I always considered it a matter of real serendipity that our company, originally known as Krause Publications and now F+W Publications, would be located within a hoot and a holler of the most prolific baseball card collector on the planet.
Larry Fritsch has always kidded me that - if he really wanted to - he could rummage through his records and find the 1970-dated invoice where I purchased a complete set of 1970 Topps Baseball and had it mailed to my home in upstate New York.
I make the distinction about where the set was sent because I mailed the order from the Phillipines, where I was stationed in the Navy. So Fritsch quite convincingly had a worldwide mail-order clientele all the way back to the Nixon Whitehouse (and even before that).
Now the legendary collector/dealer has struck a deal with Mastro Auctions to auction material from Fritsch's remarkable accumulation of sports cards. "The breadth and scope of Larry's holdings is unprecedented," said Doug Allen, president of Mastro Auctions. "We're talking about a mind-blowing inventory consisting of more than 60 million sports cards representing every major sport, including baseball, football, basketball and hockey dating from the 1880s to the present. Just walking through Larry's warehouse was a thrill!"
"We have been having discussions with Larry and his son, Jeff, for the past couple of years about working together to bring this fresh material to the hobby," said Allen. "To have it actually happen and to be a part of the process is extremely exciting for Mastro Auctions and for me personally.
"I guess I had really never realized how involved his son, Jeff, was with the material," Allen continued. "I knew he was involved in the business, but he's really somebody who is really tied in with the material and he loves the stuff. I almost felt that he's the one who is having a harder time getting rid of the stuff than Larry right now."
Allen said he has been talking to both of them pretty consistently in recent months and going up to Wisconsin to look at the collection. "I am a hobbyist myself, and I had heard about it, and I told them I would just like to come up and look at it."
Fritsch is equally as enthused at the prospect of the potential of his relationship with Mastro Auctions and the unopened material being offered in April's sale. "As an active dealer, it's obvious the market remains strong for sports cards, and even more so in terms of unopened cases, boxes and packs," said Larry Fritsch. "Some of that stuff has been sitting there for 30 years and we felt it was time to make it available to collectors."
According to Fritsch and his son, Jeff, both men are confident that Mastro Auctions is the ideal place and the most comprehensive manner in which to offer this material. "Without question, they're who the hobby goes to for great sports cards," added Fritsch.
Allen agrees that a venture between Fritsch and Mastro Auctions is a natural match. "It only makes sense that the best sports card collection in the world would find its way to the world's best sports and Americana auction house," said Allen. "This is a partnership one could really say, was just in the cards."
Allen said the linking of Mastro Sports and the fabled Fritsch Collection was a natural. "We've got the best card guys in our company, and we've shown the ability to get the best prices for cards with our sales of Richard Egan's collection, the Nagy Collection and really get people a lof of money for their material," he continued.
"I put the collection into four phases: 1) The Fritsch Warehouse. That's a warehouse of unopened material that they really don't sell out of anymore. It's not something they are actively marketing or putting in their catalog. It's there and there's a lot of it.
"Then there's (2) The Fritsch Collection. He's got two of the Lindy Lindstrom cards and two of the T206 Doyle cards. He's got his Wagner card," Allen said.
"And then - and this is the part that not many people know about - he's a guy who's been buying collections for years. And he has what I call (3) 'The Fritsch Vault.' It's there and boxed up and he probably doesn't have a good feel for what he has, and for years he's been putting collections away that he doesn't consider part of his personal collection. And he has a lot of stuff that sits in that in-between category.
"And the fourth category, but I've never really talked to him about it because I don't know where it fits, is the (4) Fritsch inventory."
Allen said he talked with Larry and Jeff about a three-pronged approach, and told them that when you have a collection/inventory that might be tens of millions of dollars, there has to be a comprehensive approach to selling.
"What we are announcing is that Larry has selected us to do that. It's not a joint venture, it's not a legal agreement, it's Larry and I shaking hands and his saying that we are the guys to do that," Allen said.
"And you know what? If he likes the job we're doing and he's committed to doing it and he believes in the process, then he'll continue to do it with us.
"Everybody is going to know if we sell 40 vending boxes where the material came from. I want to stand up and say, 'We're doing a deal with Larry Fritsch.'
"We are going into this with our eyes open and we've given Larry and Jeff realistic expectations about what we think this stuff is worth," Allen continued. "We are going to auction it for him, and if it does well he's going to let us keep auctioning stuff."
Allen said that means that in April they will be doing a handful of vending stuff, but in August, he'd love to do something really big.
"If we started with the three-pronged approach, we would continue to do the unopened, do some of the vault, like early uncut sheets (he mentioned an uncut sheet of the 1961 Topps Dice Game test issue with the ultra-expensive Mickey Mantle), and if he's ready at some point, move into his personal collection.
"He's got some neat pieces that have been put away forever," Allen said. "My goal is that by August people are going to see a really significant presence in our catalog.
"We want it to be something that he will be proud of and he will be very involved in the process," he continued. "A lot of times we sell collections for people who have been out of the hobby for a long time, and we've got a benefit with Larry, because he's such a knowledgeable hobbyists and he watches all these card auctions. He and Jeff will be very active in the whole process."
For more information on the unopened Fritsch material call (630) 472-1200, or go to www.mastroauctions.com.
- 1964 Topps Baseball Vending Box - Series 6 and 7 minimum bid $1,000
- 1968 Topps Baseball Vending Box - Series 5 $500
- 1968 Topps Baseball Vending Box - Series 7 $500
- 1969 Topps Baseball Vending Box - Series 6 $500
- 1969 Topps Baseball Vending Box - Series 7 $500
- 1970 Topps Baseball Vending Box - Series 4 $500
- 1970 Topps Baseball Vending Box - Series 4 $500
- 1971 Topps Baseball Vending Box - Series 1 $500
- 1971 Topps Baseball Vending Box - Series 2 $500
- 1971 Topps Baseball Vending Box - Series 4 $500
- 1972 Topps Baseball Vending Box - Series 3 $500
- 1973 Topps Baseball Wax Box - Series 5 $500
- 1970-71 Topps Basketball Vending Box - Series 2 $1,000
- 1970-71 Topps Basketball Wax Box - Series 1 $2,500
- 1971-72 Topps Basketball Vending Box $500
- 1972-73 Topps Basketball Vending Box $300
- 1974-75 Topps Basketball Vending Boxes (2) available $200
- 1975-76 Topps Basketball Vending Boxes (4) available $500
- 1976-77 Topps Basketball Vending Boxes (4) available $300
- 1959 Topps Football Vending Box - Series 2 $1,000
- 1971 Topps Football Vending Box - Series 1 $300
- 1972 Topps Football Vending Box - Series 1 $300
- 1972 Topps Football Wax Box - Series 2 $500
- 1972 Topps Football Wax Box - Series 3 $1,000
- 1973 Topps Football Vending Boxes (4) available $500
- 1975 Topps Football Vending Boxes (4) available $500
- 1975 Topps Football Cello Boxes (2) available $500
- 1968-69 Topps Hockey Vending Box $500
- 1971-72 Topps Hockey Vending Boxes (2) available $500
- 1972-73 Topps Hockey Vending Boxes (2) available $300
- 1973-74 Topps Hockey Vending Boxes (2) available $300
- 1974-75 Topps Hockey Vending Boxes (4) available $500
- 1975-76 Topps Hockey Vending Boxes (4) available $300