It's always big news in the hobby when a Honus Wagner card surfaces at auction, a moment that is similarly pronounced when a high-grade 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card or a 1935 National Chicle Bronko Nagurski card wind up on the block. So what does it mean when all three iconic sports cards end up in the same auction?
Apparently, the hobby will find out, as that fascinating scenario has developed in the Dec. 14 Memory Lane Auction. Memory Lane rolls out a remarkable PSA 9 Mint 1952 Topps Mantle in that sale, alongside a PSA 8 Nagurski and a PSA 2 T206 Honus Wagner card that company officials insist actually displays better than the GOOD designation might suggest.
J.P. Cohen, Memory Lane's director of auction consignments, noted that he has looked at a number of Wagners over the years and this one - obtained from an East Coast collector - ranks right up there. "This has got to be one of the nicest eye appeal Wagners in the hobby," said Cohen.
That sentiment was echoed by Roger Cameron, the company's director of auction marketing. "This is an extremely high-end PSA 2," said Cameron about the card in an evaluation confirmed by a PSA Population Report that shows only a half-dozen Wagners in higher grade out of barely more than two dozen graded by PSA.
The 1952 Topps Mantle card boasts a similar impressive lineage coming from the famed John Branca Collection. Branca, an entertainment lawyer who has represented some of the great musical talent of the postwar era, including Michael Jackson, Carlos Santana, The Beach Boys, The Doors and The Rolling Stones, has also established himself as one of the top collectors in the country.
The nephew and godson of legendary hurler Ralph Branca, who served up "The Shot Heard 'Round the World," Branca put together some of the top sets in the PSA Set Registry before he began liquidating a portion of his famed accumulation in 2005.
"He is very meticulous about his cards," Cohen noted, adding that Branca would even upgrade from a PSA 9 to another PSA 9 in some instances where the second card would present better.
In the case of this particular 1952 Topps Mantle, that seems unlikely, since the PSA 9 is one of only six graded by PSA, and there are but three PSA 10s.
It's hard to imagine a football card that could hold its own in this kind of fast company, but the PSA 8 Nagurski from the colorful - and coveted - 1935 National Chicle set makes the grade, so to speak.
This particular specimen of the key rookie card in that popular set was consigned by an East Coast collector and has reportedly never been sold and has been out of circulation for more than 20 years. "This is a tough card in high grade, and when they do sell they bring top dollar," Cohen added, noting that a Mint version of the card sold privately within the last year for $240,000.
The Nagurski is a PSA 8, one of only seven in the PSA Population Report, with none graded higher.
The auction also boasts an extraordinary 1927 New York Yankees team-signed photograph that came from the family of George Pipgras, a member of the famed club and the one who personally cajoled each of his teammates to sign their names directly over their own images.
Like the 1952 Topps Mantle and the 1909-11 T206 Wagner cards, the photo carries a $50,000 minimum bid. The 8-by-10 photo, matted and framed to 17-by-20, has been authenticated and graded by PSA/DNA, with an overall grade of PSA 8. "The photo is phenomenal," said Cohen, "the most magnificent piece of signed memorabilia that I have ever seen."
For more information, call (877) 606-5263, or go to the website at www.memorylaneinc.com. The complete auction catalog will be inserted with the Dec. 1 issue of SCD (next week).