At its annual Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory Live Auction conducted on Nov. 10-11, Hunt Auctions, Inc. sold more than 1,000 lots for a total of $2.1 million. The auction was the largest in the three-year history of the event, both in terms of the number of lots sold and the revenue generated. Louisville Slugger Museum receives a portion of all auction proceeds, which are earmarked for its acquisition fund.
The auction began with an evening session on Friday, opening with several 2006 MLB All-Star Home Run Derby/Workout Day autographed jerseys. Their sale garnered more than $28,000 for the Baseball Assistance Team, an MLB charity whose primary goal is to aide those members of the "baseball family" in need of a helping hand.
At the top of the list was Ryan Howard's jersey, which brought $6,037, likely in anticipation of his eventual NL MVP win.
Two early baseball collections, from former American League umpire John Quinn and 19th-century player James "Deacon" White, headlined the second session on Saturday. Quinn participated in the 1934 U.S. All-Star Tour of Japan and assembled one of the most comprehensive and likely unique photographic accounts of the trip to come into the marketplace.
A stunning photograph, taken from a ground level vantage point picturing Babe Ruth at bat and Lou Gehrig on deck, signed by both players as well as Quinn, went for $46,000. A leather-bound presentational album from the 1934 Tour containing photographs and team autographed sheets brought $31,050. Other items from the collection included a team signed dinner menu, which solicited bidding up to $18,975, and a superb team photo picturing the players in front of crossed U.S. and Japanese flags, which brought $6,038.
"Deacon" White was one of the more prominent players during the formative period of professional baseball from the 1860s through the 1880s. Offered for the first time directly by the White family, the collection prompted the kind of aggressive bidding typically associated with such rare and unusual hobby finds. Cabinet photographs from the 1870s and 1880s brought some of the highest prices, including an 1873 Boston Red Stockings Imperial example for $35,650, an 1887 Detroit Wolverines large cabinet photo for $15,525, and an 1873 Boston Base Ball Club team example for $14,375. An autographed George Wright cabinet photo generated heated bidding among several phone bidders, ultimately selling for $26,450.
The White family also offered a few pieces of early equipment likely used by White, who was the first professional player to wear a mask in game play. His spider-style catcher's mask (shown in the photo at right) brought a whopping $17,825, and a pair of 19th-century baseball uniform pants ended at more than $7,700.
Although the auction contained a wide variety of baseball memorabilia, vintage cards attracted the most attention, with three examples establishing record prices. A superb 1887 N28 Allen & Ginter Adrian Anson (SGC 88) soared to $26,450, a 1910 E93 Standard Caramel Ty Cobb (SGC 80) reached an incredible $27,600 and a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth No. 53 (SGC 84) ended at $28,750.
Other cards that brought exceptionally high numbers included a 1916 M101-4 Ruth for $17,250, a 1910 E103 Williams Caramel Hans Wagner (SGC 60) for $14,375, and a 1910 E103 Williams Caramel Ty Cobb (SGC 60) for $13,225.
Numerous autograph rarities sold above their high estimates, proving the market is robust for unusual exemplars in high-condition grades. Single-signed baseballs attracted some of the most aggressive bidding in this category, including an Urban Shocker circa 1923 ($12,650), a G.C. Alexander ($10,580), and a Dazzy Vance ($7,762). A 1962 New York Yankees team-signed baseball in near-mint condition brought $9,000 above the high estimate, achieving a final price of $13,225. A scarce Ed Delahanty handwritten letter from the Hillerich & Bradsby Co. archives drew strong interest, selling for $29,900. A run of 12 diplomas signed by Cum Posey from Homestead High School brought an average of $2,300 each and an album page signed by Negro League player Raymond Brown sold for $5,750. The two were among the grouping of 17 players and officials from the Negro leagues and early black baseball who were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Prices realized for the entire auction are available at www.huntauctions.com. Hunt Auctions, Inc. is currently accepting consignments for its annual February Live Auction held in Exton, Pa.