While much of the focus of today's sports auction business is on the rarest of the rare pieces that generate eye-popping sales totals, Clean Sweep president Steve Verkman knows there's plenty of demand for lower priced - but sometimes equally rare - memorabilia.
His current auction is a perfect example. The sale, which closes March 29, features more than 900 lots, with a heavy emphasis on single-signed baseballs and photographs, as well as vintage baseball publications. And most items should fall within the budget of fans of this material.
"This is like an old-fashioned hobby auction, where someone could win 20 or 30 things and not need a second mortgage," Verkman said. "We like to do this type of auction two or three times per year because we get such a great response from our customers."
More than half of the auction - roughly 500 lots - consist of single-signed baseballs, some of which will be considered true treasures by collectors of single-signed items.
"For the guy who wants a Stan Musial, Tony Gwynn or a Willie Mays ball, we certainly have those kinds of items. But we also have single-signed balls from 96 deceased players, all sold as individual lots," Verkman said. "And remember that some of these are very hard to find because in their respective eras, single-signed baseballs were not a major point of emphasis among collectors. Even in the late 1970s, single-signed balls were not collected in the way they are today. When shows became popular, that's when single-signed balls really became collectible.
"For instance, we have a ball signed by Mark Koenig, a member of the 1927 Yankees. We have a ball signed by Gavvy Cravath, whose career lasted from 1908-20. We have a Smoky Burgess ball, Joe Cronin, Gil Hodges, and even Danny Frisella who was a member of the 1969 Mets and died in 1977. His autograph is very tough to find."
Autograph fans will also be drawn to Clean Sweep's selection of signed 8-by-10 photos. In addition to single-signed photos from the likes of Sandy Koufax or Hank Greenberg, Verkman said some unique multi-signed images, such as a Willie Mays/Mickey Mantle combination are also available. "A lot of items in this part of the auction came from a single collector who used to travel the country to obtain some of these signatures," he said.
The second part of the auction is a large selection of baseball publications. Verkman purchased a large collection of baseball magazines dating as far back as the early 1900s. "There are a lot of rare titles in here, with some great covers," he said. "You don't see some of these in the market very often." Included in the mix are yearbooks, programs and scorecards from the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees and other teams with die-hard followings. We expect a very warm reception from the publication collectors."
Clean Sweep is currently accepting consignments for its next major auction, which will be held May 24. The consignment deadline is April 2. For information, visit www.csauctions.com.