An Amazing Piece of History.

LTS 3

Over the years, we’ve certainly had the great opportunity to offer some incredible, historically significant items.  We think that, over our five-year history, our ability to properly present such items at auction has made this our “niche” – LOTG sells items you just don’t see every day.  But this item truly takes the cake.

Next week, our Summer auction will open for bidding – and for the first time ever at an auction house, we’ll be offering some 2,000+ incredible pages of original entries into the business, and sometimes personal accounts of the fabled Philadelphia Athletics franchse, owned and managed by Connie Mack.  These ledgers span some 40+ years from 1915-1953.  The records were used exclusively by heralded author Norman Macht, for his three-book trilogy of the Athletics’ rise and fall under Mack, drew from the historially accurate and irrefutable evidence of the team’s business dealings and player salaries.  The discovery of this long-missing treasure has been highlighted in several newspaper articles, including a 2011 piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

First, the amazing story of how the ledgers themselves made the incredible journey, spanning the country for more than a century: Most historians assumed these entries were lost to the ages, never to be seen again.  For the better part of 50 years, they seemed to be correct.

Historians such as Macht were aware of the existence of these ledgers, because not long after the A’s were sold to Kansas City businessman Arnold Johnson in 1954, Philadelphia newspapers included several mentions of them.  The ledgers were moved with the franchise to Kansas City, and then Oakland, where they seemed to vanish.  Over the years, sportswriters and historials had often inquired about the records, and a new generation of club executives assumed they had vanished.  Until 2011, no one had any reason to doubt them.

Macht couldn’t uncover them in either Kansas City or Oakland.  “I found a former secretary who remembered seeing the files in a closet gathering dust,” Macht was quoted in the 2011 article, “She thought she recalled that during an office remodeling in the 1970s they had been thrown in a dumpster behind the Coliseum.”

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Nellie Fox’s Philadelphia Athletics Player Record

Her recollection was accurate.  A stadium worker discovered them there, and rescued them from the trash.  They remained in his possession until 2009, when he sold them for the paltry sum of $200 at an Oakland flea market.  The dealer listed the ledgers, along with some other materials, on eBay, where they were purchased by an advanced collector for $5,000.  Two years later, that collector sold them privately to our consignor.

The historical importance of the records cannot be overstated.  They are a complete and accurate chronicle of all the business dealings of one of the game’s most important ballclubs, including every penny of income and expense over a pariod of half a century.  More than a thousand pages of financial transactions are entered, neatly handwritten in the penmanship of several different people.  The financial ledgers include data on gate receipts, concessions, even revenues from non-baseball activities like football games and advertising.  Expenses include a detailed record of every payment made to Connie Mack, used by Macht to chronicle Mack’s income for a 2015 SABR article in the Baseball Research Journal.  From these ledgers, one could reconstruct the entire business operation of the Athletics, following its financial successes straight through to the team’s early 1930s financial struggles that prompted the sale of key players.

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One page of Lefty Grove’s Philadelphia Athletics player record

Housed in a second volume, the player transactional records are even more fascinating.  A near-complete, page-by-page and player-by-player account of virtually every player who donned an A’s uniform between 1909 and 1954 (a few players, among them Ty Cobb and Mickey Cochrane, have been removed at some point).  Each player has his own page in the journal, which includes his name and position, and often his home address.  Underneath is a season-by-season account of the player’s performance, how the team acquired them, and their annual salary.  The pages also address contract negotiations and specific details.

For example, the page for Hall of Famer Jimmy Foxx describes his 1929 contract as follows: “Jan 18th sent him contract calling for $7,500.00.  Told him he could bring his wife to training camp as wedding present.  Signed same Feb. 3rd.”  The page for Lefty Grove includes this entry: “1930: Jan 14th sent him contract calling for $12,000.00.  Returned unsigned Jan 18th asking for $20,000.00.  Signed at $12,000.00 Feb 21st.  We promised him something in the event of our having a good season.  Gave him $3,000.00 at end of season.”  Each sentence is written in a different ink or pencil, added as events transpired.

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One page of Jimmie Foxx’s Philadelphia Athletics Player Record

Other entries are more personal, describing players’ entries into the military during WWII (thus voiding their contracts), and occasionally explaining more compelling details of the club’s salary negotiations with its players, such as the 1927 entry for pitcher Sam Gray that explains “On Dec. 7th, 1926 sent him contract for $4,000.00 telling him if he behaved well during the season he would receive $3,500.00 extra.”  Gray would go 9-6 that season with a 4.59 ERA, and was traded at the end of the season.

