Early 20th century pitching star Christy Mathewson makes several appearances throughout this special auction, including one upon the face of the exceptionally scarce 1903 Breisch-Williams card, considered the inaugural class Hall of Famer’s rookie.
“Only four examples have ever been graded by PSA or SGC,” Ivy said. “It makes the famous Honus Wagner T206 look downright common in comparison.”
Matty’s opponent in his final game shares the auction’s spotlight, as Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown provides the only single signed baseball to reach the public auction block in more than a dozen years. The Hall of Fame pitcher whose mangled hand was the key to his brilliance signed the ball three years after Mathewson’s last mound appearance, which was likewise his own.
“This is truly a ‘bid now or forever hold your peace’ situation,” explained Ivy. “I’m not certain you would even need all the fingers on Brown’s right hand to count the surviving population of genuine singles.”
For years it was believed that no uniforms from the debut 1960 season of the Dallas Cowboys had survived the cruel passage of a half century until a former ball boy delivered to Heritage the jersey, pants and helmet worn by one of the franchise’s greatest stars, “Dandy Don” Meredith, during his rookie year.
“Any game worn gear from the first Cowboys season would carry tremendous collecting importance,” Ivy said. “It’s just the icing on the cake that it happens to come from the locker of one of the greatest Cowboys of all.”
Two “finest known” card sets provide excitement for the trading card enthusiast, each ranked number one on the PSA Set Registry without a close contender. Twenty of the 25 cards comprising the 1910 D322 Tip Top Bread Pittsburgh Pirates set rate as the highest ever graded, as do an incredible 90% of the cards comprising the 1923 V100 Willards Chocolate set.
“There is simply no chance that either of these sets will ever lose their first place rankings,” said Ivy. “The combination of rarity and condition leaves no doubt.”
One of the most famous bouts of the historic 1970s Heavyweight Championship boxing era supplies the auction with pugilism’s greatest symbol of achievement, the NABF title belt awarded to Ken Norton for his 1973 defeat of Muhammad Ali.
“It’s an overused term, but Heavyweight Championship belts truly are the Holy Grail for boxing collectors,” said Ivy, “and this one derives from the division’s greatest era, when legends like Ali, Foreman, Frazier and Holmes were battling for supremacy.”
All lots from this elite auction will be on display at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore prior to the Aug. 5 auction, which will be held at the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards. Admission to the auction floor will be limited, but interested bidders are encouraged to register to bid by telephone, or via Heritage LIVE!, Heritage’s real-time Internet bidding platform. Absentee bidding is currently possible by visiting HA.com/Sports.