DALLAS – Perhaps it’s cliché to say of sports cards that they’re history – art and artifacts – that fits neatly into the palm of your hand. But that doesn’t make it any less true as you browse the nearly 2,200 lots available in Heritage Auctions’ Summer Sports Card Catalog event July 30-31. View the fully illustrated catalog and bid on LiveAuctioneers.
The massive sale is a trip through time, a sojourn spanning centuries – from little-seen trading cardboards made in the 1870s to modern-day offerings signed by legends in the making. In between are highly valuable, deeply coveted offerings – many of them, from high-grade singles to shrink-wrapped boxes filled with unknown treasures, fresh to the hobby. All of them feature the titans, greats and men who long ago morphed into mythic figures.
“This auction contains material that spans the full history of our card-collecting hobby, and I suspect that even the most discerning collectors will be able to find something of interest,” said Chris Ivy, Heritage Auctions’ Sports Auctions director.
We begin the journey closer to the modern day only because of the extraordinary nature of this particular offering: the 1986 Fleer Basketball Cards & Stickers Complete Set, with all 143 pieces graded PSA Gem Mint 10. Of course, this is the set best known for card No. 57: Michael Jordan’s official rookie offering, 20 years ago a thousand-dollar card and only a decade ago closer to $12,000 in this condition.
But Jordan is surrounded by greats in this greatest-graded set: Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins – and on and on. No wonder that with weeks to go before the sale, already the set had crossed over the $110,000 line charging toward its $200,000-and-up estimate.
Of course, there are other Jordans here, too – two dozen offerings in all, ranging from a PSA Gem Mint 10 from the 1986 Fleer set to a 1984-85 Star Co. rookie card graded BGS Mint 9 to an autographed 2012 Fleer Retro Buyback graded PSA NM 7. Something for every Jordan fan, at every price.
Now to the Wayback Machine for another complete set – this one from 1911, featuring all 50 of the T201 Mecca Double Folder baseball cards made that year. This valuable collection holds the top “Current Finest” spot on the PSA Set Registry, an extraordinary achievement given the fragile paper stock and unique design that gave each card a “flip top” revealing a second player beneath. That means, for instance, you don’t just get Chicago Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers, who’s featured on the card’s front, but also first baseman Frank Chance – two-thirds of one of the most famous infields of all time.
And if it’s just Joe Tinker you want – speaking of that infield – there’s also a 1909 E92 Croft’s Candy Joe Tinker Black PSA Mint 9 in this sale. It’s just one of two PSA Mint E92s.
In all, there are more than 100 complete sets in this sale, dating as far back as the graded 1888 N2 Allen & Ginter “American Indian Chiefs” collection to some of the most famous in sports-card collecting, such as the 1957 Topps Baseball Complete Set Plus Lucky Penny Insert and Baker Error, a 100-percent NM-MT or NM-MT+ assemblage.
There are seven Kalamzoo Bats players’ cards here – from 1887. And Old Judge Cabinet cards from 1888. And, from a century later, a case of 1988 Fleer Basketball cards still factory sealed, containing 12 unopened boxes … speaking of Michael Jordan finds.
In fact, this event is loaded with more than 150 unopened boxes and cases of cards from decades’ worth of baseball, basketball, football and hockey (and even movie) history.
But this isn’t merely a journey through time, as evidenced by the 19 offerings from the Tabacalera “La Morena” collection believed to have been printed in El Salvador around 1928. Such a mystery is this collection that not even PSA knows for sure how many cards are in the series. But this much is clear: the Babe Ruth & Ty Cobb No. 105 SGC VG 3 and the Lou Gehrig & Babe Ruth No. 100 SGC Fair 1.5 are two of the only graded examples of those cards known to exist. They’re as rare as they are striking.
Some of the most handsome cards ever made date back to 1933 – specifically, the Sport Kings made by the Goudey Gum Co.. There are almost four dozen in the July event, among them the No. 2 card in the collection featuring Babe Ruth graded PSA NM-MT+ 8.5. It’s the only card given that grade, and only two are known to exist in better condition.
The No. 6 card in that same series, featuring the squinting visage of Jim Thorpe, is almost as rare: Only three other cards share the same PSA Mint 9 grade, with no higher-graded versions known to exist.
Of course, to many collectors there’s no card more gorgeous than the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle No. 311. There’s one of those here, graded SGC VG-EX 4.
And to countless others, there’s nothing more thrilling than owning a Babe Ruth all by his lonesome. Or go back even further – to Ty Cobb, represented in this sale by a 1922 E121 American Caramel card featuring the Detroit Americans manager throwing the ball around. Graded PSA Mint 9, there are none better known to exist.
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