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'Black Swamp' Cards and Other Highlights from Heritage National Auction

Heritage Auctions' Platinum Night auction to take place on Aug. 2 during the National Convention is already making headlines nationwide for the "Black Swamp Find." However, the auction has more to offer, including the finest Babe Ruth single-signed ball and Arnold Palmer's green jacket.

The recent Black Swamp Find, including a near-complete set (27/30) of 1910 E98 baseball cards – No. 1 on the PSA Set Registry – is the unquestioned headline in Heritage Auctions’ Aug. 2 Vintage Sports Collectibles Platinum Night Signature Auction, taking place as part of the National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore. However, the three lots associated with that find are just the tip of the iceberg of the auction as a whole.

“This is an auction of incredible depth and breadth, so to name these cards the centerpiece is no small thing,” said Chris Ivy, director of Sports at Heritage Auctions. “These gems emerged from a small Ohio town, discovered in an attic in a box forgotten for a century beneath an ancient dollhouse. You have a better chance of winning the lottery than of making such a rare discovery.”

Named for the damp landscape on the edge of Defiance, Ohio, where the cards served their 100 one years of solitude, The Black Swamp Find turns the PSA population chart on its head like never before. The roster includes the greatest of the game including Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Connie Mack, Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Cy Young plus others. Every card has been graded by PSA and all but three equal or stand alone as the finest copies in existence. All told, across three lots, Heritage is selling a selection of 37 Black Swamp cards.

Finest known Babe Ruth single-signed ball, estimated at $300,000+

Finest known Babe Ruth single-signed ball, estimated at $300,000+

It’s said that Babe Ruth signed tens of thousands of autographs throughout his storied career, and the best command a pretty penny. Only one, however, stands above the rest and it’s one of the most compelling highlights of the auction: The finest Babe Ruth single-signed baseball known, PSA/DNA 9.5., is expected to bring more than $300,000.

“The ball was originally given by the Babe’s widow to Hollywood publicist William Stoll, who worked on the 1948 film, ‘The Babe Ruth Story,’” said Ivy. “As far as sports autographs go, this ball could well be the Crown Jewel."

Another astounding and evocative piece of the Babe’s legacy is his circa 1932 game-worn New York Yankees cap (estimate: $300,000+), dating to the season of Ruth’s famous “Called Shot” home run. The cap was given in 1932 to a young paperboy named Robert O’Brian, who delivered the paper to then-Yankees manager, the great Joe McCarthy, who took a shine to O’Brian, introducing him to many Yankees greats of the day and ultimately gifting him with this previous Ruth relic.

One of the most significant artifacts relating to America’s national pastime to ever come to auction arrives in the form of the 1912 Boston Red Sox World Series trophy presented to manager Jake Stahl, including a magnificent team cabinet photograph of the victors posing with the trophy. The trophy, which Boston won in one of the most contentious and famous World Series in baseball history, is estimated at $300,000+.


“The 1912 season is seen as the most significant in Boston Red Sox history, marking the birth of the hallowed grounds of Fenway Park and the opening salvo in an era of dominance that would manifest four World Championships in a seven-season span,” said Ivy. “As one of the few – and certainly earliest – privately held Major League World Championship trophies, this is among the most significant happenings in Red Sox Nation since the Curse of the Bambino was cured.”

Baseball history continues to unfold in the auction with the single finest 1910 E98 "Set of 30" Honus Wagner card ever offered, from The Black Swamp Find, an amazing example grade by PSA as Gem MT 10 – the finest example known, along with the only 1927 Babe Ruth game-used bat in private hands, PSA/DNA GU 10, the ultimate Ruth artifact from the famed 1927 Murderer’s Row. Both lots are estimated at $200,000+.

Further highlights include, but are not limited to:
Arnold Palmer Green Jacket Presented to Him at the 1984 Masters Tournament: The fact that the presented Green Jacket was technically a presentation model rather than a victor's prize accounts for its eventual escape from the Augusta grounds. The garment was issued to Palmer in 1984, presumably to provide him with a newer and better-fitting model than those he earned with victories in a six-year span between 1958 and 1964. From there it made its way into the personal collection of a long-time Augusta employee who had befriended Palmer during their annual meetings at the Masters. Upon his passing, his son discovered the jacket. Heritage’s consignor purchased the jacket directly from the son. Estimate: $100,000+.

1971 Muhammad Ali original artwork by LeRoy Neiman, a massive oil-on-board almost certainly created to promote “The Fight of the Century”: One really needs to stand beneath the towering mass of this remarkable work to experience its full power: Muhammad Ali quite literally larger than life, arms raised in a heroic pose, his form emerging from vivid firework bursts of color that exemplify Neiman's patented brand of impressionism. So arresting is the image, so commanding of its space, that it would only be properly served by display on a huge and otherwise empty wall, free of any distractions. Estimate: $100,000+.

1975 Muhammad Ali Fight Worn Trunks from the Thrilla in Manila: The most significant artifact from the Thrilla in Manila ever to reach the public auction block, the white satin Everlast trunks worn by Muhammad Ali as he inflicted and endured the most brutal beatings ever witnessed in a Heavyweight Championship bout. The trunks were retained by Ali's assistant and close friend Drew "Bundini" Brown, and it is his handwriting we find in black marker on the front: “Ali - Frazier Fight, Trilla (sic) in Manila, Pres. F. Marcos, Manila, Philippines, Oct. 1, 1975.” Estimate: $100,000+.

1951 Mickey Mantle World Series Game-Used Bat, PSA/DNA GU 8: One of just two bats issued to the rookie Mantle for this historic Series and the only example known to survive to this day. The signature model Hillerich & Bradsby T41 provides a block lettered "World Series 1951, New York Yankees" framing the facsimile signature on the barrel, and heavy use with repaired handle and barrel and scattered ball marks, stitch impressions and cleat marks. It was a gift from Mantle to his high school baseball coach who passed the bat on to his young friend Gomer Evans. Estimate: $100,000+.

1956 Jackie Robinson Game-Used Bat, PSA/DNA GU 10: Jackie's last bat? It's more than just a fair assumption. The sizeable stack of paperwork charting the provenance of this historic lumber tracks the tale back to that final day at Ebbets Field, Oct. 10, 1956, and a New York priest and devout Brooklyn Dodgers fan named Father Jimmy O'Halloran. As the story was recounted by O'Halloran to a friend and fellow Dodgers fan named Ron Allen, the clergyman had begun to pester Robinson for a bat late in the 1956 season. On the final day, after falling to the Yankees by a tally of nine runs to none in Game 7 of the World Series, a dejected Robinson approached O'Halloran and handed him this bat. Estimate: $75,000+.

1940s Arnold Palmer's first golf clubs– the set he used to learn the game: Match-used relics of any format from this first golf icon of the television age are rarely seen and intensely coveted by Arnie's Army, but here we find an exceedingly rare treasure without which all those to come would never have manifested. How often is one faced with the opportunity to revisit the first page of a great sporting biography? It is accompanied by a rock solid provenance. Estimate: $50,000+.

1960 Roberto "Momen" Clemente World Series Game 7 Used Bat, PSA/DNA GU 10: Though it was teammate and fellow future Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski who clubbed one of the sport's most famous home runs to claim an unlikely World Championship for the never-say-die Pittsburgh Pirates, the noble Roberto Clemente will always be remembered as the heart and soul of the 1960s Bucs. Here Heritage presents one of the most important and desirable artifacts from his career ever to surface in the collecting hobby. It comes to auction from the lucky son of a Pittsburgh police officer tasked with the duty of crowd control for the deciding seventh game of the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field. Estimate: $40,000+.

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