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.

A CHILDHOOD DREAM

Ruth Lot AOf the many items that we have offered for sale in our auctions, it could be that this one is our favorite.  It may not have the panache of a T206 Wagner or a Babe Ruth jersey, but it is likely the only one of its kind, and it represents everything that made baseball the national pastime in its earliest days.

Picture this: the year is 1934, and a 10-year-old boy listening to the radio learns about a contest involving Babe Ruth.  First prize, a trip to Florida with Ruth for Spring Training, seems out of reach.  But perhaps by entering, he can win a lesser prize, like a baseball or a glove.

A few weeks later, young Gerard Knapp of Menands, NY receives a letter from the Babe himself, telling him he’s qualified for the “World Series Finals” of his contest.  By simply choosing an “all-star” team and explaining why he’s chosen the players he had, he could be one of just fifty boys to accompany the Sultan Of Swat to Florida.  And on March 5, the young boy receives a Western Union Telegram from the Babe, that he won the contest and would be traveling to Florida!  Alone, without his parents, but accompanied by “experienced leaders.”

Everything about this sets off alarm bells with even the least experienced parents, but 1934 was a different time, and this really happened.  Every piece of this lot was saved by the Knapp family, chronicling the young boy’s adventure, from his entry into the contest, his instructions on how the trip would work, and even the newspaper article announcing “Menands Boy Will Be Guest of Babe Ruth in Florida Camp.”

The entire lot contains 14 pieces that chronicle the young boy’s entrance into the contest (which, we learn, was sponsored somehow by Standard Oil), his winning, the telegram from Babe Ruth himself (!), the entire itinerary for their time in Florida.  It even includes a postcard from young Knapp to his family back in New York.  Our upcoming catalog and auction description will describe each of the 14 pieces in detail.

The 1934 Spring Training was particularly newsworthy, as much news was made of Babe Ruth’s physical conditioning.  It would be Ruth’s final Spring in a Yankee uniform, and the 40-year-old superstar reflected on his career often, in a host of news stories across the country.   On March 25 of that spring, Ruth hit a home run off Boston’s Huck Betts that was measured as having traveled an amazing 624 feet – just two days after leaving the company of young Gerard Knapp and 49 other boys who were winners of the radio contest.

An outstanding document, chronicling the excitement of winning a chance to spend time with the greatest player of all-time, the leap of faith that parents took in putting their children on a train with strangers, and a detailed itinerary of what was likely one of Gerard Knapp’s greatest memories.

Ruth Lot C

Ruth Lot M