Auctions featuring more than 1,000 lots of sports memorabilia are not unusual anymore, but auctions featuring more than 1,000 lots of never-before-seen memorabilia are big news.
That's why Rick Kohl, president of Broadway Rick's Strike Zone, is so excited about his company's current auction.
"This auction features nothing but fresh material that's never been seen the hobby," Kohl said of the auction that closes Jan. 26. "We've bought some collections from several well-known athletes and their families and that has allowed us to obtain some very unique items. It may not be as big of an auction as some of the other guys in the hobby, but it's every bit as good."
Game-worn uniforms are among the major calling cards of this auction.
Baseball fans will take an interest in game-used jerseys from the likes of Pee Wee Reese, Eddie Mathews, Willie Mays, Nolan Ryan and Rod Carew, just to name a few.
The Reese jersey is from the 1950 season and Kohl says, "it is in such amazing condition when taken into account its age and the amount of game use it went through." The jersey has been graded a MEARS 8 and comes from a former Dodgers minor-league player who received the jersey as a hand-me-down from the parent club. It has Reese's name stitched onto the bottom front tail, and the year "50" directly under it. It carries a $7,000 minimum bid.
Football fans will certainly be interested in a rare 1960s Jim Brown home Cleveland Browns jersey. It exhibits strong wear and was clearly used for multiple seasons. Kohl estimates this is one of only seven or eight Brown game-used jerseys to ever surface in the hobby. It has a minimum bid of $12,000.
Among the other football greats who have game-used jerseys in this sale are Walter Payton, Jack Lambert, Barry Sanders, John Brodie, George Blanda, Mike Singletary, Joe Montana, Dan Marino and Earl Campbell. But it's not just the retired guys who have items in this sale. Kohl noted there is also a Peyton Manning game-used home jersey from 2001. "(Uniform expert) Lou Lampson authenticated this item and said this jersey has some of the best use of any Manning jersey he has ever seen," Kohl said.
On the basketball side, a Rick Barry game-used jersey from his rookie season (1965-66) with the San Francisco Warriors will open with a $7,000 bid. There's also a Nate Thurmond Warriors jersey from 1971, an Earl Monroe 1970s Knicks jersey, and even a Shaquille O'Neal gamer from his college days at LSU.
Meanwhile, hockey fans will want to check out game-used All-Star jerseys from such stars as Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr, Chris Chelios, Steve Yzerman and Sergei Federov. There's also a rare Bobby Hull game-used Winnipeg Jets jersey from the 1974-75 season.
And from the world of entertainment, a game-used "uniform" of a different kind - a red cape worn by George Reeves in the popular "Superman" TV series of the 1950s. This very rare cape had been on display for more than a decade at the Superman Museum in Metropolis, Ill. It was given to the museum by Whitney Ellsworth, the director of the TV series. It carries a minimum bid of $12,000.
There's plenty of other unique memorabilia available in the auction. Among the many notable items: Mickey Mantle's signed contract from his 1959 season with the Yankees; Mantle's game-used pants from 1954, along with a game-used cap from the early 1960s; a Willie Mays game-used cap from the early 1960s; and three Babe Ruth signed baseballs.
Among a couple of true World Series rarities is a full ticket from Game 2 of the 1911 Series at Shibe Park, pitting the Philadelphia A's and the New York Giants - a game in which Christy Mathewson was the losing pitcher. The sale also features a full-size World Series championship trophy from the 1972 Oakland A's. Kohl said the trophy was presented to one of the players from the A's (meaning it is not one of the miniature size trophies given to scouts and other team personnel that often pop up on the market). It even comes in its original box.
True baseball historians will also appreciate a 1888 Syracuse Stars team cabinet photo featuring Moses "Fleetwood" Walker, one of the first black men to play organized baseball. A similar item previously sold at auction for $12,000.
Kohl said the response to the auction thus far suggests there will be some active bidding on closing night. "The number of calls we've had for this sale has been incredible," he said. "Maybe some of that is because we chose to have our event in January rather than December, when there are so many other auctions going on. But I think a lot of it is the enthusiasm for the fresh material we've got. You see some stuff in the market that's simply being circulated from auction to auction. Our material is fresh, and that has people excited."
For more information about the auction, visit www.strikezoneauctions.com, or call (800) 344-9103.