Hake’s $2.1M pop culture memorabilia sale sets new world records
YORK, Pa. – It wasn’t the Fourth of July, but there were plenty of auction fireworks going off during Hake’s September 23-24 auction of pop culture memorabilia, which realized $2.1 million, the second-highest gross in the company’s history. As experts had predicted, the only known 1916 World Series Championship button – emblazoned with images of the winning Red Sox manager and players – soared to the top of prices realized and, in so doing, set not one, but two world auction records. With a winning bid of $62,980, the oversize button featuring three future Hall of Famers, including then-21-year-old pitching and batting phenom Babe Ruth, became the most expensive button of any genre ever sold at auction, not to mention the highest-priced baseball button.
“It was the most coveted piece in the late Dr. Paul Muchinsky’s incredible baseball button collection and was pictured on the back cover of his 2004 reference book ‘Baseball Pinback Buttons,’” said Alex Winter, president of Hake’s Auctions. “It was also pictured solo on the cover of our auction catalog, which reflects the high importance we placed on it.”
Another record-setter from the Muchinsky collection was a 1952 Mickey Mantle “Fan Club” real-photo button. This particular button was produced in very small numbers and made available only to club members by mail. Over the years, few have survived. An example from the famed Barry Halper Collection sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 for $12,650. Paul Muchinsky’s Mantle Fan Club button set a new world record auction at Hake’s, selling for $23,250 against a pre-sale estimate of $5,000-$10,000. Another high flier, a 1915 “Ty Cobb Right Field” button with advertising on verso for Schmelzer’s Sporting Goods of Kansas City, Mo., caught a winning bid of $17,276.
A rare button also led the very strong political section of Hake’s sale. Recently discovered and new to the hobby, a Cox/Roosevelt 1920 Democratic campaign “Eagle & Rays” 7/8-inch jugate button was described in Hake’s auction catalog as being on par with the Honus Wagner T206 tobacco baseball card or Action Comics #1, which features the first appearance of Superman. Of the six varieties of Cox/Roosevelt buttons produced, four are unique or have populations of fewer than three known examples. The button offered by Hake’s achieved an outstanding above-estimate price of $35,695.
The Force was with Star Wars collectibles yet again, as collectors bid aggressively on rare and exotic action figures. An encapsulated Boba Fett L-slot rocket-firing prototype action figure from Kenner’s 1979 Star Wars toy line was graded AFA 80+ NM.
“What makes this figure so unusual is that it is one of very few pre-production prototypes Kenner intentionally assembled with no firing mechanism,” Alex Winter noted. With provenance from an ex-Kenner employee, the prototype came to auction with a notarized CIB LOA and letter of provenance from Star Wars expert Brian Rachfal. It sold within estimate for $62,239.
Another excellent result was achieved by a Star Wars Luke Skywalker AFA 80 NM action figure with double-telescoping lightsaber. Encapsulated in a 12 Back-A blister card, it sold for $32,450 against an estimate of $10,000-$20,000. An unlicensed Uzay SB Products “Blue Stars” action figure – an all-blue 3¾-inch Turkish version of the iconic Star Wars character Hoth Snowtrooper – was AFA-graded 60 Q-VG (archival case) and accompanied by a notarized CIB COA. It garnered intense bidder interest and settled just below the high end of the $10,000-$20,000 estimate, at $19,212.
While on the subject of action figures, there was no ignoring the fact that GI Joe was on the winning side. A Cobra Commander action figure from Hasbro’s 1983 “GI Joe – A Real American Hero” toy line, AFA-graded and encapsulated in a Series 2/20 Back blister card, sold well above estimate for $7,670, hastening Winter to comment that “1980s Joes are definitely on the rise.”
In the world of animation art, it would be a challenge to find an earlier or more important artwork than the Winsor McCay (American, 1869-1934) drawing entered in Hake’s sale. McCay’s original production art for the 1914 cartoon titled Gertie the Dinosaur, depicting a lively Gertie and a lumbering woolly mammoth against a prehistoric mountain landscape, was executed in India ink on rice paper. It was only the second original Gertie artwork ever to be offered by Hake’s in 53 years of operation. It sold for $13,110.
From the modern era, Jim Starlin’s original pen-and-ink splash page art for the historic Bronze Age comic book Amazing Adventures, Vol. 2 #17, March 1973, was especially significant to collectors because it was created for an issue that features the origin story of “The Beast.” Artist-signed, the 11 5/8- by 17½-inch (overall) artwork was bid to $12,980.
The incredible demand for Golden Age comic books was evident in the sale of a Superman #1, Summer 1939, graded CGC Restored 6.0. This landmark issue contains the origin story of Superman and has a Superman pinup on its back cover. The issue presented by Hake’s knocked down $42,992, which Alex Winter called “a remarkable price for a restored comic book, and an indicator of where the market is likely headed for important early comics, even those in lesser condition.” CGC had noted of its restoration: “Color Touch, Pieces Added, Tear Seals, Cleaned, Reinforced.”
A Disney highlight came in the form of a first-version Ingersoll Art Deco-style Mickey Mouse wristwatch in its original box with the correct “1933 A Century of Progress” foil sticker affixed to it. In running order, it sold for $11,422, more than five times the high estimate.
“In addition to the world-record prices achieved throughout the sale, Hake’s rewrote its own house records for the number of bidders registered, the number of bids placed, and the sell-through rate, which was 95 percent,” Winter said. “What this tells us is that the market for high-quality vintage collectibles is very strong and growing faster than ever.”
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