The player records literally tell thousands of stories and answer thousands of questions that have evaded researchers over the years.  Specific details about long-forgotten players are extensively catalogued in the pages.  Combined with the financial ledgers, this is easily the most historically significant artifact we have ever handled.

The books themselves are in outstanding condition, particularly given that they were regularly used for half a century.  Each of the two bound volumes are well-worn but completely sturdy, each entry legible and neatly entered in pencil or ink.  Both books do have some loose pages, and the bolt from the bottom of the financial record has gone missing, a minor detail mentioned here solely for accuracy in description.

For more than half a century, five decades of the history of one of the game’s most storied franchises has been missing critical details.  Long thought to be lost to history, we are pleased to present the most historically important records from the Philadelphia Athletics, never before offered at public auction.  A museum-level artifact, one of the finest and most significant items we have ever offered.

One page of Connie Mack's expense ledgerAthletics 1940s Football-related revenue ledger1941 Athletics journal entries of payments to scouts

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George Earnshaw’s Philadelphia Athletics Player Record

The beauty of passes and tickets

Comiskey

One of the fastest-growing – and most fun – elements of the hobby has to revolve around collecting passes and tickets.  Five years ago, ticket collectors were few and far between.  Today, it seems that everyone is seeking a ticket or a stub to add to their collection.  We’ve seen a dramatic increase in interest, and we’ve tried our best to always have an interesting group of tickets and passes included in our catalog auctions.

Someone recently asked us “What is it about tickets that you find so interesting?”

It was a good question.  There are usually no pictures of players on tickets.  No stats.  There’s no information about the individual players that we try and collect, and in most cases, you can’t glean any information about the actual game from the ticket itself.

Then again, tickets and passes have a lot going for them.

Vintage tickets are beautiful.  Really, they’re works of art.  They were exquisitely designed, usually printed in multiple colors, and they feature fantastic typography.  For anyone interested in the graphic design of yesteryear, it’s on full display with tickets.

Pelicans

Vintage tickets are rare.  Unlike cards, tickets were distributed to be used as a pass to get into a game, and then discarded.  If 10,000 people attended a meaningless May game at Wrigley Field in 1920, how many saved their tickets?  And how many of those tickets survived to 2017?

Vintage passes are interesting.  Above is an image of Charles Comiskey’s season ticket book from 1909.  To see the White Sox.  Why did Charles Comiskey have a season ticket book to his crosstown rivals?  Passes also have a certain mystique to them, because they were ostensibly owned by someone who was important enough – or enough of a fan – to receive a pass to see every game.  Our current auction includes three different season passes to see Yankee games that were issued to Bill Dickey’s wife.  There’s also Mel Allen’s pass to the 1953 Yankees.  A pass owned by Boston superfan Lolly Hopkins to see the Red Sox in 1956, and a lifetime pass owned by former Major Leaguer Les Nunamaker.  The stories these passes could tell.

Vintage tickets commemorate events.  What happened at the game?  What did the person who owned that ticket see?  Did Babe Ruth hit a home run?  Did Nolan Ryan pitch a no-hitter?  Did the Yankees lose a tight game in extra innings?  Our current auction includes a minor league ticket to see the 1910 New Orleans Pelicans.  Someone in attendance at that game could not possibly have understood that they were seeing a young Shoeless Joe Jackson in that game.  Similarly, the person possessing the 1972 Pittsburgh World Series ticket could not have known that it would be Roberto Clemente’s final game.  Or that the 1947 Army/Columbia tickets in this auction would admit the bearer to see the “Upset of the Decade,” as Columbia handed Army its first loss in 33 consecutive games.

Tickets and passes are excellent companion pieces.  Are you a collector of the 1953 Topps baseball set?  Why not pick up a season pass from that season, or a World Series ticket?  Do you collect a certain player?  Why not challenge yourself to try and find one full ticket from each season that player played – or even more challenging, one ticket from every game that player hit a home run?  Are you just a fan of the game?  Why not add a run of World Series or Super Bowl tickets to your collection?  It adds another dimension to the hobby.

Stubs are as cool as tickets.  In a hobby driven by condition, the concept of the ticket stub is an interesting one.  Full tickets are beautiful, sure.  But at last year’s National, we were involved in a conversation about the ticket hobby with a well-known ticket collector.  It turns out that he doesn’t like full tickets – he prefers the stub, and actually seeks out stubs over full tickets.  This seemed counterintuitive – our hobby prizes condition, and a ticket stub is a full ticket, torn in half.  When we mentioned this to him, he agreed – but followed with “But the full ticket didn’t go to the game.

