A very special baseball-related item was up for auction last week. It’s a piece that boasts the signatures of 11 members of Major League Baseball’s inaugural Hall of Fame class, in addition to the autograph of MLB’s very first Commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Called a “First Day Cover,” it sold through SCP Auctions for an astounding $146,779, which set a new record for a (multi-signed) First Day Cover. For the uninitiated, a FDC is a postage stamp on a cover or stamped envelope that’s franked (officially marked by the United States Post Office) on the first day the stamp is issued and authorized for mailing.
But the story here goes well beyond the unique collection of 11 Hall of Famers’ signatures – Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Connie Mack, Eddie Collins, George Sisler, Honus Wagner and Grover Cleveland Alexander. The underlying story here recognizes the extraordinary efforts a father took to do something special for his daughter.
“Notwithstanding the spectacular, Mint presentation of the signatures, the supporting documentation from the signers – all agreeing to add their autographs to it – puts this FDC in a class all by itself,” said Kevin Keating, PSA’s principal autograph authenticator who certified the rare collection of signatures and graded it PSA/DNA Mint 9.
Following the original HOF induction ceremony in Cooperstown, New York, on June 12, 1939, a dedicated collector named Paul Wunder of New Orleans decided to embark on a mission on behalf of his daughter Doris. It would test his patience as well as his faith in not only the generosity of major leaguers but also the effectiveness of the United States Postal Service. For an eight-month period, spanning from July 1939 until February 1940, Wunder mailed and received back initial correspondence from each of the 12 baseball dignitaries that they would all sign the FDC once Wunder forwarded it.
His preliminary, type-written request was simple: “My little daughter has, in her collection, first day covers of the “BASEBALL” stamp, cancelled at Cooperstown, New York, on June 12, 1939…am writing to ask if you would be so kind and honor us with your autograph, were we to send the covers to you.”
The players each responded affirmatively and even added hand-written notes back to Wunder, many of them at the bottom of his original letter. In the case of Cy Young, for instance, he responded: “Mail your stamps to me and I will take care of same.” Another respondent, Nap Lajoie, wrote: “Send covers. Will be glad to grant your wishes.”
The “covers” were two 1939 Baseball Centennial stamps (3 cents each) that adorned an envelope that Wunder addressed and mailed to his daughter on the date of the HOF Induction. It is postmarked and stamped “FIRST DAY OF ISSUE” just underneath the pair of purple stamps celebrating baseball’s 100 anniversary.
The dedication Wunder showed in seeing this project through to the end is remarkable. So is the fact that the FDC made 12 different round-trips across the country and made it back home in one piece. Kudos to the U.S.P.S. In the end, a dad’s perseverance – not to mention his devotion to his daughter – paid off.