The George S. Hipp autograph collection, one of the largest to come to light in the past 15 years, was auctioned at Dan Ripley’s Antique Helper in Indianapolis on Oct. 8.
A single-signed Jimmie Foxx ball brought the top price in the sale at $35,250, headlining a 225-lot sale that totaled $336,000.
The consignor of the collection was Chuck Brown, the grandson of George Hipp. Brown obtained the collection from his grandmother, who had kept it intact in her closet after her husband died. Every item in the original collection, save one, was auctioned off without reserve. Interestingly, the only item that was retained from the collection by Brown was a baseball autographed by Hank Aaron that was personally given to him by his grandfather.
Many of the details concerning the Hipp Collection were reported in the Oct. 7 issue of SCD. Briefly, over the course of several years, Hipp tried to acquire the signatures from just about every living baseball player who ever suited up from the early 1900s through the 1950s and early 1960s. By the time he was done, he had amassed an impressive collection of more than 4,000 signatures on 3-by-5 cards and baseballs.
The first item to be auctioned was a Jimmie Foxx single-signed Official Little League baseball (autograph graded an 8 by PSA). With an opening bid of $5,000, spirited bidding kept the hammer from falling until a price of $35,250 was realized (including the buyer’s premium). A Mel Ott single-signed Official Little League ball attracted a final bid of $18,800, while a similar single-signed Honus Wagner ball brought $16,450. A Ty Cobb single-signed ball realized a price of $11,750. An Al Simmons Worth Little League baseball sold for $4,995, while Dazzy Vance, Pie Traynor and Harry Truman autographed Little League balls sold for $4,700 each. A Worth Little League ball containing the signatures of Ed Walsh (PSA 9) and Roderick Wallace (PSA 8) realized a price of $4,054.
Hipp usually sent preliminary correspondence to each player prior to sending out baseballs for them to autograph to ensure they would be receptive to signing and returning the balls. Hipp saved these letters of correspondence, which often contained full signatures of the players. He even clipped and saved the return addresses and envelopes from player correspondence, recognizing these as another source of autographs. In addition to the balls and 3-by-5 cards, the letters of correspondence and return envelopes comprised many of the lots. Of the 258 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, 138 were represented in the auction.
The collection was so advanced and massive that the auction house asked PSA/DNA review the entire collection at this year’s National Sports Collector’s Convention. “We basically hauled the whole collection to Chicago to let PSA/DNA examine it,” said DeWayne Butler, who helped put the auction together for Antique Helper. “The collection was so large that they ended up having to take much of the stuff back to California with them after the show.” Several of the pieces were both graded and authenticated.
The collection instantly impressed PSA/DNA president Joe Orlando, who noted this would be a very unique auction. Included among the many letters of correspondence were two personal letters from Cobb, written on his own letterhead. Each of the letters contain fascinating content. In the first, Cobb presumably responded to an inquiry about obtaining autographs from other Hall of Famers, prompting Cobb to reply that Hipp should get the autographs he mentioned quickly, because Honus Wagner and Cy Young “haven’t long to go.”
In the second note, Cobb offered suggestions about how to preserve his signature with a thin coat of shellac. “It’s hard to imagine Barry Bonds writing a letter back to a fan these days, but here you have Ty Cobb giving collecting tips. You are getting insight about the players of yesterday,” said Orlando.
The aforementioned Cobb letters sold for $4,583 and $2,174, respectively. Other significant letters included those containing signatures of Ott ($2,174), Foxx ($881), Tris Speaker ($999) and Big Ed Walsh ($705).
Among the rare pieces offered was a multi-signed Little League baseball containing the autograph of HOFer George Stacey Davis. Ungraded, but with a letter of authenticity from PSA/DNA, the ball, in this reporter’s opinion, was a steal with a final bid of only $1,909. Other rare lots included a single-signed James Collins ball which closed at only $470, and a multi-signed ball that contained the autograph of Black Sox player Ed Cicotte ($4,406).
A group of 88 return-address envelopes featuring signatures from such stars as Paul Dean, Grove, Bottomley, Hartnett, Lajoie, Hooper, Frisch, Waite Hoyt, Walsh, Al Simmons, Traynor, Ott, Lloyd Waner, Mack and Hornsby brought a final bid of $1,586. The vast collection of 3-by-5 index cards (which contained mostly the autographs of common players) was auctioned off alphabetically in separate lots, bringing a total of $78,137. The lot containing the G-H names ($18,800) was no doubt deemed to be a prized lot by bidders because it included the seldom-seen autograph of Eddie Gaedel, the midget who logged but a single major league plate appearance in a stunt concocted by Bill Veeck.
Lastly, during a separate section of items consigned by a separate estate, a 1914 Cracker Jack Joe Jackson (ungraded, perhaps in Fair condition) changed hands for $5,875.
Much of the material was purchased by, or on the behalf of dealers, with most of the winning bids placed by phone or over the Internet (via live eBay bidding). Several of the dealers declined to be identified, but don’t be surprised if, in the foreseeable future, every major auction house features pieces from the George S. Hipp Collection.
Other Highlights: (all signatures on single-signed Little League balls unless otherwise indicated; prices include the buyer’s premium.)
Elmer Flick and Larry Lajoie$3,643
“Wahoo” Sam Crawford3,173
Frank Baker and Lefty Grove2,938
Multi-signed with Chick Hafey2,468
Multi-signed with Rickey/Sisler2,115
Fred Clarke/Bill Maloney1,763
Multi-signed with Harry Hooper1,645
Multi-signed with Dummy Hoy1,410
Paul and Lloyd Waner1,116
P. Waner’s Batting Secrets (twice signed)588