Baseball Auctions Are Big Business

The sports pages and airwaves may have turned an eye and ear to football, but for dedicated baseball fans, September and October mean pennant races and the MLB playoffs. Thoughts of World Series past color baseball, which treasures its history more than any other sport.

Speaking of treasures, the coming weeks also mean big business for three noted memorabilia outlets which have hundreds of items, from the truly one-of-a-kind game-used items all the way to photos that most anyone can afford, representing more than a century of the history of our national pastime.

It’s the “wow” pieces that get most of the attention, and Christie’s The Golden Age Of Baseball, Selections From The National Pastime Museum, the Goldin Auctions’ inaugural Great American Trading Card Auction and Steiner Sports Fall Classic Auction all deliver on the “wow.”

Christie’s, making by far its largest foray into the sports world, has put together what it deems the “most important and comprehensive collections of baseball memorabilia and photography ever offered at auction.” With over 500 pieces spanning 130 years of baseball history, collectors can bid on lots like a “ShoelessJoe Jackson bat, estimated at $500,000-700,000 (one of only two known “Black Betsy” clubs, as Jackson dubbed them). The auction also features a trove of extremely rare Negro League items like Josh Gibson bats and contracts and dozens of photographs, and items owned and used by all-time greats like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, all the way to Derek Jeter (although the collection is overwhelmingly from the 1800s through 1960.

Baseball Auctions Are Big Business

“From baseball’s earliest days through its golden era, the game’s most iconic players are represented in this collection. Of particular interest are the remarkably rare items pertaining to The Negro Leagues and the legendary ballplayers who played in them,” said Simeon Lipman, Christie’s Consultant, Pop Culture, and known to “Antiques Roadshow” viewers as its pop culture and sports expert.

Fans can view the Christie’s collection Sept. 26-27 at the JW Marriott in Chicago; Oct. 13-19 at its New York City location (20 Rockefeller Center); and October 10-13 at Jules Maeght Gallery in San Francisco. The live auction will be held October 19-20 in New York.

While the Christie’s auction does feature several key rookie cards and old-time cabinet photos among its lots, the Goldin collection makes cards the full focus. Among them is the Holy Grail to collectors—the T206 White Border Honus Wagner card, which Goldin estimated will go for more than $5,000,000. The world’s most valuable trading card, it last sold for $2.1 million. Early 20th century series abound, with top-shelf Hall of Famers Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig just a few of the stars represented. There are a few football, basketball and hockey pieces but the 50 exquisite baseball cards are the standouts. The auction ends October 1.

Yogi Berra’s special place in the heart of baseball fans—all Americans, really—is what Steiner Sports CEO Brandon Steiner hopes will drive prices on his Fall Classic Auction. Included are Berra’s 1953 World Series Championship ring — the only one of his 10 that he actually wore — and a 1961 game-worn jersey. The Berra collection also includes a bevy of photographs, his driver’s license, credit cards, signed checks, signed contracts, signed baseball cards and other personal documents. Other prime baseball lots include perfect game pitcher Don Larsen’s 1956 Yankees contract and 1956 World Series MVP award.

“It is a pleasure and honor for the Berra family to share dad’s history with his many followers,” said Dale Berra, son of the Hall of Famer, “because they are responsible for his legacy.” The Steiner Fall Classic Auction runs online through October 23.