Which, of course, is true.

In any event, please do check out the assortment of tickets and passes featured in this auction.  We hope it serves as a great introduction to a fast-growing segment of the hobby.

Exhibits. Exhibits EVERYWHERE.

1923-24 Exhibit Ruth

We’ve always sold a lot of Exhibit cards in our auctions.  We like them, especially the baseball Exhibits from the 1920s.  We think the photographs are fantastic – after years of tobacco companies publishing illustrated cards (with varying degrees of quality), and during an era where baseball cards were typified by either poorly-drawn strip cards or small, black-and-white photographic ones, the postcard-sized cards feature attractive photos and clean designed.  And for today’s collector, there are plenty of challenging variations and rarities to make set building tough.

Thanks to several awesome consignments, our Spring auction features the largest selection of Exhibits we’ve ever offered.  In fact, we don’t recall so many Exhibits featured anywhere – more than 150 Exhibit-related lots in total, including complete sets, display items, a couple of Exhibit vending machines, and of course, some of the toughest rarities (including the 1923-24 Exhibit Babe Ruth you see above, one of just a few known examples).

The Exhibit Supply Company of Chicago manufactured these cards – and others unrelated to sports – beginning in 1921.  They were distributed in vending machines at amusement parks, arcades, retail stores, and other establishments.  Each year the company would make additions and subtractions to the cards they produced, adding some players and deleting others, changing layouts, creating different “colors” by tinting the images, and later even changing player poses.  These additions and modifications created a host of variations and different levels of rarity, and probably most important for collectors like us, a host of mysteries to solve about how and when the cards were issued, and which variations are more difficult to find.

The majority of the Exhibits that we are offering in this auction were manufactured prior to 1948, and include all of the great names from the 1920s and 30s, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, George Sisler, and many more.  The auction features multiple examples of each player – some individually, and some sold as part of complete (or partial) sets.  The auction features fourteen different Exhibit cards of Babe Ruth – not counting the ones included in sets.

Exhibits are beautiful and fascinating, and it is our hope that the large assortment  featured in this sale helps elevate the profile of these beautiful cards by attracting some new collectors into the fascinating universe of Exhibits.

Signed 1952 Topps

52Topps

On several occasions and in several places, we have written about the magnitude of our “Texas Find,” an enormous collection of cards ranging from 1948 through 2007 consigned by a wonderful family we met last Spring.  Initially part of the collection of a gentleman who passed on nearly ten years ago, it primarily included complete card sets.  However, one of the collector’s true passions was building a set of signed 1952 Topps, many of which he obtained in person.  After pulling together the entire collection and sorting the “loose” cards, we discovered more than 600 autographed ’52s, some in triplicate, obviously to be used as trade bait with other collectors.

Many of the signed cards have been sold individually in our last two auctions, including most of the rarities.  At the same time, we have observed the spirited bidding for individual cards with enthusiasm, mostly because it is exciting to see autographed cards beginning to come into their own, from a popularity standpoint.  More and more people are building complete autographed sets, and exploring the idea of building autographed vintage sets.

The granddaddy of all the signed vintage sets is, of course, 1952 Topps.  Never mind acquiring the valuable Mickey Mantle, expensive due to its extreme popularity – there are significant rarities created due to the untimely passing of several of the issue’s subjects, with several of the set’s cards not known to exist in autographed form anywhere.

The enthusiasm with which signed ’52 collectors are building their sets provided us with an incentive to build one enormous lot of cards – more than half the set, complete and autographed, each authenticated and encapsulated by PSA/DNA.  Never have we seen a collection this large, offered all at once.  Best of all, it includes 50 of the set’s elusive high number cards – an unbelievable number to be offered all at once. The collection can be found as Lot #5 in our current auction, with spirited bidding already up to $13,000.

In addition, we have pulled out some of the more difficult-to-obtain cards, and are offering them in separate lots – more than 60 in total.  Some of the most difficult signed cards in the legendary set – including the Johnny Sain error, a super-rare Cliff Fannin, Joe Haynes, Johnny Kucab, Fred Hutchinson, and plenty more.  And of course we’ve got a few smaller group lots for those people who are considering starting a set, or just picking up a few!

 

ULTRA-RARE 1913 VOSKAMP’S COFFEE HONUS WAGNER!

