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Autograph rarities headline Clean Sweep's '09 debut sale

While baseball cards and memorabilia are the focus of most of the 730 lots in the sale, company president Steve Verkman can’t help but boast about some of the other items available for bidders, which include presidential signatures and other autograph rarities.

Clean Sweep Auctions’ 2009 auction lineup is already underway, with a sale that’s going on now through Jan. 28. And while baseball cards and memorabilia are the focus of most of the 730 lots in the sale, company president Steve Verkman can’t help but boast about some of the other items available for bidders.

January marks the inauguration of the next U.S. president, so perhaps it’s fitting that Clean Sweep has one of its most impressive offerings of presidential autographs to date. More than two dozen autographed items are available, ranging from a letter written by Ulysses S. Grant while he was a lieutenant in the Mexican-American War in 1847, to items signed by Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and more.

January also marks the start of the PGA Tour, so Clean Sweep has some very nice golf items available, including a bonanza for golf autograph collectors – the sign-in sheet for the 1995 British Masters that features more than 200 signatures, including 19-year-old Tiger Woods, who was competing in his first PGA event as an amateur.

“What makes this special, besides the sheer number of autographs, is the fact that the golfers took their time signing the item because it’s the official sign-in sheet for the tournament,” Verkman said. “So the signatures are very clear.”

In addition to Woods, Arnold Palmer, Payne Stewart, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Tom Watson, Vijay Singh, Lee Trevino and Phil Mickelson are among the great players whose autographs are included in this impressive, framed piece that carries a $1,500 minimum bid.

Also available is a signature from another of the world’s greatest golfers, Bobby Jones, who signed a copy of his autobiography, Golf Is My Game.

Football collectors know that autographs from the early legends of the sport are hard to find, and one such rarity is a framed display featuring autographs from each member of the famed 1920s “Four Horsemen” backfield at Notre Dame – quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, halfbacks Jim Crowley and Don Miller and fullback Elmer Layden. Despite the fact none of the four stood taller than 6 feet or weighed more than 162 pounds, the Four Horsemen are considered to be one of the greatest backfields in the history of college football. As a unit, Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden played 30 games and posted a 28-2 record. The piece carries a starting bid of $2,500.

Baseball at heart of sale

But as always, baseball autographs are at the heart of the current Clean Sweep sale. Once again, there’s an impressive group of Hall of Famers and rare signatures to choose from. Among the highlights is a cut signature from Christy Mathewson that he signed “Christopher,” a variation rarely seen in today’s market, according to Verkman. There’s also a handwritten letter from one of the pioneers of the game itself, Abner Doubleday.

For collectors who cherish the high-quality signatures from baseball’s legends, Clean Sweep has a Babe Ruth signature from 1931 on an album page that Verkman describes as “stunning” in its clarity. And there’s also a signature from Cy Young on a 3-by-5 card that Verkman said is so clear, “even the staff at James Spence Authentication said it was one of the best they’ve ever seen.”

Among the other Hall of Famers whose autographs are available in this sale include Hack Wilson (album page), Johnny Evers (3-by-5) and a Brooklyn Dodgers yearbook that features the signatures of Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella.

And for those who prefer single-signed baseballs for their autograph collections, Clean Sweep has items available from a number of HOFers, including Lefty Grove, Pepper Martin, Satchel Paige, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. There’s even a single-signed baseball from newly elected Hall of Famer Joe Gordon. The autograph was signed in the 1940s or 1950s on an OAL Harridge ball. The Gordon ball has a starting bid of $1,500.

And for anyone looking to build a collection of single-signed baseballs from HOFers, Clean Sweep has several multi-baseball lots, including a lot of 27 balls featuring signatures from such names as Eddie Mathews, Stan Musial, Jim Palmer, Gaylord Perry, Cal Ripken Jr., Phil Rizzuto, Robin Roberts, Frank Robinson, Tom Seaver, Enos Slaughter, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn, Willie Stargell and Early Wynn.

And for those who like to collect the truly rare signatures, Clean Sweep is offering an autograph that Verkman describes as “almost mythically rare.” It’s a signed letter from Urban Shocker, a member of the Yankees from 1916-28. Shocker, a pitcher, won 18 games for the 1927 Yankees. Why is his signature so rare? Because Shocker committed suicide in 1928.

“That makes him the absolute key to any serious 1927 Yankees autograph collection,” Verkman noted.

For baseball memorabilia fans, one of the highlights includes World Series trophies from the 1975 Reds and 1996 Yankees.
“The ’75 Reds were one of the greatest teams of the modern era, and the 1996 Yankees were certainly one of the most popular teams from the Joe Torre/Derek Jeter-era in New York,” Verkman noted.

It’s All in the Cards
High-grade cards are also a staple of every Clean Sweep sale, and this current event is no exception. Among the rare cards available are an 1890 Mayo Cap Anson, 1888 S.F. Hess Newsboys League card of Ward Smith, E93 Ty Cobb, T206s of Cy Young and Walter Johnson, W754 Branch Rickey (graded PSA 9) and a selection of high-grade singles from the 1950s.

Also available are a wide variety of full and partial sets, including a very rare T203 Baseball Comics complete set, a full 1933 Goudey set that grades in VG-EX condition and a 1934 Goudey set. There’s also a partial set (20 of 35) cards from the rarely seen 1935 Schutter Johnson set. Also available is a partial set of 1933 Eclipse Import cards that feature comic-book style artwork on the front. This marks the first time Clean Sweep has ever offered cards from this set, Verkman said.

Clean Sweep is actively seeking consignments for its March and May auctions. The consignment deadline for the March sale is Feb. 1, while April 1 is the deadline for the May event.

“We continue to pay high prices for quality material, and we also provide cash advances,” Verkman noted. “We feel the market is pretty solid on good material.”

For more information, call Clean Sweep at (516) 338-8557 or visit