Panoramic photos have long been some of the most spectacular material in the hobby, so experts had big expectations for a 8-by-41-inch 1911 Addie Joss Day photograph at the Oct. 29 Heritage Signature Sports Auction, and the final price still managed to turn heads and elicit a collective gasp from those in attendance at the live sale in Dallas.
Bought by a West Coast collector who opted for anonymity, the photo sold for a record $89,625 after spirited bidding “We believe this is the highest price ever achieved for an unsigned sports photograph,” said Chris Ivy, director of Heritage Sports Collectibles. A second panoramic photo, dating from the legendary 1926 World Series game when Ruth slugged three home runs sold for $11,353.
The presale estimate was $10,000 to $15,000 for the Joss photograph described by the cataloger as in near-mint condition. The photograph was consigned by a collector who obtained it from the estate of Frank “Home Run” Baker, one of the players in the 1911 picture.
“Essentially, this was the first all-star game in baseball history,” said Ivy. The purchase price of $89,625 includes the 191/2 percent buyer’s premium. The combined prices realized totaled $1,861,300 for the 788 lots sold in the auction.
“The auction was really good,” Ivy noted, adding that the sell-through was more than 90 percent. “The Namath jersey ($17,925) was a great piece, as was the Ray Borque jersey ($11,950) and the Len Bias material. I was happy the Bias stuff did so well,” Ivy added, noting that there was no way to compare it because of the unique situation of such a highly regarded NBA prospect dying tragically before ever playing an official game.
A 1960 Ted Williams game-worn jersey sold for $23,900, headlining an August group that also included Muddy Ruel’s game-worn 1924 Tour of Europe jersey that was won by one of the hobby’s most-famous collectors, Dr. Bill Sear, who specializes in material from the world tours from 1874 to 1934 that would routinely send the top major leaguers to exotic spots in the Far East, Africa and Europe. It was the No. 2 item in the auction in terms of selling price at $44,813. Some of the other game-worn or game-used headliners included: 1968-69 Wilt Chamberlain Lakers jersey ($22,705); Yogi Berra’s mid-1950s catcher’s mitt ($17,925); a 1924-28 Rogers Hornsby bat ($13,145); a 1935 Chuck Klein Cubs jersey ($11,353); a 1969-72 Roberto Clemente bat ($8,365); and a game-used and signed 1965-68 Roger Maris bat ($8,365).
In an auction well stocked with items direct from the estates of several prominent former players, The Casey Stengel Collection still managed to steal the show with several remarkable pieces.
Dubbed the “crown jewel” of a grouping of nearly 100 lots from the Hall of Famer, a large 1913 World Series newsreel poster ended up selling to a phone bidder at $22,705 after a spirited challenge from another well-known dealer, Bill Hughes, who was on hand at the live auction.
Hughes fell out at $19,000, just about the same rarefied air reached by the Williams jersey mentioned earlier that had also eluded his grasp. “There were several that got away,” a philosophical Hughes sighed after the sale. “The 1913 World Series poster (which had been displayed at this year’s National Convention in Chicago) is probably unique,” said Hughes, conceding he had been tempted to go even higher, but had a pretty good guess about who the phone bidder was, thus giving discretion the edge over valor.
“Whenever it’s a fresh collection from a family that’s always worth a trip to be part of the sale,” said the Texas-based Hughes, who was the winning bidder on a number of items, including a Ruth/Gehrig signed ball from the late 1920s at $13,145.
The family in question, Sandy and Doug Westrup of nearby Carrollton, Texas, was understandably elated about the prices realized from the Stengel pieces. Sandy Westrup is the daughter of the woman who cared for Stengel in the years before his death. “There was so much stuff you wouldn’t believe it,” Mrs. Westrup said in the moments after the final Stengel lot was sold. The Hall of Fame and Stengel’s widow, Edna, took a number of things following his death, but still left an amazing array of personal items, signed photographs and balls, contracts, scorecards, yearbooks, jerseys, ticket stubs and even a bottle of bourbon that had been presented to Casey by Leo Durocher.
“Casey was a pack rat,” is the way John Hickey, Heritage Sports Collectibles consignment director put it. “He kept everything, including so many of his own autographs.”
And speaking of autographs, bank checks are always a great item when it comes to Hall of Famers, but how about three signed “blank” checks? That was a first for me at auctions, and pretty much illustrated the trust Stengel had in his caretaker, June Bowlin. The checks sold for a numerologically significant $777.
“We had boxes and boxes of stuff, even suitcases, in our home,” Mrs. Westrup continued. “It got overwhelming, and it’s nice now to have the items go to avid collectors.” Avid indeed: the grouping of 91 items from the Stengel estate topped $135,000.
Some of the other highlighted pieces from the sale: circa 1927 single-signed Ruth ball – $31,070; 1910 World Series program from the Frank “Home Run” Baker Collection – $14,340; circa 1910 Frank Baker studio photograph by Horner used for M116 Sporting Life card – $13,145; 1880s John L. Sullivan fight-worn belt and sash – $13,145; 1928 Paul Wanter large, die-cut Spalding advertising display originally from the Halper Collection – $13,145; a 1930s Ruth-signed bat – $13,145; late 1970s Pete Maravich game-worn Jazz jersey – $11,950; 1933 Ruth/Gehrig signed ball – $11,353; and a 1914 Boston Braves team-signed ball – $10,157. Card Highlights: 1909-11 T206 White Border near-set – $28,680; 1948 Bowman Stan Musial PSA 10 – $28,680; 1951 Bowman Willie Mays GAI 9 – $26,290; 1951 Bowman Mantle SGC 88 – $14,340; 1958 Topps Baseball high-grade near-set – $11,352; 1957 Topps Baseball complete set – $10,755; 1909-11 T206 Sherry Magee error – $10,755; and a 1933 Goudey Nap Lajoie PSA 3 – $10,158.
The auction also featured a boatload of things that originally surfaced in the hobby almost six years ago to the day. Many of the great advertising display pieces from the September 1999 Barry Halper Collection Auction at Sotheby’s in New York City found their way to the Sarabella Collection, a popular Italian restaurant in Queens, N.Y. Most notable among this heady lineup was a single lot of 18 original paintings by noted sports artist Andy Jurinko. The famed “500 Home Run Club” paintings that once graced Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant across from Central Park in Midtown Manhattan sold for $14,940.
And if you ever wondered about the extent of the “premium” that was attached to items from that legendary seven-day auction in 1999, note that the portraits, each a stunning 34-by-29 inches, with 11 of the 18 signed, sold as a group for $37,374 back then, despite the fact that there were only 15 paintings at the time (Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa joined the club since the Halper sale).
For additional information about the sale, call (800) 872-6467, or to www.HeritageSportsCollectibles.com.