Chris Ivy has orchestrated some of the biggest and most important sports auctions in the industry, including the famous Black Swamp Find and collections featuring such sports legends as Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson, Jim Thorpe and Stan Musial.
So Ivy is not easily amazed when it comes to impressive lots and collections. But the director of Heritage’s sports auctions calls the company’s Spring Sports Catalog “staggering.”
“One would think that almost 20 years after our Sports category’s founding, we would run out of ways to be blown away by what we’re able to offer to collectors,” Ivy said. “But the great joy of this job is that we can still be amazed and astounded with each event.”
Heritage’s May 6-8 Spring Sports Auction features nearly 3,000 lots, including two vintage baseball cards that have already surpassed more than $1 million, a signed Tom Brady card that could set yet another record, and a once-in-a-lifetime Michael Jordan game-worn jersey that could also top $1 million.
It also features some rare finds, like the autographed chessboard used by Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky during the 1972 World Chess Championship.
Though there are numerous highlights, Heritage’s Spring Auction is headlined by the Holy Grail of sports cards — a 1909 T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner. A graded SGC Authentic version of the The Card, one of only about 60-75 in existence, sold for $2,520,000 in Heritage’s February auction. The T206 Sweet Caporal in this auction bears a higher grade of PSA Fair 1.5. It took only a few days for bidding to exceed $1.5 million.
Even more rare is a studio portrait of the Pirates Hall of Famer taken for the T206 by photographer Carl Horner, who took several photos of Wagner and whose Boston studio was a hangout for players of the Dead Ball era.
If there is one baseball legend whose cards and memorabilia is even more popular than Wagner’s, it’s Babe Ruth. The Heritage auction features more than a dozen Ruth cards, including one of only 35 known 1916 blank-back The Sporting News Babe Ruth rookie cards. Graded PSA NM7, Heritage says there are only three cards in the world graded higher than the M101-5, putting it on the “Mount Rushmore” of baseball cards, along with the Wagner T206 and the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle.
The auction also includes some modern cards that could make headlines, including another Tom Brady signed 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Rookie, graded BGS NM-MT+ 8.5 Auto 10. Two weeks ago, the card, numbered 99/100, sold for a record $2.25 million. That card was an autograph graded at 9. The Heritage card bears the highest-possible graded autograph and is numbered 34/100, giving it a chance to break the record again.
Another impressive lot featuring a recent hall of famer is a 1992-93 Derek Jeter Complete Rookie Card Collection PSA Gem Mint 10, which includes 42 cards, plus a Front Row Draft Picks uncut sheet and a pack of 1992 Little Sun High School Baseball Prospects.
The auction also features cards from some of sports’ greatest icons, including Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and soccer legend Pele.
No one has made more headlines in the sports card world in the last year than Jordan, and Heritage has what it believes is the most significant Jordan artifact ever sold.
The game-worn national championship jersey is the only known Jordan game-worn North Carolina jersey and is photo-matched to the 1982-83 season. The Carolina blue-and-white No. 23 jersey is the same one Jordan wore in a photo on the cover of The Sporting News that proclaimed him the NCAA Player of the Year.
Another seldom-seen find is 100 unopened wax packs of Topps’ 1964 Baseball 1-Cent cards, along with the box in which they came. Every pack has been graded and slabbed by PSA. Unopened packs of 1964 Topps cards are nearly impossible to find, and Heritage says the condition of these packs is “simply unfathomable.”
But that could apply to many of the items in the auction.
“I’ll be honest, our team has put together one hell of an auction this spring,” Ivy says. “And being able to bring this material to market is just an absolute pleasure.”