The bat used by Ernie Banks to hit the final home run of his Hall of Fame career sold for over $60,000, topping Memory Lane’s Springtime Classic Auction, which closed early last Sunday morning. Total auction proceeds were over $1.6 million. The Banks bat, displaying significant game use, included a copy of a letter of authenticity from WGN Broadcasting Company dated 1971. The WGN letter indicates that Jack Jacobson, Vice President Program Director of WGN, got the bat directly from Banks and the player known as “Mr. Cub” validated upon giving him the bat that it was used when he hit his 512th home run, the last of his illustrious career.
The bat drew 39 bids from interested collectors, with the final bid at $51,224. With the buyer’s premium of 17.5%, the realized price was $60,188, among the most ever paid for a post-1950s game used bat.
Another historic home run bat sold in the auction was the one Harmon Killebrew used to tie Mickey Mantle on the all-time list at 536. Dating from the 1972 season, the Killebrew bat sold for $15,237 including the buyer’s premium.
Memory Lane’s auction also included a wealth of high-grade vintage sports card sets. A 1955 Bowman set, fourth best on the PSA Set Registry with an average grade topping NM-MT 8, sold for $37,099. Numerous other sets, some completely graded, topped the $15,000 mark.
“It’s very inspiring to see that the hobby might be taking an upswing based on the strong bidding activity,” Memory Lane’s J.P. Cohen said of the auction. “We also witnessed both long-time collectors and first timers bidding in this auction which is also very promising.”
Several rare, top-level single cards were also sold for impressive prices, including the only 1963 Fleer Bob Gibson graded PSA 10, which realized $10,267. A 1961 Topps Ron Santo rookie card, also graded ’10’ and one of just three at that level, drew intense bidding before selling for $8692. A 1964 Topps Curt Flood, graded PSA 9, went for $7962, more than 100 times the SMR value. A PSA 10 1956 Gene Woodling gray back variation brought $4174, a 1959 Topps Orlando Cepeda All-Star went for $3570, a 1969 Topps Bobby Bonds rookie graded PSA 10, sold for $3570 and a 1951 Bowman Bob Dillinger common card, graded PSA 8.5, was chased down at $3377.
Collectors of football rookie cards showed some respect for a PSA 9-graded 1957 Topps Paul Hornung rookie. It sold for $5707. Hockey card fans were interested in a 1951 Parkhurst Bert Olmstead, graded PSA 8, which went for $1789.
Among the other memorabilia items up for bid, an Abraham Lincoln signed, cancelled check drew history buffs to the table and sold for $16,076 while a double signed, cancelled check written by Babe Ruth to his wife Claire in 1946, just months before his death, realized $5896. A historically relevant photograph, showing Ted Williams hitting his first home run in a Red Sox exhibition game in 1939, signed by the late Hall of Famer, brought $266.
Modern card collectors weren’t shy about getting in on the action for several high-grade rookie cards including a 1989 Score Supplemental Barry Sanders rookie card. It sold for $3377, while a 1986 Topps Jerry Rice rookie card brought a price of $2791.