Robert Edward Auctions (REA) completed its 2018 Fall event this past weekend and some impressive figures were recorded. Three of the auction’s top-selling lots included baseball-related gems that were each authenticated and graded by PSA. From a T206 Ty Cobb card to a ’52 Topps Mantle card to a Babe Ruth single-signed baseball, the online bidding was fast and furious in its final hours. Of the more than 2,600 lots that were up for bid, the three keepsakes mentioned brought in a combined $384,000.
1909-11 T206 Ty Cobb Red Portrait Card: $108,000
Cobb was certainly one of baseball’s most colorful characters during its early days. A speedy center fielder who enjoyed going “spikes up” whenever he slid into second or third base, he was also one of its greatest hitters. Over 24 seasons, he compiled an MLB-best .366 batting average, stole 897 bases and drove in 1,944 runs.
The T206 White Border set, affectionately known as “The Monster,” is not only the premier set of the tobacco-card era, it is indisputably the most collected and valuable baseball card set ever. Best known for its iconic Honus Wagner card, which many consider the “Holy Grail” of sports cards, the T206 set contains 525 different cards with 16 tobacco brand advertisement backs. The rarest ad back is the “Ty Cobb” reverse design which proclaims Cobb to be the “King of the Smoking Tobacco World.”
REA’s lot # 1 offered one of these rare red portrait beauties. Graded PR 1 by PSA, it certainly wasn’t the prettiest card on the block, but its rarity (just 24 of these cards are known to the hobby) drew 31 bids. Its grading reflects the fact that the card’s original eye appeal has pretty much vanished. Major creasing and roughed-up corners certainly didn’t help matters. Nevertheless, this 109-year-old “beauty” that measures just 1-7/16″ by 2-5/8” still brought in $108,000!
1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle Card: $132,000
The power of PSA grading is a perfect case in point with this lot. In March, a 1952 Topps #311 card of New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle sold (graded PSA Mint 9) for a whopping $2.88 million! This offering, graded Excellent-Mint 6 by PSA, came up well shy of that mark. Though technically not “The Mick’s” official rookie card, it is his most important card and remains extremely difficult to find in NM-MT 8 condition or better. Hence the incredible jump in final priced realized between the two versions of the same Topps issue.
Though REA’s PSA EX-MT 6 example topped out a mere $132,000 (wink-wink), it’s still an extremely attractive, crisp, clean, high-grade example of the late Yankee icon’s most sought-after issue. Its sharp corners and centering (better than 80/20) didn’t hurt its collectibility either. Its front borders are slightly off-white, and its reverse is centered just slightly to the left. Imagine what this card might have brought at auction if it had earned just a slightly better grade from PSA.
Babe Ruth Single-Signed Baseball: $144,000
No bigger name in baseball history exists than Babe Ruth. Sporting uniform number 3 and batting (appropriately enough) third for the New York Yankees, the Bambino crushed 714 home runs during his career, a mark that lasted from 1935 until 1974 when fellow Hall of Famer Hank Aaron broke it. An authentic baseball signed by the sport’s biggest icon is considered a prize beyond compare.
Case in point: The placement of Ruth’s black fountain-pen signature on this Thos. E. Wilson & Co. “Official League” ball, which clearly shows legible manufacturer’s stampings despite its age of nearly 100 years. What’s ideal is that his autograph sits upon its customary place of honor along the sweet spot. Also interesting to note is that Ruth bracketed the “Babe” portion of his signature with quotation marks, which dates it to his early playing days. Autograph experts agree that Ruth ended the practice sometime in the 1920’s after his infamous trade from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees following the 1919 season.
This example is an extraordinary high-grade Ruth single-signed baseball. It was graded NM/MT+ 8.5 by PSA/DNA. The Ruth signature grades a near-perfect MINT 9, while the ball itself grades an equally impressive NM/MT 8. This is one of the highest-graded Babe Ruth single-signed baseballs known to the hobby. And despite Ruth’s propensity to sign plenty of baseballs during the course of his life, high-grade singles like this one certainly remain the exception and not the norm. That’s why its final realized price was a whopping $144,000.