One of a long line of baseball card issues designed as a redemption offer, the Voskamp’s Coffee issue of 1913 featured 20 members of the Pittsburgh Pirates which, when completed, could be redeemed at the Pittsburgh-area grocer for one reserved grandstand seat at Forbes Field to see a Pirates game.  Though Hall of Famer Max Carey is included in the set, Honus Wagner is unquestionably the key, its value approximately ten times that of any other card in the set.

The issue in general, and the Wagner in particular, are extraordinarily rare.  In fact, just seven examples of the Wagner card have been graded by PSA and SGC combined, and in a testament to the condition sensitivity of the issue, two examples graded VG 40 by SGC – this and one other – are the highest-graded.  While we readily acknolwedge the idea that more examples exist in ungraded form in advanced collections, we hesitate to suggest that somewhere there may be a finer example from a condition standpoint – just six examples of any card within the set have been graded EX or better by both grading companies combined.  As is the case with many cards featured in this auction, a Voskamp’s Wagner is simply one of those cards that hobbyists will rarely see – if ever.  This particular card last sold in 2009, for just north of $14,000.  Only three other public sales of this card in any grade have occurred since, and none more recently than 2013.

1917-20 M101-6 Felix Mendelsohn Babe Ruth: one of his most rare cards!

Mendelsohn Ruth

Fewer than ten examples of the 1917-20 Felix Mendelsohn Babe Ruth card have been graded by either grading company.  That so few examples are known to exist of the most popular player of the era and the issue’s undisputed key is a true testament to the rarity of the issue.

More interesting – and certainly more important, however – is the fact that Ruth’s 1917-20 Felix Mendelsohn card is the first card to depict him as a member of the New York Yankees.  Initially issued listing Ruth with the Red Sox, the card was changed after the Babe was sold to the Yankees.  Today, it remains one of the most rare of all Ruth’s cards, orders of magnitude more so than his acknowledged “rookie” card, the M101-4/5.

The Mendelsohn cards were offered in advertisements in The Sporting News for the price of $5 for 100 pictures.  Since the set was issued over a three-year period, more than 100 different subjects are known, and more may yet to be discovered.  The Ruth, however, stands far above the rest.

This example presents far better than the technical grade, a victim of the grading issues that occur with oversized cards such as this (it measures 4 3/8″ x 6 3/8″ and is housed in SGC’s holder for cabinet cards). The surface and corner wear is visible but unobtrusive, some mild wrinkling on the surface made more noticeable due to the size of the card.  The reverse exhibits some staining, not easily evident on the card front.  None of the wear obstructs the image of Ruth, an image similar to his M101-4 or E121 cards, though considerably larger and more clear.  Quite possibly the most attractive of all the photographic issues of Ruth, simply due to its size.

Hottest Card in the Hobby?

1925 Exhibit Gehrig Front

Few cards in the hobby are better examples of a “hot card” than the 1925 Exhibit Lou Gehrig.  Throughout the “rookie card craze,” the Gehrig RC remained an underrated card, certainly expensive relative to some of Gehrig’s contemporaries but not in comparison with other players of his great stature.  In recent years, however, collectors have become more appreciative of Exhibits in general, and demand for the card has skyrocketed, with an example graded GOOD 30 by SGC eclipsing the $30,000 mark last summer, a PSA VG 3 example reaching $60,000 in January and a higher-grade example topping the $100,000 mark just a few weeks ago.  The card breaks records each time a new example hits the hobby.

The growth is, of course, with good reason: Lou Gehrig is one of the most popular players ever to set foot on a baseball field, and is certainly one of the greatest of all-time.  His legend has only increased with the years, and values of Gehrig memorabilia has begin to take its rightful place among the most valuable of all baseball collectibles.  It was, after all, just two years ago that a Gehrig game-used bat attracted considerable attention in the media and ultimately sold for the record price of $437,000 right in a Love of the Game auction.  Unquestionably, the demand for quality Gehrig-related material continues to rise dramatically as hobbyists continue to seek out the finest material from the game’s all-time greats.

Graded VG 40 by SGC, this example boasts less surface wear than similarly-graded examples that have recently sold, along with a clear, well-contrasted image.  Corners are evenly rounded, with some moderate creasing at the very lower-right corner.  Some foxing and age-related toning is evident, but nothing that would distract from the card’s overall eye appeal within the grade.  A strong, high-quality card, one of the hobby’s most desirable, finally taking its place among the hobby’s most elite cards.