DAVENPORT, Wash. – We’ve all heard the one about how Mom threw out baseball cards that are now worth a fortune. Grant Zahajko’s June 24 Sports Cards & Memorabilia Auction tells a refreshingly different version of the story through a trove of 1950s/60s baseball cards that were left untouched and beautifully preserved by one lucky collector’s mom.
“This is a great story,” said Zahajko, who is the Spokane-area company’s owner and auctioneer. “Around 20 years ago the consignor went to help him mom move and, in the process, discovered his boyhood collection of cards produced primarily by Topps from 1953 to 1962. He had always been fastidious about putting them in sleeves and keeping them in a climate-controlled environment. They were in such fantastic condition that when we sent them off for grading, many of them came back a condition nine.”
In all, 500 cards were professionally graded. They will be apportioned into 125 auction lots. The majority were sent to PSA for grading, Zahajko said, but the auction’s opener, a coveted 1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente rookie card (shown above), was sent to Beckett, where it was graded excellent/mint 6.5. Its auction estimate is $2,000-$3,000.
Another card that collectors will be happy to see is a 1955 Topps #123 rookie card for Brooklyn Dodgers ace pitcher Sandy Koufax (shown above). PSA-graded 5, it is expected to sell for $500-$800. PSA-graded Exc./Mint 6, which is extremely high for a ticket, an unused Shea Stadium ticket from 1969 World Series (shown below) pitting the “miracle” New York Mets against the Baltimore Orioles, should garner a winning bid of $700-$1,000. SGC graded the prized 1909-1911 American Tobacco Co. T206 cards entered in the auction, which came from a different consignor than the main collection.
“What’s great about this auction selection is that it allows collectors of all budgets to buy cards that are in excellent condition across the board. This will be a good opportunity for collectors to fill some slots,” Zahajko said.
An extraordinary rarity and the highest-estimated collectible in the auction is the gold medal (shown at top) that was won by John H. “Tex” Gibbons of the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany. The medal comes directly from Gibbons’ family and is accompanied by a Letter of Authenticity signed by Gibbons’ son and an extensive archive of ephemera documenting the basketball team’s ocean voyage to Germany, their participation in the Games, and the social events, side trips and other activities organized by the Olympic committee while they were in Europe.
The gold medal is remarkable for several reasons, Zahajko said. “There was a great article in Sports Illustrated that talked about how the first American ‘Dream Team’ was actually the 1936 Olympic team. Except for one man, all of them were already professional basketball players. Also, 1936 was the first year that basketball was included in the Olympics. Playing conditions at the Berlin Games were minimal. They played on a dirt court in a horse pasture, in the driving rain. They couldn’t even dribble. They had to pass. The final game ended with a score of USA 19, Canada 8.”
Zahajko said that during his career he has appraised three Olympic Gold Medals from members of the 1936 Olympics U.S. basketball team. The first medal he evaluated was privately held and not for sale. The second was very worn, a condition 1 out of 10, with a hole drilled into it. That example sold for $67,000 in 2015. The Gibbons medal is in exceptionally fine condition and is accompanied by a large archive of unique documentation, supporting a pre-sale estimate of $100,000-$150,000.
The auction showcases American pop culture in its many forms. Sixteen 1930s/40s model sheets created by Disney animator Ted Bonnicksen (1915-1971) come with direct family provenance. Among the highlights are drawings of Mickey Mouse (including Mickey and the Beanstalk), Donald Duck, and characters from Fantasia, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Casey at the Bat, and military-themed shorts produced during World War II.
A key issue of Mad magazine published in July 1955 represents the first to carry the cover slogan “What, Me Worry?” and the “25 Cents – Cheap” price. The July 1955 publication was also the first Mad to appear in magazine format. CGC-graded 8.5, it is estimated at $800-$1,200.
Historically important on a world scale, a rare Project Mercury first day cover is signed by several legendary astronauts, including John Glenn, Alan Shepard and Virgil “Gus” Grissom. It is date-stamped Feb. 20, 1962 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. “Project Mercury was the United States’ first human spaceflight program and a high-profile part of the Space Race against Russia,” Zahajko noted. The auction estimate on the first day cover is $2,500-$3,500.
Grant Zahajko’s June 24, 2017 auction of sports cards, memorabilia, celebrity autographs and books will start at 10 a.m. Pacific Time / 1 p.m. Eastern Time, with absentee and Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.com. For additional information, call 509-725-5600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.